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Some simple economics of GM food


  • Harhoff, Dietmar
  • Régibeau, Pierre
  • Rockett, Katharine


Public opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops (GM food) hasnot been based solely on concern about biological risks. Economic riskshave been widely cited too: the fear that the world’s food supply willbe concentrated in the hands of a few large firms, the fear that suchfirms will engage or are already engaging in anti-competitive practices,and the fear of the transfer of ownership rights over genetic resourcesto the private sector. Are these fears justified? We argue that the GMfood industry may be on course for further consolidation, and this couldbe anti-competitive. In fact, policymakers face a dilemma: a stringentregulatory approval process enhances food safety, but at the cost ofincreasing market concentration. We argue also that the integration ofseed and agri-chemical manufacturers may bias the introduction of GMtraits in undesirable directions. Some business practices (stick astie-in contracts between seeds and complementary products such asherbicides) may have an exclusionary motive that warrants scrutiny onanti-competitive grounds, while some other practices (such as the use ofterminator genes) appear more benign. Finally, we argue against grantingpatents on genes or even on gene ‘functions’. Doing so may delay thedevelopment of socially beneficial applications.

Suggested Citation

  • Harhoff, Dietmar & Régibeau, Pierre & Rockett, Katharine, 2001. "Some simple economics of GM food," Munich Reprints in Economics 20396, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20396

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    Cited by:

    1. Mads Greaker & Yuyu Chen, 2006. "Can voluntary product-labeling replace trade bans in the case of GMOs?," Discussion Papers 485, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    2. Sergio H. Lence & Dermot J. Hayes, 2008. "Welfare Impacts of Cross-Country Spillovers in Agricultural Research," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(1), pages 197-215.
    3. Iulie Aslaksen & Anne Ingeborg Myhr, 2006. ""The worth of a wildflower" Precautionary perspectives on the environmental risk of GMOs," Discussion Papers 476, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    4. Iulie Aslaksen & Bent Natvig & Inger Nordal, 2004. "Environmental risk and the precautionary principle. "Late lessons from early warnings" applied to genetically modified plants," Discussion Papers 398, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    5. Cadot, Olivier & Suwa-Eisenmann, Akiko & Traça, Daniel, 2003. "OGM et relations commerciales transatlantiques," Cahiers d'Economie et de Sociologie Rurales (CESR), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), vol. 68.
    6. Aslaksen, Iulie & Ingeborg Myhr, Anne, 2007. ""The worth of a wildflower": Precautionary perspectives on the environmental risk of GMOs," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 489-497, January.
    7. Sheldon, Ian M., 2017. "The Competitiveness Of Agricultural Product And Input Markets: A Review And Synthesis Of Recent Research," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(1), pages 1-44, February.
    8. Giovanni Dosi & Joseph Stiglitz, 2013. "The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in the Development Process, with Some Lessons from Developed Countries: An Introduction," LEM Papers Series 2013/23, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

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