Empirical Evidence Adoption In Developing Countries

Empirical research concerning biotechnology adoption in developing countries is limited. It is clear, however, that theoretical findings concerning farmer heterogeneity and adoption are supported by this research. For example, researchers have found that divisible technologies that are simple to use and that have limited fixed costs (new GM seed varieties and tissue culture technologies) hold the most promise for adoption by small, poor farmers. In addition, adoption levels vary across countries, depending on many factors including a country's research capacity, input and output markets, intellectual property rights (IPR) regulation and enforcement, farm structure, and biotechnology approval and biosafety programs.

The experiences of different developing countries and regions with biotechnologies are instrumental in identifying constraints to adoption and determining how the potential benefits offered by biotechnology can be realized in all developing countries. We briefly examine adoption in China, Latin America, and Africa where certain GM crops have been approved for use. We then consider the case of India, where GM crops were adopted illegally, prior to biosafety approval. Finally, we discuss the challenge of biosafety regulations.

6.1 China

Of all developing countries, China is the most aggressive country in terms of biotechnology research and adoption of GM crops. It was the first developing country to commercialize a transgenic crop (virus-resistant tobacco). Currently, Bt cotton is the primary commercial GM crop grown in China, although GM varieties of tomato and sweet pepper are also approved for use. The spread of transgenic crops in China was supported by extensive research and development capabilities on the part of government research institutes and foreign companies and also by aggressive efforts on the part of local officials and extension agents to push Bt varieties when they became commercially available (Huang et al., 2001).

Haung et al. (2001) studied the impact of Bt cotton in Northern China and found that small farmers received substantial benefits. Farmers who adopted this technology greatly reduced the use of pesticides and reported pesticide poisonings without reducing the quality or quantity of cotton produced. Haung et al. also found that farmers benefited, instead of government research institutes or the foreign firms that developed these varieties, because of weak IPRs. In a follow-up study that covered a wider area of China, Huang et al. (2002) found that in all areas, adoption of Bt cotton improved yields and reduced pesticide and labor inputs, thereby increasing farmer income. Moreover, use of Bt cotton had positive environmental and health impacts.

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