Spain: National GM crop situation

General situation for GM crops in Spain

Pilot survey conducted by Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores (ASAJA, and Dra. Victoria Marfà Riera, Centre de Recerca en Agrigenòmica (CRAG), Barcelona, Spain


Agriculture in Spain is important to the national economy. Of Spain’s 50.5 million hectares of land, 20.6 million, or about 40 per cent, are suitable for cultivation; however, the soil is generally of poor quality, and only about 10 per cent of the land can be considered excellent. In addition, the roughness of the terrain has been an obstacle to agricultural mechanization and to other technological improvements. Furthermore, land erosion is a serious problem in parts of the country.

Key crops

Barley (3 million ha); olive trees (2.3 million ha); wheat (1.8 million ha); grapevine (1.1 million ha); maize (349 000 ha). Key production constraints include insect pests (e.g. ground beetles in barley, fruit flies in olive production, European corn borer in maize), fungal diseases (e.g., smuts in barley and wheat, olive leaf spot, mildew in grapevines) and viruses.

R&D efforts

About 28 field trials were carried out in 2011, as notified to the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs for approval. Field trials mainly involve GM maize, although permits to test sugarbeets, cotton, tobacco, potatoes and rice were also requested. Most field trials are carried out by private companies.

Regulatory situation

Spanish government policy is to support the use of GM crops presently on the market. GMO decision making is managed under relevant EU Directives and national law 9/2003. Spain’s has traditionally taken a science-based approach biotech regulatory process. There are two institutions which weigh-in on Spain’s GMO decision-making process: the National Biosecurity Commission focuses on the scientific side while the Interministerial Council, composed of representatives from relevant Ministries, takes a technical approach.

Experiences of farmers

GM insect-resistant maize is approved for cultivation in Spain since 1998. Since then, the acreage planted with GM maize has steadily increased, reaching around 68,000 ha in 2010. In a recent survey, 93 per cent of farmers who used GM maize in 2010 stated the intention to do so again in 2011 and 79 per cent indicated being “very satisfied” with its performance. Several advantages of the GM were cited as being significant. These included the resulting health of the plant and its maize ears (the most important quality for 48 per cent of respondents), ease of fieldwork (44 per cent), yield enhancement (41 per cent) and economic advantages (33 per cent). For 98 per cent of farmers the most decisive factor in the choice of GM maize remained its provision of effective protection against the European corn borer.