The adoption rate of gene-edited (GE) crop seeds is expected to increase significantly in the next five to 10 years, according to a Rabobank report.

Factors driving increased adoption of GE traits in crops included enhanced crop productivity, drought tolerance, improved crop quality, reduced environmental impact, increased sustainability, addressing consumer needs, and new market opportunities, the 9 May report said.

“GE technology… can increase crop productivity without expanding farmland area, reduce food waste, reduce harmful substances in food, and reduce pesticide use, among other things,” Rabobank farm inputs analyst Chia-Kai Kang said.

Although the exact timeline for the adoption of GE seeds was hard to estimate, Rabobank said it expected adoption rates would surpass 50% within five to 10 years.

According to Kang, there are at least five factors that will determine if a GE crop can achieve a high adoption rate: product performance, such as quality, yield, and consistency in performance; possible long-term risks, such as allergic and toxic reactions; disruption to trade flows due to export bans on GE crops; the marketing power, selling strategy, and distribution network of the input company; and access to technology.

Although GE seed traits are most commonly used for arable crops, other applications include plants not for human consumption, vegetables, fruits and micro-organisms, according to the report.

“GE traits can benefit the entire food supply chain, directly impacting farmers and farm input companies, but also the grain and oilseed industry and consumers,” Kang added.

The USA had been the frontrunner in terms of GE applications, as it was with genetically modified organisms (GMO), the report said.

According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, 169 applications for GE products were made in the USA from 2011-2020. Applications included plants for human consumption, feed, industrial uses, and some micro-organisms for industry, with some of these applications due for commercial application.

According to the report, GE crops face less controversy than GMOs.

“Unlike GMOs, which have been on the market for several decades, GE is a relatively new technology, developed less than 10 years ago. The development of GE brings new technology to the table that involves only editing the existing genes of the plant. This solves one of the major criticisms of GMOs and brings fewer ethical concerns, as well as fewer regulatory constraints in some countries,” the Rabobank report said.