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The Limits of intellectual property rights: Lessons from the spread of illegal transgenic seeds in India


  • N. Lalitha

    () (Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad)

  • Carl E. Pray

    () (The State University of New Jersey)

  • Bharat Ramaswami

    () (Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi)


Genetically modified seeds have to be approved by biosafety regulators before they can be commercialized. Illegal seeds are, however, common in many developing countries including Brazil, China and India. They potentially pose dangers to biosafety and also undermine the intellectual property rights of firms that own the genetically modifed traits. Their unchecked spread has been attributed to the near impossibility of enforcement when potential violators involve millions of small farmers. Based on a survey of cotton growers in Gujarat, India in 2004, and an examination of the structure of cotton seed production this paper finds that the government, in fact, possesed the information and means to enforce the law. A contingent valuation exercise reveals high relative valuations for illegal seeds correlated with the perceived costs of pesticide application. We discuss how that matters to the political cost of enforcement and to socially optimal policies

Suggested Citation

  • N. Lalitha & Carl E. Pray & Bharat Ramaswami, 2008. "The Limits of intellectual property rights: Lessons from the spread of illegal transgenic seeds in India," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 08-06, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
  • Handle: RePEc:ind:isipdp:08-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Devparna Roy & Ronald Herring & Charles Geisler, 2007. "Naturalising transgenics: Official seeds, loose seeds and risk in the decision matrix of Gujarati cotton farmers," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(1), pages 158-176.
    2. Matin Qaim & Alain de Janvry, 2003. "Genetically Modified Crops, Corporate Pricing Strategies, and Farmers' Adoption: The Case of Bt Cotton in Argentina," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(4), pages 814-828.
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    Cited by:

    1. Minten, Bart & Singh, K.M. & Sutradhar, Rajib, 2013. "Branding and agricultural value chains in developing countries: Insights from Bihar (India)," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 23-34.
    2. Huang, Jikun & Chen, Ruijian & Qiao, Fangbin & Wu, Kongming, 2015. "Biosafety management and pesticide use in China's Bt cotton production," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 67-75.
    3. Gruere, Guillaume P. & Sun, Yan, 2012. "Measuring the contribution of Bt cotton adoption to India's cotton yields leap:," IFPRI discussion papers 1170, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    More about this item


    Intellectual Property Rights; Biosafety Regulation; Genetically Modified Seeds; Transgenic Varieties; Bt Cotton;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • Q16 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - R&D; Agricultural Technology; Biofuels; Agricultural Extension Services


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