The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


Agricultural Biotechnology : why would producers adopt biotech varieties

Linda Fulponi,

The application of modern biotechnology to agriculture has been underway for over 15 years, though discussion on genetically engineered foods has intensified within many countries more recently.

A number of benefits are expected from the use of modern biotechnology methods in agriculture. These include: the decreased use of pesticides from modifying agronomic traits, higher yields from reduced crop losses and more productive animals. Foods with specific quality traits such as improved nutritional content or disease resistance could also benefit consumers in the future.

Since genetically modified crops were first commercialised four years ago, the area harvested of these crops has risen dramatically, particularly in the United States and Latin America These area-harvested estimates reflect very high rates of technology adoption during the first years of their commercialisation and are particularly impressive when compared to that of other seed technologies, such as hybrid maize. What factors explain this rapid adoption of GE crops? While profits are generally the main impetus for the adoption of a technological innovation, is this case for is this case for modern biotechnology innovations?

The paper synthesises and critically assess a range of studies on the economic performance of biotech crops in order partially explain their rapid adoption. Maize, soybean, cotton and rBST are the examples of genetically engineered products discussed in the paper. It then explores the implications which current knowledge of behaviour may have for future adoption and continued expansion of biotech crop varieties.

The paper will be organised as follows: Part  I provides general information on modern biotechnology developments and issues. Part II then critically reviews the findings on adoption of genetically engineered crop varieties and rBST and their economic benefits; Part III explores prospects for a continued expansion of adoption in agricultural production.

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