Publications

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  • Agricultural Biotechnology: An Economic Perspective

    AER-687, May 01, 1994

    The development of agricultural biotechnology offers the opportunity to increase crop production, lower farming costs, improve food quality and safety, and enhance environmental quality. This report describes the economic, scientific, and social factors that will influence the future of biotechnology in agriculture. The supply of biotechnology innovations and products will be affected by public policies and by expectations of producer and consumer demand for the products. The demand for biotechnology by farmers and food processors is derived from the expected profitability of using the technology as an input to production. Ultimately, the use of biotechnology in the farm sector will depend on consumer demand for the biotechnology-derived agricultural product.

  • Genetically Engineered Crops for Pest Management in U.S. Agriculture

    AER-786, May 01, 2000

    Adoption of genetically engineered crops with traits for pest management has risen dramatically since their commercial introduction in the mid-1990's. The farm-level impacts of such crops on pesticide use, yields, and net returns vary with the crop and technology examined. Adoption of herbicide-tolerant cotton led to significant increases in yields and net returns, but was not associated with significant changes in herbicide use. On the other hand, increases in adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans led to small but significant increases in yields, no changes in net returns, and significant decreases in herbicide use. Adoption of Bt cotton in the Southeast significantly increased yields and net returns and significantly reduced insecticide use.

  • Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries

    AIB-763, March 19, 2001

    Consolidation in the agricultural biotechnology industry can both enhance and dampen market competition. This report examines the causes and consequences of industry consolidation and its effect on market efficiency. In some cases, concentration realizes economies of scale, which can improve market efficiency by driving down production costs. The protection of intellectual property rights is integral to the agricultural biotechnology marketplace, stimulating research and development, investment, and the development of substitute markets. However, excessively broad intellectual property rights can hinder the market for innovation. Recent data on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic collaborations in the agricultural biotechnology industry, as well as the emergence of life science conglomerates, indicate some level of consolidation. However, the move by some companies to divest their seed operations calls into question the long-term viability of these conglomerates.

  • China's Food and Agriculture: Issues for the 21st Century

    AIB-775, April 01, 2002

    Assessment of issues that will affect China's future trends in consumption, production, import, and export of food and agricultural commodities. A series of 13 articles cover China's food consumption, marketing, international trade, agricultural policy, transportation infrastructure, regional diversity, livestock sector, biotechnology, water and irrigation policy, land tenure system, rural development, employment, and market information.

  • Adoption of Bioengineered Crops

    AER-810, May 01, 2002

    This report uses USDA survey data to examine the extent to which US farmers have adopted bioengineered crops, factors affecting adoption of these crops, and the impacts of bioengineered crops on input use and farm-level net returns.

  • The Effects of Information on Consumer Demand for Biotech Foods: Evidence from Experimental Auctions

    TB-1903, April 04, 2003

    Consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology. This bulletin presents empirical evidence on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods based on the presence or absence of labels advising that the food was prepared with the aid of biotechnology. The authors designed and conducted an experimental auction to elicit consumers' willingness to pay for "genetically modified" (GM)-labeled and standard-labeled foods under different information regimes. The evidence gathered for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labeled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. While gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods, information from interested parties and third-party (independent) sources was found to have a strong impact.

  • Information Sways Consumers' Attitudes Towards Biotech Foods

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2003

    Labeling of biotech foods has been a contentious issue in the U.S. and between the U.S. and its trading partners. Proponents of mandatory biotech food labeling argue that consumers have a right to know how their food has been produced. Opponents argue that such labeling will confuse and, in many cases, unnecessarily alarm consumers. In the U.S., when biotechnology introduces a known allergen or substantially changes a food’s nutritional content or composition, Federal regulations require that the label indicate this change. So far, no biotech foods on the market have required labeling.

  • Plant Genetic Resources: New Rules for International Exchange

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    To make crops more resistant to pests and diseases and to improve food supply quality, quantity, and variety, modern plant breeders continually seek genetic resources from outside the stocks with which they routinely work. Since no nation has within its borders the desired spectrum of genetic resources, international collection and exchange occurs. Not all participants in this exchange, however, view the benefits as fairly balanced between donors and recipients.

  • Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    When consumers are made aware that food products are biotech, how will they react? As the largest market for U.S. producers, American consumers will render the ultimate verdict on the future of agricultural biotechnology in the United States.

