Renewable Farming

European Union corn yield gains outpace U.S. — with few GMOs

Sicne 1960, the European Union’s corn growers have lifted yields faster than the United States — while using insignificant acreages of genetically modified corn. Only Spain grows significant areas of GMO corn, of one approved hybrid.

This is part of the reason why several EU nations are “opting out” of EU regulations which could allow more widespread cultivation of GMO crops in European Union member nations.

The Economist magazine, published in Great Britain, published this data recently:

Corn yields in metric tons per hectare

  1960 1990


European Union 3.0 7.0 10.5  
United States 4.0 7.0 10.0  
Latin America and Caribbean 1.5 4.0 5.5  
East and Southeast Asia 1.5 2.0 4.5  
Sub-Sahara Africa  1.5 1.5 2.0  


From 1960 to 2010, the EU has increased corn yields by 7.5 metric tons per hectare, or 250%  in 50 years.  The U.S. increase, starting from a higher base, was 6.0 metric tons or 150% during that time span.

The primary traits inserted in corn for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance generally impose a drag on yields compared to the identical non-GMO hybrid under identical growing conditions.


Yet the corporate argument for allowing expanded cultivation of GMO crops in Europe is that they’re essential to feed the world.

The serious lag in corn yield improvement in Africa is largely due to political and economic constraints, not hybrid selection.