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We developed two distinct papers – based on work done under a small project funded by the World Bank-  examining the potential impact of insect resistant / herbicide tolerant cotton in West Africa.

When we first started working on the papers back in early 2007, Burkina Faso had conducted confined field trials and was setting itself for the biosafety assessment and technology decision making process, leading to the potential commercialization of the technology.By the time the peer reviewed papers had been published, Burkina Faso had given the tentative approval for commercialization and was on its way to deploy the technology.

The AfJARE paper focuses on the economic impact whereas the ABDR paper emphasis was on the methodology and the policy/institutional factors that could limit the ongoing deployment of the technology in West Africa. In both papers, we discussed relevant issues to the successful deployment of potentially useful technologies to farmers, including the necessary innovation system that will provide stewardship for deployment, caveats on requiring local adaptation of cotton varieties, institutional limitations, legal frameworks covering intellectual property and biosafety issues, cotton sector organization and coordination, and alternative production methods. In our work we have observed that addressing these issues are critical for the appropriate deployment and for maximizing the benefits and reducing the risks.

The following paragraph summarizes the overall results from our study.

“Can producers in West Africa gain from the adoption of Bt cotton?  Even when taking into consideration all the limitations and caveats from our study, producer can gain from having at least one more technology choice to choose from such as Bt cotton. This technology can help resolve one specific productivity constraint and thus contribute to the overall goal of poverty alleviation in the region. Proper deployment of the Bt cotton technology will need to be situated within the scope of overall economic development. A prudent course of action will evaluate options and give Bt cotton a proper role in the global economic development process. In essence, two distinct recommendations arise from our study. First, governments in West Africa need to identify and promote appropriate incentives to choose the best from technology alternatives and, second, the need exists to identify and mitigate policy and institutional constraints that may limit the proper technology deployment in West Africa.”

In a future post, I will cover more in detail institutional limitations that may reduce farmers benefits from the adoption of GM technologies. Our experience assessing these technologies have shown us that the successful diffusion of GM cotton in developing countries depends much on strong public institutions, including the clear support of the government providing the political will to support agricultural science technology and innovation, a dynamic research sector, and the availability of credit for funding investments in agricultural inputs.  An area of particular importance are the information flows to and from producers about the technology’s optimum use and the price and market information necessary to make appropriate decisions.


  1. Falck Zepeda, J.B., D. Horna, P. Zambrano and M. Smale. “Policy and Institutional Factors and the Distribution of Economic Benefits and Risk from the Adoption of Insect Resistant (Bt) Cotton in West Africa.” 2008. Asian Biotechnology Development Review 11(1):1-32.
  2. Falck Zepeda, J., D. Horna and M. Smale. “Distribution of economic benefits and risk from the adoption of insect resistant cotton in West Africa” 2008. African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.