Conservation Activities And Its Impact On Pgrfa Conservation Policies

Agrobiodiversity is largely produced by farmers as a positive externality without any conservation program costs. Farmers naturally maintain some agrobiodiversity through their farm-specific production systems according to the individual optima of the decision-making process at the farm level. Analysis of the in situ conservation levels suggests that the total number of traditional varieties is produced or maintained by farmers on more land than is necessary. This land has the potential of being used for the production of more food by utilizing "modern" production systems, including modern varieties.

Instruments like taxes or coercion will not be effective in reducing the land utilized for less productive production systems as farmers in marginal areas have no other choice than to utilize these systems including the traditional varieties. Therefore, economically and ecologically marginalized areas, in which most of agrobiodiversity is produced and conserved de facto to date, need external investment in infrastructure and technology to reduce production limitations and to increase national food production. In the long run, it should be in the interest of all countries to reduce the economic and ecological marginalization of areas through investments and at the same time to increase the marginal costs of the farmers utilizing traditional production systems by increasing the opportunity costs of maintaining traditional varieties. Consequently, the amount of area utilized by these systems would decrease. However, this development implies a risk of an unplanned loss of traditional varieties.

In the future, assuming an increase in the production in the present marginalized areas, the question will be with what economic instruments and incentives can agrobiodiversity be kept at the social optimum, securing nonmarketable genetic resources? Due to the high costs of in situ conservation projects and programs and as long as most of PGRFA still in situ are conserved by farmers without any conservation costs, such active in situ programs can be only cautiously promoted. As long as property rights for genetic resources are not well defined and as long as there do not exist any mechanisms to integrate the social value of agrobiodiversity into a market mechanism, there will be the need for government interventions to protect the existing diversity on a minimum of agricultural land. These interventions, however, have to be as efficient as possible. Therefore, a flexible and self-targeting incentive mechanism that comes only into effect when a traditional variety is endangered by extinction is needed for a controlled in situ conservation on the national level. For the time being, the following question will, however, remain: how can the marginalized farmer benefit from the producing "good" agrobiodiversity and how can the area utilized for traditional varieties be reduced to decrease the social opportunity costs of in situ conservation without losing varieties?

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