Both proponents and opponents of the use of transgenic seeds in developing countries assume that genetic engineering can have far-reaching effects under the ecological, economic, social and institutional conditions of both less developed and emerging countries. On the one hand, there are great expectations that genetic engineering will contribute to food security and economic integration with the industrialised countries; on the other hand, there are great fears about adverse effects on small-scale farming and the traditional use of seeds. The "mega issue" of bioenergy, which in recent years has intensified and intensified the global debate on goals, ways and priorities for the future use of natural resources as a whole, has also triggered the question of the potential of green genetic engineering with new dynamism. From the perspective of its proponents, genetic engineering is seen both as an indispensable means of increasing yields per unit area in arable farming as a whole and for the specific optimisation of "energy crops". Critics of agrogenetic engineering, on the other hand, doubt these assessments and fear a potentiation of the negative ecological, health and above all socio-economic consequences they assume.
Subject and aim of the study
The aim of the TAB project "Effects of the Use of Transgenic Seeds on Economic, Social and Political Structures in Developing Countries", initiated by the Committee for Economic Cooperation, was to review the general information and debate on this issue and to record as concretely as possible how the use of transgenic seeds has actually developed in the past twelve years, what consequences can be identified and what can be deduced from this for the future design of German (and also European) development policy. The report focuses on four case studies on countries with extensive (Brazil, China) and limited (Chile, Costa Rica) use of genetically modified plants (GM plants). The results of these country studies were discussed comparatively with regard to central questions and objectives: in the area of research and development, on the question of the economic results of the cultivation of transgenic plants to date, on other socio-economic effects and questions of participation, as well as on the recording, evaluation and regulation of risks.
In 2007, transgenic plants were cultivated in a total of 23 countries on about 114 million ha, which corresponds to about 5 % of the worldwide cultivated area. These areas are very heavily concentrated in five countries in North and South America, which alone account for 88 % of the cultivated areas (USA: 57.7 million ha; Argentina: 19.1 million ha; Brazil 15.0 million ha; Canada: 7.0 million ha; Paraguay: 2.6 million ha), in India (6.2 million ha), China (3.8 million ha) and South Africa (1.5 million ha). Even after twelve years of cultivation, only two genetically transferred traits, namely herbicide resistance ("HR") and Bacillus thuringiensis insect resistance ("Bt"), each alone or combined, represent 99.9 % of the GM plants cultivated, and this in only four plant species (51.3 % soy, 30.8 % maize, 13.1 % cotton, 4.8 % rapeseed). Commercial cultivation takes place almost exclusively in the so-called emerging countries and is limited to two so-called cash crops: HR soy in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) and Bt cotton in India and China. In addition, there are HR and/or Bt maize areas, especially in South Africa, Argentina and the Philippines. Overall, cultivation for food security or for local markets hardly plays a role. The economic importance of these plant products, which are processed and exported as animal feed and for textile production, is considerable in some cases. In China, for example, cotton is the most important agricultural product in terms of value and about 70 % of it is produced from transgenic varieties. In Brazil, the central agricultural product is soya, which has a share of about 10 % of the country's total export and in 2007 about two thirds of which was produced with the help of transgenic varieties.