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Production risk, pesticide use and GM crop technology in South Africa

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Abstract:

Technology involving genetic modification of crops has the potential to make a contribution to rural poverty reduction in many developing countries. Thus far, pesticide-producing Bacillus thuringensis (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 pesticide 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 by estimating two 'flexible risk' production function models allowing technology to independently affect the mean and higher moments of output. The first is the popular Just-Pope model and the second is a more general 'damage control' flexible risk model. The models are applied to cross-sectional data on South African smallholders, some of whom used Bt varieties. The results show no evidence that a 'risk-reduction' claim can be made for Bt technology. Indeed, there is some evidence to support the notion that the technology increases output risk, implying that simple (expected) profit computations used in past evaluations may overstate true benefits.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00036840600970161

Affiliations: 1: Department of Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK 2: Department of Geography, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AB, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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