Testing assumptions underlying economic research on transgenic food crops for Third World farmers: Evidence from Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico
Transgenic crop varieties (TGVs) are being promoted as essential for improving small-scale Third World (SSTW) agriculture. Most economic research on this topic makes critical, untested assumptions, including that farmers will choose TGVs over other varieties because TGVs are economically optimal and because farmers are risk neutral profit maximizers. We tested these assumptions using data from a survey of 334 farmers in 6 communities in Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico in which farmers ranked 4 real and hypothetical maize varieties for eating and sowing. Our results did not support these assumptions. Most farmers preferred farmer varieties for sowing and especially for eating, avoiding TGVs, a preference associated with being risk averse and with non-monetary preferences. Farmers more integrated into modern agriculture were more likely to choose TGVs. These results suggest that farmers most in need of support and most important for conserving genetic diversity are least favorable toward TGVs, and that alternative ways of improving SSTW agriculture should receive more attention.
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