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Economics, Ecology and GMOs: Sustainability, Precaution and Related Issues


  • Tisdell, Clement A.


Ecological, evolutionary and economic issues involved in introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), mainly in agriculture, are discussed. The ecological and evolutionary impacts identified hamper (economic) valuation of GMOs and their biosafety regulation and creates difficulties for planning for sustainable development. Assessment of the desirability of releasing GMOs is difficult because of lack of communal agreement about the risks involved, about how much precaution should be exercised given collective risks, and disagreement on the appropriate social criterion to apply. Changes in legal liability are not always economic and cannot eliminate the social conflict generated by GMOs. The economics of developing and marketing GMOs is explored, assuming the type of intellectual property rights in GMOs in the United States. It is found that the economics of developing and marketing GMOs favours large enterprises as primary suppliers. In marketing GMOs, sales to larger-sized commercial farms rather than smaller-sized ones are preferred. GMOs preferred for development are those designed to satisfy large agricultural markets, mostly located in higher income countries. The patenting of GMOs, co-evolution, various social conflicts in the use of GMOs and legal liability for damages caused by GMOs are discussed both from a socioeconomic and biosafety point of view.

Suggested Citation

  • Tisdell, Clement A., 2011. "Economics, Ecology and GMOs: Sustainability, Precaution and Related Issues," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 122726, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uqseee:122726

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tisdell, Clem, 1983. "Law, Economics and Risk-Taking," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 3-20.
    2. Sandra S. Batie, 2003. "The Environmental Impacts of Genetically Modified Plants: Challenges to Decision Making," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1107-1111.
    3. Batie, Sandra S. & Ervin, David E., 2001. "Transgenic crops and the environment: missing markets and public roles," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 435-457, October.
    4. Clem Tisdell, 1999. "Diversity And Economic Evolution: Failures Of Competitive Economic Systems," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(2), pages 156-165, April.
    5. Xue, Dayuan & Tisdell, Clement A., 1999. "Safety and Socio-Economic Issues Raised by Modern Biotechnology," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 47995, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
    6. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    7. Tisdell, Clem, 1970. "Implications of Learning for Economic Planning," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 177-192.
    8. Tisdell, Clement A., 2010. "Core Issues in the Economics of Biodiversity Conservation," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 92772, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
    9. Tisdell, Clem, 2003. "Socioeconomic causes of loss of animal genetic diversity: analysis and assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 365-376, July.
    10. Tisdell, Clement A., 2009. "Is Posner's Principle of Justice an Adequate Basis for Environmental Law?," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 55337, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
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