Productivity of Biotech Crops in Developing Countries


Biotech crop acreage in developing countries like China, India and South Africa continued to increase in 2004 according to the ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications). Chinese acreage, mostly cotton, increased 31.9 percent from 6.9 million acres to 9.1 million acres. India’s acreage increased from 250,000 acres in 2003 to 1.24 million in 2004, a 400 percent increase. South Africa’s biotech acreage increased 25 percent in 2004 to 1.2 million acres where You can find fioricet for sale
. The slow progress of the regulatory process in developing countries has allowed agronomic and economic researchers to accumulate data from farm trials and estimate what may happen to productivity as biotech crops become more widely used.

Adoption of U.S. biotech crops occurred so rapidly in the United States that decisions to plant more biotech acreage were driven more by on-farm, real time experiences rather than responding to years of third party research plots and on-farm test results. For example, adoption of biotech soybeans increased from 17 percent of total acres in 1997, to 68 percent in 2001 and 84 percent by 2004.

A 2002 study by the Agricultural Economics Research Institute in The Hague, Netherlands on Chinese adoption of Bt cotton in 1999 by 282 cotton farmers in an area with severe bollworm problems reported no changes in fertilizer and machinery use. Adopters of Bt cotton sprayed 60 percent fewer times (from an average of 20 times to an average of 8 times) and reduced insecticide expenditures by 82 percent. Seed costs for Bt cotton were 100-250 percent higher, but follow-up research showed that seed costs declined over time. Yields for 1999-2001 increased by 7-15 percent, with an average of 10 percent, compared to conventional cotton.

From the three years of on-farm experience (1999-2001), the researchers estimated that by 2010 yields for the nation as a whole would be 7 percent higher, pesticide costs would be 67 percent lower, labor costs would be 7 percent lower and seed costs would be 120 percent higher for those using Bt cotton versus conventional cotton. In the three growing regions studied, one had a 10 percent increase in projected yields, a second had a 7 percent increase and a third area with less pest pressure had a 3.6 percent increase. The researchers projected that the benefits to producers would be large enough so that by 2010 over 90 percent of the cotton acreage in China would be biotech, with one region at 95 percent adoption and the other at two at 90 percent. This would be higher than the adoption rates in the United States in 2004 for biotech soybeans at 84 percent and cotton at 76 percent.

The ISAAA published work in late 2003 looking at the yield increases expected for biotech rice. They estimated that if herbicide tolerant rice were available in 2004 followed by bacterial leaf blight resistance and insect resistance in 2005, then yields would increase by an additional 10 percent above yield increases for other reasons. They also considered a more optimistic scenario with yield increases of 15 percent. If these agronomic traits were combined with the ‘Golden Rice’ vitamin A gene in 2007, they estimated that by 2012 about 40 percent of the world rice crop would be biotech. The earlier cited work on China estimated that adoption of biotech rice could reach 95 percent in China within 10 years of its commercial availability. The ISAAA analysis also expected China to be a rapid adopter of biotech rice.

Kym Anderson, an agricultural economist at the University of Adelaide, Australia and now on leave at the World Bank in Washington, DC, has looked at studies from around the world and developed some estimates of percentage increases in productivity for factors of production. In a 2004 study on biotech rice (without the Golden gene), he used a 6 percent increase in the productivity for land, an 8 percent increases in productivity for skilled and unskilled labor and a 5 percent increase in productivity for chemical inputs. In another 2004 analysis on biotech food crops for sub-Saharan Africa, he used productivity increases for all factors of production of 7.5 percent for course grains, 6 percent for oilseeds, 5 percent for wheat and 5 percent for non-Golden rice. The actual increases in productivity for each factor will obviously vary by regions within Africa, but these estimates provide some sense of why biotech crops are likely to be adopted.

Researchers have also looked at the economic benefits of “output traits” such as Golden rice. In 2002 the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn, Germany analyzed the impact on the economy in the Philippines. The analysis estimated that vitamin A deficiency costs the Philippine economy 0.5 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) each year. They estimated economic gains of $23-137 million per year and an internal rate of return of 81-152 percent for the money spent to encourage consumption of the new rice. The researchers pointed out that food choices and health care are influenced by a complex set of characteristics and Golden rice should not be seen as the easy cure for diet and lifestyle choices. Despite those caveats, the researchers concluded, “Micronutrient-dense crops are an efficient way to reduce deficiency problems among the poor, and related research projects should receive higher political priority.”

Broad acceptance of biotech crops in developing countries will be based on economic efficiencies in specific locations and the effectiveness of the local knowledge transfer process. Productivity increases may increase total output of crops like cotton or may allow acreage to shift to other crops while total cotton output remains unchanged. Regardless of the cropping tradeoffs, the economic benefits appear large enough to encourage rapid adoption of biotech crops.

Ross Korves

Ross Korves

Ross Korves served Truth about Trade & Technology, before it became Global Farmer Network, from 2004 – 2015 as the Economic and Trade Policy Analyst.

Researching and analyzing economic issues important to agricultural producers, Ross provided an intimate understanding regarding the interface of economic policy analysis and the political process.

Mr. Korves served the American Farm Bureau Federation as an Economist from 1980-2004. He served as Chief Economist from April 2001 through September 2003 and held the title of Senior Economist from September 2003 through August 2004.

Born and raised on a southern Illinois hog farm and educated at Southern Illinois University, Ross holds a Masters Degree in Agribusiness Economics. His studies and research expanded internationally through his work in Germany as a 1984 McCloy Agricultural Fellow and study travel to Japan in 1982, Zambia and Kenya in 1985 and Germany in 1987.

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