Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The impact of agricultural biotechnology on supply and land-use

  • Geoffrey Barrows (a1), Steven Sexton (a2) and David Zilberman (a3)

We use aggregate data to estimate supply, price, land-use, and greenhouse gas impacts of genetically engineered (GE) seed adoption due both to increased yield per hectare (intensive margin) and increased planted area (extensive margin). An adoption model with profitability and risk considerations distinguishes between the two margins, where the intensive margin results from direct ‘gene’ impacts and higher complimentary input use, and the extensive margin reflects the growing range of lands that become profitable with the GE technology. We identify yield increases from cross-country time series variation in GE adoption share within the main GE crops – cotton, corn and soybeans. We find that GE increased yields 34 per cent for cotton, 12 per cent for corn and 3 per cent for soybeans. We then estimate the quantity of extensive margin lands from year-to-year changes in traditional and GE planted area. If all production on the extensive margin is attributed to GE technology, the supply effect of GE increases from 5 per cent to 12 per cent for corn, 15 per cent to 20 per cent for cotton, and 2 per cent to 40 per cent for soybeans, generating significant downward pressure on prices. Finally, we compute ‘saved’ lands and greenhouse gases as the difference between observed hectarage per crop and counterfactual hectarage needed to generate the same output without the yield boost from GE. We find that altogether, GE saved 13 million hectares of land from conversion to agriculture in 2010, and averted emissions are equivalent to roughly one-eighth of the annual emissions from automobiles in the US.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Avery and D. Avery (2008), ‘Beef production and greenhouse gas emissions’, Environmental Health Perspectives 116(9): A374.

B. Crost , B. Shankar , R. Bennett , and S. Morse , (2007), ‘Bias from farmer self-selection in genetically modified crop productivity estimates: evidence from Indian data’, Journal of Agricultural Economics 58(1): 2436.

H. De Gorter and D. Zilberman (1990), ‘On the political economy of public good inputs in agriculture’, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 72(1): 131137.

G. Feder , R.E. Just , and D. Zilberman , (1985), ‘Adoption of agricultural innovations in developing countries: a survey’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 33(2): 255298.

J. Felipe and F.M. Fisher , (2003), ‘Aggregation in production functions: what applied economists should know’, Metroeconomica 54(2–3): 208262.

R. Finger , N. El Benni , T. Kaphengst , C. Evans , S. Herbert , B. Lehmann , S. Morse , and N. Stupak , (2011), ‘A meta analysis on farm-level costs and benefits of GM crops’, Sustainability 3(5): 743762.

C. Hausman (2012), ‘Biofuels and land use change: sugarcane and soybean acreage response in Brazil’, Environmental and Resource Economics 51(2): 163187.

W.E. Huffman and R.E. Evenson , (1992), ‘Contributions of public and private science and technology to US agricultural productivity’, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 74(3): 751756.

R.E. Just and R.D. Pope (1978), ‘Stochastic specification of production functions and economic implications’, Journal of Econometrics 7(1): 6786.

R.E. Just and D. Zilberman (1988), ‘The effects of agricultural development policies on income distribution and technological change in agriculture’, Journal of Development Economics 28(2): 193216.

E. Lichtenberg and D. Zilberman , (1986), ‘The econometrics of damage control: why specification matters’, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 68(2): 261273.

M. Qaim (2009), ‘The economics of genetically modified crops’, Annual Review of Resource Economics 1: 665694.

D. Rajagopal , S.E. Sexton , D. Roland-Holst , and D. Zilberman (2007), ‘Challenge of biofuel: filling the tank without emptying the stomach?’, Environmental Research Letters 2(4): 044004.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environment and Development Economics
  • ISSN: 1355-770X
  • EISSN: 1469-4395
  • URL: /core/journals/environment-and-development-economics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Barrows Supplementary Material

 PDF (619 KB)
619 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 58 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 358 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.