Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development
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Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development

Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle

This book is a compendium of knowledge, experience and insight on agriculture, biotechnology and development. Beginning with an account of GM crop adoptions and attitudes towards them, the book assesses numerous crucial processes, concluding with detailed insights into GM products. Drawing on expert perspectives of leading authors from 57 different institutions in 16 countries, it provides a unique, global overview of agbiotech following 20 years of adoption. Many consider GM crops the most rapid agricultural innovation adopted in the history of agriculture. This book provides insights as to why the adoption has occurred globally at such a rapid rate.
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Chapter 37: Maize/corn

Janet Carpenter, Marnus Gouse and Jose Yorobe


Maize (Zea mays L. ssp. mays), known in North America as corn, is an annually cropped grass that was domesticated in what is now Mexico approximately 6000-7000 years ago. The crop had spread throughout much of the Americas before European explorers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries carried seed back for cultivation and introduced maize to other countries. Evolution of maize through selection, and more recently breeding, over thousands of years has resulted in multiple biotypes that can be grown in diverse climates (Carpenter et al., 2002; James, 2003). Hybrid maize varieties developed from the crossing of inbred lines were introduced for widespread commercialization in the 1930s in the US and quickly dominated maize production, reaching 90 per cent adoption by 1945. By 1999, 94 per cent of maize acreage in developed countries and 54 per cent of maize acreage in developing countries was planted with hybrid varieties (James, 2003). An analysis of the process of adapting and distributing hybrid seed maize and its rate of adoption by US farmers was a key development in the literature on the economics of technological change (Griliches, 1957). Today maize is among the most important crops grown in the world, accounting for the greatest tonnage produced (1.1 billion metric tonnes in 2009/10), second only to wheat (and followed closely by rice) in terms of area, with nearly 158 million hectares harvested in 2009/2010 (Anonymous, 2011).

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