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Commercial GM Crops in EU on the rise

GM Maize: 110,000 Hectares under Cultivation

The cultivation of genetically modified plants in the EU is increasing. In 2007, genetically modified maize was grown on a total of nearly 110,000 hectares in Spain, France, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Germany. In the previous year, GM plantings comprised 62,000 hectares, totalling approximately 1 percent of maize cultivation areas.

To date, the only type of GMO grown in the EU is Bt maize. Bt maize contains a gene from a bacterium that produces a toxin ( Bt-toxin) to defend it from the European corn borer. An insect pest, the European corn borer is present primarily in southern and middle Europe, and is slowly making its way north.

Regions infested with the European corn borer can experience serious crop losses. Since biological and chemical control methods are expensive and only partially effective, Bt maize can be a money-saving option for many farmers despite its higher seed cost.

GM maize (ha)
Czech Republic1,290
Czech Republic5,000
Portugal 4,199
Slovakia 900
  • In Spain, a substantial amount of the maize production is genetically modified – it is estimated that 25 percent of the current production falls under this category. Bt maize was first grown in Spain in 1998, and by 2004 production had risen to 60,000 hectares. In 2007, GM maize was cultivated on more than 75,000 hectares.

  • According to official counts, Bt maize production in France reached 500 hectares in 2005, predominantly in south-western regions. It is thought that the actual total may have been twice the registered area, since farmers are known to have brought Bt maize seed from Spain. Five thousand hectares were planted with Bt maize in 2006. Since 2007, GM cultivations must be declared in a site register. According to this listing, approximately 21,200 hectares of Bt maize are cultivated.

  • Bt maize was first grown in the Czech Republic in 2005. Total commercial production covered approximately 270 hectares. In 2007, this area increased to 5,000 hectares.

  • Portugal also began producing Bt maize in 2005 on 780 hectares. In the 2007 season, 4,199 hectares were planted.

  • Since the 2006 growing season, Bt maize cultivars have full approval in Germany and are now ready for "normal", commercial cultivation. All areas must be declared in a site register. In 2006, approximately 950 hectares were cultivated in Germany. One year later, 2,685 hectares have been registered.

  • In 2006 16 slovakia farmers use Bt maize on an area of just under 1,00 hectares. In 2007 an area of 900 hectares have been registered.


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Bt maize. 47 varieties are registered in the EU seed catalogue

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Crop damage from the European corn borer: The weakened stalks often fall to the ground under the weight of the developing ears and cannot be harvested.

EU authorisation for commercial agricultural production of GM plants

The cultivation of GM plants legally is possible in all EU countries. The new EU legislative framework for the approval of genetically modified feeds and foods now has been enacted in the entire European Union.

However, by use of regulations and decrees that also are now in force, the cultivation of GM plants has been limited in some member states such as Germany, Austria and Hungary. Since such regulations by law must be based on scientifically sound knowledge, the EU Commission consequently has taken legal action against the national policies of some states.

Approval - Gene Technology law
A total of three GM maize lines ( events Bt176, MON810, T25) were authorised in 1997/98 for cultivation in the EU. Only MON810 is relevant to agricultural production.

Approval – Seed law
Several seeds derived from the MON810 maize are approved in many countries. Since the beginning of 2007, 51 varieties have been found in the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species of the EU. However, not all of these varieties may be used in all regions. In Germany, five Bt maize seeds have obtained approval and all of them are derived from MON810.

It is the responsibility of individual EU Member States to formulate guidelines for the growing of GM crops. These rules must be designed to allow the coexistence of genetically modified or conventional agriculture. National guidelines already exist in several countries.

Except for Bt maize, there are no GM plants currently under commercial cultivation in the EU.



An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

Crops and Cereals
GM Plants: The Big Four
Rape Seed
Global GM Crop Production in 2013
Further information
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February 28, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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