Agricultural Biotechnology: The Technology in the Seed

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Agricultural Biotechnology:

The Technology in the Seed

Drew L. Kershen

Earl Sneed Centennial Law Professor

University of Oklahoma

Copyright 2001, all rights reserved

The Seed


The agronomic traits are in the seed


no other
input needed to gain access to the technology


Similarity to hybrids but hybridization is primarily
about yield and the trait diminished rapidly from
one plant generation to the next


Contrast to Green Revolution


fertilizers,
irrigation, pesticides, herbicides


extraneous
inputs

Structural & Economic Implications


Scale neutral


the seed advantage accrues equally
to any sized farmer


Economic calculation


more expensive seed versus
potential return


ordinary calculation


Hybrid calculation is identical on cost of seed versus
potential return


No changes in horticultural practices


farm as before
with transgenic seed


Structural & Economic Implications


Scale positive


may benefit the smaller farmer more than
larger farmer


Minimal learning curve


No additional inputs


Increased yield


Reduced labor requirements


Greater security; greater flexibility in farming


Key


access to seeds


assistance for the poorest farmers
to acquired the seeds



Structural Stabilization


Niche markets


value
-
added crops


Functional foods; pharmaceuticals; alternative crops


Environmental constraints


Adapted for drier climates


Ogallala Aquifer


Environmental compliance




No till cropping


Environmental compliance, regulatory compliance is not scale neutral


small
entities adversely affected


May allow smaller farmers to have better risk management and slow
the pace of structural change


Structural Legal Relationships


Additional non
-
farm input


the seed


Gene expression technology or gene use restriction
technology


Intellectual property rights


seed companies


Separate the technology from the structural
changes


agricultural biotechnology is not the
cause of these structural changes

Structural Changes


Before and regardless of biotechnology


Non
-
farm inputs: Internet, precision agriculture, identity
preservation


Hybrids


Semen straws


Contract production; vertical integration


Concentration


in processing and particularly in food
retail


Who captures value?


farmers doing very well in
capturing value of agricultural biotechnology.

Hypothesis


If separate the technology from the structural changes


The technology itself appears scale neutral and potentially scale
positive


If the hypothesis is accurate


Implications for developing world


Major constraint is governmental policies that encourage or
discourage adoption


Good reasons for farmers to be positive and early adopters
of the technology

Constraints


Pressure Groups & Scientific Ignorance


Cartagena Biosafety Protocol


Food Scares and Food Aid


Codex Alimentarius


Governmental Policies


Robert L. Paarlberg, Governing the GM Crop Revolution:
Policy Choices for Developing Countries (Int’l Food Pol. Res.
Inst., 2000)


Five areas: Intellectual Property Rights, Biosafety, Trade, Food
Safety and Consumer Choice, Public Research Investment


China 1.8; Brazil 2.2; Kenya 2.6; India 2.8


Promotional,
Permissive, Precautionary, Preventive

Constraints


Domestic Production vs International Trade


Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (1999)


the importance
of economic freedom and opportunity


Public research investment in domestically important crops


NARS and CGIAR


Capacity
-
building, institutional development, infrastructure
expansion


technical knowledge, appropriate regulation, farmer
extension


South Africa (GMO cotton); Kenya (GMO banana)


the small
farmers as the beneficiaries

Conclusion


Agricultural Biotechnology


greater benefits to
developing nations for food security and food
safety


Urgency of the situation


Opportunity lost? Ideology triumphant?