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The Economics of Agricultural Biotechnology


  • Carl E. Pray
  • Anwar Naseem


This paper examines the economic determinants and impacts of agricultural research, particularly biotechnology research, with a view to understanding the potential of agricultural biotechnology to address the needs of the poor in developing countries. It surveys public and private agricultural research in developed and developing countries since the green revolution and discusses the public goods nature of much agricultural research. Unlike the research that launched the green revolution, agricultural biotechnology research is primarily being conducted by private firms in industrialized countries to address problems of temperate-zone commercial agriculture. These differences have important implications for the development and diffusion of new technologies to meet the needs of the poor. This paper was prepared as background material for the 2003 issue of The State of Food and Agriculture, which has the theme “Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?” Several companion papers are also available in the ESA Working Paper series.

Suggested Citation

  • Carl E. Pray & Anwar Naseem, 2003. "The Economics of Agricultural Biotechnology," Working Papers 03-07, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  • Handle: RePEc:fao:wpaper:0307

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael Lipton, 2001. "Reviving global poverty reduction: what role for genetically modified plants?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(7), pages 823-846.
    2. Pardey, Philip G. & Beintema, Nienke M., 2002. "Slow Magic: Agricultural R&D A Century After Mendel," Working Papers 14364, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
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    Cited by:

    1. Krishna, Vijesh V. & Qaim, Matin, 2007. "Estimating the adoption of Bt eggplant in India: Who Benefits from public-private partnership?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5-6), pages 523-543.
    2. Anwar Naseem & David J. Spielman & Steven Were Omamo, 2010. "Private-sector investment in R&D: a review of policy options to promote its growth in developing-country agriculture," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 143-173.
    3. Terri Raney & Prabhu Pingali, 2004. "Private Research and Public Goods: Implications of biotechnology for biodiversity," Working Papers 04-07, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
    4. Spielman, David J., 2007. "Pro-poor agricultural biotechnology: Can the international research system deliver the goods?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 189-204, April.
    5. Carl E. Pray & Anwar Naseem, 2003. "Biotechnology R&D: Policy options to ensure access and benefits for the poor," Working Papers 03-08, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
    6. Spielman, David J. & Zambrano, Patricia, 2013. "Policy, investment, and partnerships for agricultural biotechnology research in Africa: Emerging evidence," IFPRI book chapters,in: Falck-Zepeda, Jose Benjamin & Gruère, Guillaume P. & Sithole-Niang, Idah (ed.), Genetically modified crops in Africa: Economic and policy lessons from countries south of the Sahara, chapter 7, pages 183-205 International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    More about this item


    Agricultural research; Biotechnology; Developing countries; Economic development; Innovation; Research policies; Technological changes;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q16 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - R&D; Agricultural Technology; Biofuels; Agricultural Extension Services


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