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Valuing Research Leads: Bioprospecting and the Conservation of Genetic Resources

  • Rausser, Gordon C.
  • Small, Arthur A.

Bioprospecting has been touted as a source of finance for biodiversity conservation. Recent work has suggested that the bioprospecting value of the "marginal unit" of genetic resources is likely to be vanishingly small, creating essentially no conservation incentive. This result is shown to flow specifically from a stylized description of the research process as one of brute-force testing, unaided by an organizing scientific framework. Scientific models channel research effort towards leads for which the exepected productivity of discoveries is highest. Leads of unusual promise then command information rents, associated with their role in reducing the costs of search. When genetic materials are abundant, information rents are virtually unaffected by increases in the profitability of product discovery, and decline as technology improvements lower search costs. Numerical simulation results suggest that, under plausible conditions, the bioprospecting value of certain genetic resources could be large enough to support market-based conservation of biodiversity.

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Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt4t56m5b8.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt4t56m5b8
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  1. Evenson, Robert E & Kislev, Yoav, 1976. "A Stochastic Model of Applied Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 265-81, April.
  2. Heal, G.M., 1995. "Markets and Biodiversity," Papers 95-17, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  3. Simpson, R David & Sedjo, Roger A & Reid, John W, 1996. "Valuing Biodiversity for Use in Pharmaceutical Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 163-85, February.
  4. M. L. Weitzman, 1978. "Optimal Search for the Best Alternative," Working papers 214, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Brown, Gardner Jr. & Goldstein, Jon H., 1984. "A model for valuing endangered species," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 303-309, December.
  6. Polasky Stephen & Solow Andrew R., 1995. "On the Value of a Collection of Species," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 298-303, November.
  7. Kohn, Meir G. & Shavell, Steven, 1974. "The theory of search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 93-123, October.
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