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Spatial Dimension Of Externalities And The Coase Theorem: Implications For Co-Existence Of Transgenic Crops


  • Beckmann, Volker
  • Wesseler, Justus


"No form of agriculture should be excluded in the EU." Many observers see this recent statement by European agricultural commissioner Franz Fischler as a clear signal towards a nearby lifting of the quasi EU moratorium on transgenic crops (or GMs for short) launched in 1998 (European Commission 2002). One of the last obstacles towards lifting the moratorium, however, is the problem of coexistence. How can GM-crops and non-GM-crops coexist? Since the European Environmental Agency published its report on "Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): The significance of gene flow through pollen transfer" (EEA 2002) the debate focuses on the external effects that GM-farmers may cause to non-GM farmer if accidental pollen transfer takes place. While strong supporters of the GM technology argue that the current legislation is sufficient to deal with this problem (e.g. EuropaBio 2003), others demand strict liability rules for GM-farmer and those who distribute GM-crops. Furthermore, elaborated monitoring systems, GM-crop cadastre and other measures should be established according to their view (e.g. Greenpeace & Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft 2003). The discussion on coexistence and private liability for GM-technology, however, is not limited to Europe. There is an ongoing debate in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and other countries (see e.g. Smyth, Khachatourians and Phillips 2002; Kershen 2002; Conner 2003). Thus, the governance of the future co-existence of GM-crops, conventional crops and organic crops is becoming a burning issue. This paper examines the current debate on co-existence from the perspective of Ronald Coase´s influential paper "The Problem of Social Cost" published in 1960 (Coase 1960). Coase was very sceptical about the role of the government for resolving "harmful effects". He argued, first, that the traditional perception of the problem - making the polluter liable or taxing pollution - is misleading because it ignores the reciprocity of the problem. Second, he stated that if property rights are well defined and the costs of using the market to reallocate property rights are zero or close to zero, the allocation of resources will be independent of the initial distribution of rights. This statement became to be known as the Coase Theorem (see Cooter 1991; Posner 1993). Third, Coase noticed that if the costs of using the market to reallocate property rights are not close to zero, all institutional alternatives or governance structures must be evaluated in a comparative way, including the "costs involved in operating the various social arrangements" (Coase 1960: 44). This contribution will basically proceed in the logic of Coase´s paper but will highlight on the possible implication of the Coase-Theorem for the governance of co-existence and its implications for the spatial allocation of GM and non-GM crops. First, we characterize the problem of co-existence as a problem of social cost that can be solved institutionally as well as technically. Second, we analyze the impact of different property rights structures on the adoption of GM crops and on the value of GM and non-GM production. We will show that under certain assumptions the adoption of GM crops will be independent from the allocation of property and liability rights. In this case technical and managerial solutions may be adopted to solve the problems of co-existence. However, the values of different production systems are highly affected by the allocation of liability rights. Fourth, the implications of those for the spatial allocation of GM and non-GM farms are discussed.

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  • Beckmann, Volker & Wesseler, Justus, 2005. "Spatial Dimension Of Externalities And The Coase Theorem: Implications For Co-Existence Of Transgenic Crops," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19534, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea05:19534

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward Glaeser & Simon Johnson & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "Coase Versus the Coasians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 853-899.
    2. Coase, R H, 1992. "The Institutional Structure of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 713-719, September.
    3. John Crespi & Stéphan Marette, 2003. "“Does Contain” vs. “Does Not Contain”: Does it Matter which GMO Label is Used?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 327-344, November.
    4. Jung, Chulho & Krutilla, Kerry & Kip Viscusi, W. & Boyd, Roy, 1995. "The coase theorem in rent-seeking society," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 259-268, September.
    5. Conner, David S., 2003. "Pesticides and Genetic Drift: Alternative Property Rights Scenarios," Choices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 18(1).
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    Cited by:

    1. Rolf A. Groeneveld & Erik Ansink & Clemens C.M. Van de Wiel & Justus Wesseler, 2011. "Benefits and Costs of Biologically Contained Genetically Modified Tomatoes and Eggplants in Italy and Spain," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(8), pages 1-17, August.
    2. Consmuller, Nicola & Beckmann, Volker & Schleyer, Christian, 2008. "The Role of Coordination and Cooperation for Bt-maize cultivation in Brandenburg, Germany," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 43841, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Beckmann, Volker & Soregaroli, Claudio & Wesseler, Justus, 2010. "Ex-ante regulation and ex-post liability under uncertainty and irreversibility: governing the coexistence of GM crops," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 4, pages 1-33.
    4. Skevas, Theodoros & Wesseler, Justus & Fevereiro, Pedro, 2009. "Coping with ex-ante regulations for planting Bt maize: the Portuguese experience," MPRA Paper 25609, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. E.-A. Nuppenau & T.S Amjath Babu, 2009. "Apples compared to Apples: Attitudes towards cisgenic and transgenic breeds," Journal of Socio-Economics in Agriculture (Until 2015: Yearbook of Socioeconomics in Agriculture), Swiss Society for Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, vol. 2(1), pages 113-142.
    6. GianCarlo Moschini, 2008. "Biotechnology and the development of food markets: retrospect and prospects," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 35(3), pages 331-355, September.
    7. Beckmann, Volker & Soregaroli, Claudio & Wesseler, Justus, 2006. "Governing the Co-existence of GM Crops: Ex-Ante Regulation and Ex-Post Liability under Uncertainty and Irreversibility," Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Discussion Papers 18845, Humboldt University Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    8. Mattia C. Mancini & Kent Kovacs & Eric Wailes & Jennie Popp, 2016. "Addressing the Externalities from Genetically Modified Pollen Drift on a Heterogeneous Landscape," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(4), pages 1-18, October.
    9. Demont, Matty & Daems, W. & Dillen, Koen & Mathijs, Erik & Sausse, C. & Tollens, Eric, 2008. "Are EU spatial ex ante coexistence regulations proportional?," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 44191, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    10. Breustedt, Gunnar & Latacz-Lohmann, Uwe & Müller-Scheeßel, Jörg, 2013. "Impact of alternative information requirements on the coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and non-GM oilseed rape in the EU," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 104-115.
    11. Ambec, Stefan & Langinier, Corinne & Marcoul, Phillipe, 2011. "Spatial Efficiency of Genetically Modified and Organic Crops," Working Papers 2011-11, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    12. Wesseler, Justus, 0. "Biotechnologies and agrifood strategies: opportunities, threats and economic implications," Bio-based and Applied Economics Journal, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA), issue 3.
    13. Lewis, David J. & Barham, Bradford L. & Zimmerer, Karl S., 2008. "Spatial Externalities in Agriculture: Empirical Analysis, Statistical Identification, and Policy Implications," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 1813-1829, October.
    14. GianCarlo Moschini, 2014. "In Medio Stat Virtus: Coexistence Policies for GM and non-GM Production in Spatial Equilibrium," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 14-wp548, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.


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