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Animal genetic resource trade flows: Economic assessment

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Throughout human history, livestock producers have relied on a vibrant international exchange of genentic resources to achieve improvements in the quality and productivity of their animals. In recent years, however, some observers have argued that changes in the legal, technological, and economic environment now imply that international exchanges of animal genetic resources (AnGR) systematically benefit rich countries at the expense of poor countries. It is argued that international flows of AnGR are displacing the indigenous animal genetic resources of developing countries, and alos that the genetic wealth of the developing world is being expropriated by rich countries. In reaction, there have been growing calls for limitations and/or barriers to the exchange of animal genetic resources. These discussions, however, seem to be based on limited information about the magnitude and direction of current trade flows in AnGR. This paper offers an analysis of AnGR trade flows from 1990 to 2005. The paper draws on national-level data from 150 countries that reported information to the United States Statistics Division. Three major trade categories were evaluated: live cattle and pigs for breeding, and cattle semen. Over the period studied, Europe and North America were the primary exporters of genetic resources for the species evaluated. OECD countries accounted for 98.7, 92.5, and 95% of cattle semen, live cattle, and swine exports in 2005, respectively. In evaluation the direction of trade between developed (North) and developing (South) countries, North-South trade had the largest magnitude, followed by North-South, South-South, and South-North. The data do not support the notion that Southern genetic resources are being used on a large scale in the North. We believe that importation from South to North is limited by the vast discrepancies in production efficiency and production systems between countries in the North and South. Given the low volume of South-North exchange, it seems doubtful that sufficient revenues could be acquired through a “benefit-sharing mechanism" to have any substantial impact on in situ or ex situ conservation efforts, or to generate benefits for poor livestock keepers in developing countries. We question whether global agreements or restrictions on trade will achieve the improving the well-being of the poor. We suggest that resources instead be urgently employed for conservation and that more direct measures should be taken to aid poor farmers, ranchers, and herders in their efforts to conserve genetic resources.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Center for Development Economics with number 2008-02.

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Length: 9 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in Livestock Science, 2009, 120: 248-255.
Handle: RePEc:wil:wilcde:2008-02

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Keywords: animal genetic resources; gene flow; germplasm trade;

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  1. John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Demographic changes and international factor mobility," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Aug, pages 369-420.
  2. Christian Dustmann & Tim Hatton & Ian Preston, 2005. "The Labour Market Effects of Immigration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages F297-F299, November.
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  4. Mario Izquierdo & Juan Jimeno & Juan Rojas, 2010. "On the aggregate effects of immigration in Spain," SERIEs, Spanish Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 409-432, September.
  5. Timothy J. Hatton & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2008. "Global Migration and the World Economy: Two Centuries of Policy and Performance," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582775, December.
  6. Alan M. Taylor & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1991. "Capital Flows to the New World as an Intergenerational Transfer," NBER Historical Working Papers 0032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Susan M. Collins, 1991. "Saving Behavior in Ten Developing Countries," NBER Chapters, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 349-376 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Higgins, Matthew, 1998. "Demography, National Savings, and International Capital Flows," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 343-69, May.
  9. Stuart J. Wilson, 2003. "A Dynamic General Equilibrium Analysis of Migration and Capital Formation: The Case of Canada," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(2), pages 455-481, April.
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