Viewpoint: The uptake of new crop science: Explaining success, and failure

Robert Paarlberg*, Anjanabha Bhattacharya, Jikun Huang, Margaret Karembu, Carl Pray, Justus Wesseler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Applications of new crop science often spread widely to reach farm fields, but sometimes they do not. The Green Revolution seeds first released in the 1960s and 1970s were taken up widely and quickly, but the transgenic GMO seeds first released in the 1990s, which also performed well, have remained highly restricted. After more than two decades, 84 percent of all GMO crop acres around the world are still in just four Western Hemisphere countries, and 97.2 percent of total acres are still planted to just four crops. The presence or absence of six “success factors” can explain these divergent uptake trajectories. The success factors are 1) a broad social agreement on the urgent need to boost food production, 2) an immediate and obvious benefit for farmers when they plant the new seeds 3) social trust in the institutions producing and delivering the new technology, 4) an absence of new consumer food safety concerns, 5) an absence of organized opposition from environmental advocacy groups, and 6) the absence of a simple means to detect the altered genetics of the new seeds. The Green Revolution seeds enjoyed all six of these success factors, while GMO seeds enjoyed only one of the six. This same approach can be used to predict the future uptake of genome-edited crops, which show three of the six success factors, predicting a rate of uptake slower than for the Green Revolution but wider and faster than for GMOs. A preliminary scan of national regulatory decisions being made toward genome-edited seeds strengthens this prediction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102572
JournalFood Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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