Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina: farm level and aggregate welfare effects

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Abstract or Summary

Although adoption rates of genetically modified crops have been staggering in some countries, there is still comparatively little evidence about biotechnology impacts under diverse agroecological and institutional conditions. These knowledge gaps lead to an overly precautious attitude among policy makers and the public. This article analyzes the effects of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans in Argentina, the country with the second biggest transgenic area worldwide. Based on recent survey data, it is shown that the technology increases total factor productivity by 10% on average, with cost savings being somewhat more pronounced for smaller than for larger farms. The reduction in use of toxic herbicides and of tillage operations entails positive environmental repercussions. Aggregate welfare effects are computed over the 1996–2001 period with a three-region, partial equilibrium model, comprising Argentina, the United States, and the rest of the world. In 2001, RR soybeans created more than US$1.2 billion of economic surplus at the global level. The largest share went to consumers (53%), followed by seed and biotechnology firms (34%), and agricultural producers (13%). Due to comparatively weak intellectual property protection, and thus only small technology mark-ups in seed prices and widespread adoption, Argentine soybean growers receive 90% of the benefits in that country. This demonstrates that farmers in developing countries can gain considerably when they obtain access to suitable foreign innovations through technology spill-overs.

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