A farm level perspective on agrobiotechnology: how much value and for whom?
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Even the optimists among biotechnology proponents have been caught off guard by the extremely fast farm-level adoption of bioengineered crops. In 1999, just four years from commercial introduction, an estimated 40% of the total United States (U.S.) corn, soybean and cotton acreage were planted with herbicide- and insect-resistant bioengineered crops. To put this level of adoption in perspective, one may consider it against that of the most dominant agricultural technology of the past -- hybrid corn. To make the comparison more pronounced, one may consider the average adoption rate of hybrid corn for only Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, which exhibited some of the highest adoption rates among all relevant states. The comparison is revealing. In 1999, an estimated 51% of soybean acres were planted with Roundup Ready soybeans. It took seven years for the selected States to reach similar adoption levels in the case of hybrid corn. In some States it took twenty years or more. Bacillus thuringiensis corn (Bt-corn), Roundup Ready- and Bt-cotton also exhibit adoption rates significantly faster than hybrid corn. Adoption of bovine growth hormone in the dairy industry, on the other hand, has been slower. What are the factors driving the speedy adoption and diffusion of bioengineered crops on the farm? What are the economic benefits delivered by such technologies, and how have such benefits been shared between the farmers and the innovators? In this issue, academic and industry experts provide empirical evidence on such benefits and their distribution.
AgBioForum 2(2) 1999: 61-64.