Socio-Economic Benefits

For the purpose of the database, socio-economic benefits refer to benefits offered to a community as a whole through the use of GM crops, and can include long-term impacts on the prevailing economic conditions, on levels of education, on the family unit or on employment levels.

Currently available GM crops provide real economic benefits in the form of lower production costs, improved yields and simplified crop management. They offer growers peace of mind and can free their time and that of their families so they can choose to spend it on activities other than crop production.


The database contains 276 papers and supporting references that have been identified as having information on Socio-Economic Benefits Benefits of Biotechnology.

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The experience of the first 20 years of commercialization has confirmed that the early promise of crop biotechnology has been fulfilled. Biotech crops have delivered substantial agronomic, environmental, economic, health and social benefits to farmers and, increasingly, to society at large. The rapid adoption of biotech crops, during the initial 20 years of commercialization, reflects the substantial multiple benefits realized by both large and small farmers in industrial and developing countries, which have grown biotech crops commercially. Small farmers in developing countries generally tend to benefit most from biotech crops because insect and disease protected crops provide new and previously unavailable tools for these farmers to protect their crops. Additionally, pest problems are often a greater risk to plants in developing countries and can result in greater yield reductions if left uncontrolled.

The four major biotech crops — soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola — in decreasing area, were the most adopted biotech crops by the 26 countries as reported in the 2018 ISAAA Brief 54. Based on the 2017 FAO global crop area for individual crops, 78% of soybeans, 76% of cotton, 30% of maize, and 29% of canola were biotech crops in 2018.

Biotech crops however have expanded beyond the big four (maize, soybeans, cotton, and canola) to give more choices for many of the world’s consumers and food producers. These biotech crops include alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, eggplant, potatoes, and apples, all of which are already in the market.

Various trait combinations have also been also approved including high oleic acid canola, isoxaflutole herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton, stacked herbicide tolerant and high oleic acid soybean, HT and salt tolerant soybean, IR sugarcane, and biotech maize with various IR/HT combinations in stack.

The stacked traits with insect resistance and herbicide tolerance increased by 4% and covered 42% of the global area, a testimony to farmers’ adherence to smart agriculture with no till and reduced insecticide use. Herbicide tolerance in soybeans, canola, maize, alfalfa, and cotton has consistently been the dominant trait, which in 2018 covered 46% of the global area – a decrease of 1% compared to 2017.

Key references:

Brief 53: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017

Brief 54: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2018