Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 3/05

Impacts of genetically modified crops in developing countries: a survey

Matin Qaim and Ira Matuschke
University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany


This article reviews the evolving academic literature on the impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops in the developing world. GM technologies used so far in various countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia include herbicide-tolerant soybeans, insect-resistant Bt cotton, and to a lesser extent Bt maize. While herbicide-tolerant crops lead to cost savings in weed control and tillage operations, Bt crops entail significant pesticide reductions and higher effective yields. In spite of regional and temporal variability, average economic gains for adopting farmers are sizeable, including both small and large-scale growers. GM crops also bring about environmental advantages, albeit long-term interactions with natural systems need to be further analyzed. Almost all GM crop applications to date have been comercialized by the private sector. Developing countries can benefit substantially from proprietary innovations, as the empirical evidence demonstrates. However, without more public sector involvement, certain niche markets for marginalized farmers and consumers are likely to be neglected.

Keywords: biotechnology, economic effects, environmental effects, pest control, small farms

JEL: Q 160, Q 12, Q 18

Vol. 44 (2005), No. 3: 207-227