  • Ag Biotech Patents: Who Is Doing What?

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    To better analyze the economic effects of the upward trend in ag biotech patents, ERS researchers and collaborators have assembled comprehensive data on patents and other intellectual property.

  • Size and Distribution of Market Benefits From Adopting Biotech Crops

    TB-1906, November 03, 2003

    This study estimates the size and distribution of benefits from adopting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, herbicide-tolerant cotton, and herbicide-tolerant soybeans in 1997. The stakeholders considered are U.S. farmers, U.S. consumers, biotechnology developers, germplasm suppliers, and producers and consumers in the rest of the world.

  • Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2004

    The unprecedented growth in U.S. agricultural productivity over the past 70 years owes much to a series of biological innovations embodied in major crop seeds, in particular, cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These innovations are the result of the investment of considerable time and money into plant breeding research and development (R&D). However, the seed sector has changed: seed R&D has moved from being predominately public to predominately private, innovation protection is now pervasive, and the private seed industry has become highly concentrated. This article examines the extent of this shift in R&D from the public to the private domain and whether or not the shift is positively or negatively affecting research effort, and potentially agricultural productivity growth.

  • Traceability in the U.S. Food Supply: Economic Theory and Industry Studies

    AER-830, March 18, 2004

    This investigation into the traceability baseline in the United States finds that private sector food firms have developed a substantial capacity to trace.

  • Current Issues in Economics of Food Markets

    AIB-747, August 13, 2004

    These reports synthesize economic analyses of the complex relationships in food markets of interest to officials responsible for public policy, decisionmakers in the industry, and researchers. Topics addressed so far include the economizing practices of low-income households in making food purchases, the increasing vertical coordination and integration of the industry, the link between consolidation of retailers and orange juice prices, the effects of a higher minimum wage on food prices, how taxes affect food markets, and lessons learned from the use of rbST in dairy production.

  • Genetically Engineered Crop Varieties Gain Further Acreage Share in 2004

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2004

    GE varieties of soybeans, corn, and cotton have been available commercially since 1996. Since then, their rate of use by U.S. farmers has climbed most years, including 2004.

  • Ag Biotech Patents on the Move

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    Although small agbiotech companies and seed companies originated 37 percent of a sample of patents issued between 1976 and 2000, large chemical, multinational, and European companies owned 99 percent of the total by 2002. Mergers and acquisitions will probably continue to affect intellectual property ownership and industry structure.

  • Use of Genetically Engineered Crops Rising Steadily During First Decade

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    The adoption of genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton in the U.S. expanded rapidly since these crops were introduced 10 years ago. U.S. farmers are realizing tangible economic benefits from adopting these crops through higher yields, lower pesticide costs, and savings in management time.

  • Crop Genetic Diversity Boosts Production But Faces Threats

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Crop yields have risen steadily over the last century due in part to sustained research, improvements to seeds, and access to diverse genetic resources. Crop genetic diversity, however, is threatened by habitat loss, conversion from farmer-developed varieties to scientifically bred varieties, and genetic uniformity in scientifically bred varieties.

  • The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States

    EIB-11, April 19, 2006

    Ten years after the first generation of genetically engineered (GE) varieties became commercially available, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread for major crops. Driven by farmers' expectations of higher yields, savings in management time, and lower pesticide costs, the adoption of corn, soybean, and cotton GE varieties has increased rapidly. Despite the benefits, however, environmental and consumer concerns may have limited acceptance of GE crops, particularly in Europe. This report focuses on GE crops and their adoption in the United States over the past 10 years. It examines the three major stakeholders of agricultural biotechnology and finds that (1) the pace of R&D activity by producers of GE seed (the seed firms and technology providers) has been rapid, (2) farmers have adopted some GE varieties widely and at a rapid rate and benefited from such adoption, and (3) the level of consumer concerns about foods that contain GE ingredients varies by country, with European consumers being most concerned.

  • Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues To Increase

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    Biotechnology-derived crops were commercially introduced a decade ago, and the adoption of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties grew rapidly. In the U.S. herbicide tolerant soybean adoption expanded more rapidly and widely than other biotech crops. The U.S. acreage share of insect resistant corn flattened in recent years because farmers with the greatest need to protect against the target pest had already adopted the biotech variety.