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To Bt or not to Bt? Risk and uncertainty considerations in technology assessment

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  • Sarthak Gaurav

    ()
    (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)

  • Srijit Mishra

    ()
    (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)

Abstract

The acreage under the transgenic Bt cotton seeds in India has risen significantly since its legalization in the year 2002. Discussions on the advantages from the technology have focused on increments in productivity and income, without much analysis on risk. We point out that claims on productivity gains seem to be misplaced, as appropriate counterfactuals do not exist for the same hybrids. In this article we analyse production costs and crop incomes in drought years to test a simplistic theory of risk based on first principles. We employ a mixed-methods framework to draw inferences by combining data from two cross-sectional surveys in Gujarat (Saurashtra and Southern-Plains) and Maharashtra (Western Vidarbha) for the period 2009-10 and compare it with unit-level data for the corresponding regions from a nationally representative sample for the period 2002-03. Empirical evidence, though limited, brings out the problem of how a high cost technology could be associated with higher risks and may be dominated by traditional alternatives under certain conditions. Ethnographic accounts from the field provide qualitative support to our understanding of potential risks and uncertainties associated with the new technology.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India in its series Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers with number 2012-001.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ind:igiwpp:2012-001

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Keywords: Bt cotton; agricultural risk; technology evaluation; mixed-methods; India;

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  1. Anderson, Jock R., 1974. "Risk Efficiency in the Interpretation of Agricultural Production Research," Review of Marketing and Agricultural Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 42(03), September.
  2. Farnsworth, Richard L. & Moffitt, L. Joe, 1981. "Cotton Production Under Risk: An Analysis Of Input Effects On Yield Variability And Factor Demand," Western Journal of Agricultural Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 6(02), December.
  3. Liebowitz, S J & Margolis, Stephen E, 1990. "The Fable of the Keys," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 1-25, April.
  4. Guillaume Gruere & Debdatta Sengupta, 2011. "Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India: An Evidence-based Assessment," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 316-337.
  5. Anchal Arora & Sangeeta Bansal, 2012. "Diffusion of Bt Cotton in India: Impact of Seed Prices and Varietal Approval," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 34(1), pages 102-118.
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