RE Evenson1 D Gollin2 and V Santaniello3

1 Department of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA;2 Department of Economics, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA; 3Dipartimento de Economia e Istituzioni, Università degli Studi di Roma 'Tor Vergata', Rome, Italy

Plant genetic resources (PGRs) can be classified into two broad groups. The first group is made up of the genetic resources within the cultivated species. These include the 'landraces' or 'farmer varieties' selected by farmers over many generations and 'tailored' to different producing environments. Also included in this group are the wild species and wild relatives of the cultivated species. The value of this first group of PGRs for plant breeding is well recognized and reflected in the investments made to collect, evaluate and conserve these PGRs in ex situ gene bank collections.1

The second group of PGRs encompasses the genetic resources from other plant species (and, in practice, even from species outside the Plant Kingdom). Until the development of modern 'biotechnology' techniques, this group of PGRs was not valued for plant breeding use. With the development of methods for transforming DNA (and gene-controlled traits) from 'alien' species into economically valuable plants, this second group takes on potential plant-breeding value.

Interested parties have supported the collection and preservation of both groups of PGRs. Until recently, these interests have not been closely allied. Agricultural research programmes and plant-breeding programmes, as noted above, have supported the collection, preservation and evaluation of PGRs of the first group for many years. For most major crop species, a high proportion of potentially valuable landrace and their wild-weeding relatives are in gene bank collections (see Table I.1). The parties interested in preserving the second group (i.e. the non-cultivated species) of PGRs are motivated by broader concerns associated with maintaining the 'biodiversity' of all species. They support in situ collections, and the maintenance of natural preserves and natural habitats.

© CAB INTERNATIONAL 1998. Agricultural Values of Plant Genetic Resources (eds R.E. Evenson, D. Gollin and V. Santaniello)

Table I.1. Genetic diversity collection and utilization by commodity.

Ex situ

Area (Mha)

Landraces (x 1000)

% in collections

Wild species

% in collections

In situ collections

Major collections (x 1000)

Accessions (x 1000)

% CGIAR

% Dup.

% I.R

% WS

Utilization distribution

Commodity

Bread wheat

95

24

60

Few

24

784

16

50

17

2

Durum wheat

150

95

24

60

Few

7

20

14

32

53

High

Triticele

40

5

40

38

66

Rice

149

140

90

20

10

Few

20

420

26

75

25

1

High

Maize

130

65

90

15

Few

22

277

5

80

16

0

High in LDCA

Sorghum

43

45

80

20

0

Few

19

169

21

42

18

0

Low

Millets

38

30

80

10

None

18

90

21

33

2

Low

Barley

30

16

484

5

23

9

1

Oats

20

222

0

1

4

Rye

8

287

0

8

0

Food legumes

Beans

50

70

Few

15

268

15

76

21

1

Low-medium

Soybeans

66

30

60

None

23

174

0

?

2

1

Low-medium

Chick peas

75

13

67

41

75

29

1

Lentils

95

5

26

30

95

30

3

Fava beans

25

10

29

33

35

42

0

Peas

0

18

72

0

4

0

Groundnuts

15

28

16

81

18

28

15

1

Cowpeas

30

12

86

19

30

19

2

Pigeon peas

22

4

25

52

22

50

2

Lupin

10

28

0

12

16

Root crops

Potato

19

30

95

30

Few

16

31

20

100

13

5

High

Sweet potato

10

5

50

Few

7

32

21

93

16

6

Medium

Cassava

16

35

29

5

28

30

90

23

2

Low-medium

Yam

3

2

12

25

20

24

0

Sugar cane

20

70

The two interest groups are finding more common interests in recent years (and are resolving conflicting interests as well). This is in part due to improved awareness by the biodiversity interests in the history of conservation of PGRs by agriculturalists. It is also in part due to a recognition by both interest groups that valuing PGRs is important to conservation-preservation policy. The biodiversity interests have traditionally stressed 'existence' values and 'biophilia' values in support of policies. They are increasingly recognizing that the 'hard' economic values associated with plant improvement provide important additions to their policy arsenals. Agriculturalists, by the same token, are also stressing their own broader conservation interests and are beginning to expand their perception of usable PGRs as new biotechnology techniques come into use.

This volume is addressed to the assessment of economic value for PGRs. The focus of attention for chapters attempting actual value estimates is on the first group of PGRs (i.e. the cultivated species), but two chapters do deal with the implications of biotechnology (and both argue that the new biotechnology methods endow non-cultivated PGRs and other PGRs with plant breeding value, but not at the expense of value for the cultivated PGRs). The estimation of PGR values is a relatively new field of inquiry for economists and this immaturity is no doubt reflected in the papers in the volume.

The volume is organized in five parts and includes 19 chapters. Part I (Chapters 1-4) covers models of value of PGRs. Part II (Chapters 5 and 6) covers empirical studies of PGRs, field diversity and yield vulnerability. Part III is the core of the volume. It includes seven empirical studies of PGR values. Most of these studies associated PGR values with 'genetic trait' values associated with PGRs. One chapter (13) reports a 'breeding production function' study. Part IV addresses the issue of property rights in PGRs. These are important because they provide incentives for collection and preservation of PGRs and because they endow PGRs with value. The final part includes two chapters addressing the implications of modern biotechnology methods for PGR values.

In this introduction we discuss three topics that pervade the volume. These are valuation concepts, plant breeding institutions and valuation methods. We then provide a brief overview of the chapters in the volume.

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