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Technology involving genetic modification of crops has the potential to make a contribution to rural poverty reduction in many developing countries. Thus far, insecticide-producing 'Bt' varieties of cotton have been the main GM crops under cultivation in developing nations. Several studies have evaluated the farm-level performance of Bt varieties in comparison to conventional ones by estimating production technology, and have mostly found Bt technology to be very successful in raising output and/or reducing insecticide input. However, the production risk properties of this technology have not been studied, although they are likely to be important to risk-averse smallholders. This study investigates the output risk aspects of Bt technology using a three-year farm-level dataset on smallholder cotton production in Makhathini flats, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Stochastic dominance and stochastic production function estimation methods are used to examine the risk properties of the two technologies. Results indicate that Bt technology increases output risk by being most effective when crop growth conditions are good, but being less effective when conditions are less favourable. However, in spite of its risk increasing effect, the mean output performance of Bt cotton is good enough to make it preferable to conventional technology even for risk-averse smallholders.
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Keywords: Bt cotton; GM technology; Genetically modified crops; Risk and uncertainty; Stochastic dominance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Reading, Reading, UK 2: Department of Geography, University of Reading, Reading, UK

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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