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Seed and GM Crop Market Analysis

The seed sector is one of the critical agricultural inputs required by growers to produce crops for food, animal feed and non-food use. With the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, changing climate and constraints on available land areas for cultivation, the need for cost-effective seed technology is increasingly essential in sustainable agricultural production strategies.

The total seed market comprises the conventional seed segment and the genetically modified (GM) seed segment. The former is a global market, the latter is firmly established in North and South America and some parts of Asia but largely absent in Europe, where consumer and regulatory barriers have prevented its uptake.

Future developments in the seed market, driven by GM traits, new breeding technologies or new non-GM technologies, are crucial in delivering the necessary improvements in yield, nutritional value, tolerance to drought and stress.

Key facts about the Seed and GM Crops market

  • The commercial seed market increased by 4.9% to reach an estimated $44,944 million in 2020. Within this, the global GM seed market, which includes herbicide-tolerant (HT), insect-resistant (IR), and stacked trait seeds, grew by 8.0% to reach $21,465 million.
  • In 2020, GM seeds accounted for 48% market share in the commercial seed market, whereas the area reported under GM and conventional seeds was 19% and 81% of the total crop plantation area, respectively.
  • Herbicide tolerance is the most common trait among GM crops, present either as a single, multiple HT or stacked trait. HT traits have been very successful, especially in corn, cotton and soybeans. In the USA, planted areas of HT varieties/hybrids have plateaued at ~90% for each of these three crops, and there is similarly high uptake in Argentina and Brazil.
  • Our company analysis shows Corteva Agriscience was the most active company in 2020, followed by Bayer. Companies with larger market shares, including Bayer and Corteva, were more focused on R&D, digital agriculture and new product launches. The companies with smaller market shares, namely, KWS, Vilmorin, Sakata, Barenbrug, RAGT, were involved in M&A activities to continue their global expansion in specific domains.
  • In 2020, North America remained the GM seed market leader with 63% share, followed by Latin America, 32%, Asia Pacific 4% and the Middle East and Africa 1 %. The overall GM seed market has grown at 8% during 2020 over 2019, with North America being the fastest growing market with YoY growth of 10% and the Middle East and Africa the slowest, where the market value declined by 11%. The change in the North American region was driven by increased soybean area and seed prices. In Latin America, the GM seed market growth was influenced by the high commodity prices, increase in GM area, increase in area under high-value traits and increased farmer’s income; however, weak currencies remained the primary market constraint. As a result, the overall Latin American GM seed market value has grown slowly compared to North America in USD terms.
Africa Seed Profiles 2021
Top 5 Seed Market Drivers Infographic
Seed Market Overview and Trait Overview 2020

Key themes affecting the seed market

Seed alone accounts for 74% of crop yield gain, which makes it a point of focus to meet sustainability goals. Climate change, pest pressure and policies like decarbonisation lead to an increased demand for the innovation and adoption of seed technologies to develop seed varieties with high yield, better climate resilience, and low water and NPK requirements. On the other hand, the EU’s farm to fork strategy, promoting organic agriculture and reducing chemical usage, increases the demand for high-value organic seeds.

Adoption of GM technology in new crops, e.g. HT-wheat in Argentina and Golden Rice in the Philippines, and possibly the commercialisation of GM feed/biofuel crops in China, will significantly drive seed market growth. In addition, innovations and recently developed technologies around data sciences, digital farming, and gene editing will substantially impact the seed industry in the years to come.

Among breeding techniques, CRISPR has demonstrated its enormous scientific and commercial potential in just over five years. The gene-editing system is being utilised extensively by both private and public sectors to develop new traits in crops of interest. In 2020, around 14 crops developed using gene-editing technology were grown in the USA and Canada at commodity cultivation levels. In addition, more than 40 products from the private sector in various crops, primarily including canola, corn, soybean, camelina and rice, are at late stages of R&D and are soon expected to hit the market.

Compared with traditional GM technologies, the crops developed with new breeding technologies are much more diverse than the farmer-focused row crops and include food processor- and consumer-focused crops. The traits manipulated by gene-editing techniques are also focused on health benefits or agricultural sustainability.

Many countries with significant seed market share, including the USA, Argentina, Brazil, have moved away from regulating gene-editing technology as GMO. In Japan, Canada and Australia, it is lightly regulated. However, international harmonisation on regulation is lacking; approaches in one country may differ depending on use (environmental release or food use), e.g. USA and Japan. The European Union has concluded that GMO legislation was not fit for plants produced by GE or cisgenesis. The EU Commission proposal for new regulations is expected by mid-2023, which can change the complete seed market scenario in the region.

World Seed Market by Type 2010-2020 ($m.)

















Source: IHS Markit - ©2021 IHS Markit


At IHS Markit, we offer market-leading seeds and GM crop information solutions via our globally recognised Crop Science Market Reporting and Market Analysis and Data services. Our specialist team of over 25 crop protection and seed experts offer comprehensive news, data and independent analysis across the global industry, with current news, data and market forecasting solutions to support all operational needs in your organization.

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  • Seed Market Data provides comprehensive global data on conventional and genetically modified (GM) seed varieties, traits and companies to support long-term strategic planning. Data (area cultivated, volume of seed, value of segment) is provided for the top 10 varieties & traits by breeder & seed company for 38 countries and 9 key crop groups, and covers the seed markets from 2018-2020
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