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Here I also desire to clarify a bit of a misunderstanding when talking about “economic” studies. Even though the economics literature clearly reflects a disciplinary approach, it is not exclusively about “economic” results like estimating profitability or net returns to farmers through monetary gains, although these are one of the many indicators used in the analysis.

The fact of the matter is that those studies that examined the first generation of LMOs where there were many limitations such as very little data, information and experience with assessments available, economists felt comfortable and confident in the results from first order indicators such as net profit and level of analysis (direct economic impacts) when dealing with a new innovation such as LMOs.

Most papers have pointed out these limitations especially with regard to representativeness and drawing generalizations from their research. In fact, as time went by, you could see more issues and more complex methods being employed as we gained experience and access to data.

Those development focused economists – like me – who are working with developing countries are particularly interested in researching many different aspects relevant to developing countries’ agriculture. Issues such as impacts on smallholder farmers, labor, food security, relationship to broader poverty alleviation strategies, gender and generational dimensions, impacts on public health, distributional aspects, relationship between developing countries public and private sector research and development and innovation, access to productive and protective inputs. Furthermore, we are interested in the impact of intellectual property regimes on access and conversely on how to use IPR regimes to promote use, issues with biodiversity and its role in providing ecosystems services and as a risk management instrument for climate change and commodity price fluctuations, addressing freedom to choose and freedom to operate issues and many more.

IFPRI where I work, as an international non-governmental organization, is particularly interested in those crops and traits of a public good nature where the public sector will take a large role in their development. Those products released to date, with a few exceptions such as those Bt cotton events developed by the public sector in India and China, have been private sector developed product for producers in industrialized countries. The opportunity arose to diffuse these technologies to farmers in some developing countries with outcomes such as the ones we have described in our literature review (Smale et al. 2009). This was an incidental development.

What I am particularly concerned are the many public sector developed technologies by national research systems in developing countries and the international research community which are likely to address crops and traits of interest to farmers. Here I am talking about the Black Sigatoka resistant bananas in Uganda, the Bt cowpea, the Bt eggplant, viral resistant cassavas and sweet potatoes, water efficient maize and sorghum, biofortified products, and others documented in Atanassov et al. (2003) and for Latin America in Falck Zepeda, et al. (2009) and Trigo et al. (2010). The consequences of regulatory development to the public sector and the budding domestic private sector in developing countries are at the heart of my concerns.

The issue in my opinion is not whether we need to research and gain familiarity and knowledge about these issues. The matter at hand is deciding what to include within the boundaries of a regulatory process focused originally on environmental risk assessment and now expanded to other areas. As I have outlined there are other decisions to make in terms of scope, timing, implementation entity, decision making rules; which need a lot of discussion. There are decisions for countries to make, hopefully fully informed about all options, alternatives, and trade-offs involved in such decisions.

 

References:

Falck-Zepeda, Jose´ Benjamin; Falconi, Cesar; Sampaio-Amstalden, Maria José; Solleiro Rebolledo, José Luis; Trigo, Eduardo; Verástegui, Javier. 2009. La biotecnología agropecuaria en América Latina: Una visión cuantitativa. IFPRI Discussion Paper 860SP. Washington, D.C. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ifpridp00860sp.pdf

Trigo, E. J. Falck-Zepeda, and C. Falconi. 2010. Biotecnología Agropecuaria  para el Desarrollo en América Latina: Oportunidades y Retos. Documento de Trabajo LAC/01/10, Programa de Cooperación, FAO/Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, Servicio para América Latina y el Caribe, División del Centro de Inversiones.

Atanassov, A., A. Bahieldin, J. Brink, M. Burachik, J. I. Cohen, V. Dhawan, R. V. Ebora, J. Falck-Zepeda, L. Herrera-Estrella, J. Komen, F. C. Low, E. Omaliko, B. Odhiambo, H. Quemada, Y. Peng, M. J. Sampaio, I. Sithole-Niang, A. Sittenfeld, M. Smale, Sutrisno, R. Valyasevi, Y. Zafar, and P. Zambrano. 2004. To Reach The Poor: Results from the ISNAR-IFPRI Next Harvest Study on Genetically Modified Crops, Public Research, and Policy Implications.” EPTD Discussion Paper 116. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute

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