The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


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"The Effects of Advances in Biotechnology on the Optimality of Ex Ante Evaluation of Genebank Material"
Bonwoo Koo and Brian D. Wright (UC Berkeley)

Despite the impressive collection of germplasm in ex situ genebanks, genebank materials are not being used extensively by plant breeders (Wright 1997). One frequently cited obstacle to greater utilization is the lack of information useful to breeders regarding the collections, and plant breeders have requested more complete evaluation of genebank collections. Existing studies on the use and management of genebank collections largely deal with the optimal size of collections (Brown 1989, Chang 1989), the value of germplasm (Simpson et al. 1996, Evenson 1996), or the optimal search strategy for useful traits (Gollin et al. 1997). This paper focuses on the issues regarding the evaluation of genebank materials for the case of a trait for disease resistance, and addresses the following questions: What is the optimal strategy for evaluating genebank material for a trait? Do we evaluate it ex ante or only after the need for the trait becomes pressing? What is the effect of advances in biotechnology on the timing of evaluation? And, how is the timing of evaluation and development changed when there is a possibility of a technological breakthrough in the near future?

A simple analysis will be provided that derives optimal germplasm characterization strategies of genebank materials given assumptions about costs and benefits and evaluation and development processes. Using the model of the evaluation of genebank resources, we also analyze the effect of advances in biotechnology on the utilization and value of genebank resources. The effects of decreases in the cost and speed of both research and development will be considered, as will the prospect of how future advances in technology should affect the choice between greater ex ante characterization and delay in anticipation of further advances. The issues on the timing of evaluation of genebank collections and the role of genebanks have important policy implications for genebank management, facing rapidly changing technological environments.


- Brown, A. H. D. (1989), "The Case for Core Collections." in The Use of Plant Genetic Resources, Brown, A. H. D., O. H. Frankel, D. R. Marshall, and J. T. Williams (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Chang, T. T. (1989), "The Case for Large Collections." in The Use of Plant Genetic Resources, Brown, A. H. D., O. H. Frankel, D. R. Marshall, and J. T. Williams (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Evenson, Robert E. (1996), "Valuing Genetic Resources for Plant Breeding: Hedonic Trait Value, and Breeding Functions Methods." paper presented at the symposium on the Economics of Valuation and Conservation of Genetic Resources for Agriculture, May 13-15, Rome.
- Gollin, Douglas, M. Smale and B. Skovmand (1997), "The Empirical Economics of Ex Situ Conservation: A Search Theoretic Approach for the Case of Wheat." Paper presented at the Conference, "Building the Basis for Economic Analysis of Genetic Resource Crop Plants," August 17-19, Palo Alto, California.
- Simpson, R. David, Roger A. Sedjo and John W. Reid (1996), "Valuing Biodiversity for Use in Pharmaceutical Research." Journal of Political Economy 104(1): 163-185. Wright, Brian D. (1997), "Crop Genetic Resource Policy: The Role of Ex Situ Genebanks." Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 41(1): 81-115.