Gregory D. Graff
Colorado State University
Gal Hochman
Rutgers University
Chubashini Suntharlingam
Colorado State University and Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute
David Zilberman
University of California, Berkeley and Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics

Agricultural science and technology policies—including public funding of crop genetics research, intellectual property protections, and biosafety approvals of regulated crops—can be understood to work together within a ‘policy paradigm’ to influence the innovation and adoption of crop varieties involving agricultural biotechnologies. The political-economy or publicchoice approach views a given policy paradigm as a behaviorally rational response by policymakers to the range of pressures and inducements—such as political connections, lobbying, political donations, endorsements, elections, and popular movements— arising from the various segments of society and their respective interest groups. This article seeks to use the politicaleconomy approach to explain why it is, almost twenty-five years after the disruptive technology of genetic engineering was first commercially deployed in crop agriculture, that most countries have a policy paradigm for transgenic crop varieties that resembles the traditional policy paradigm for the chemical pesticide industry rather than the traditional policy paradigm for the seed industry. This more restrictive policy paradigm, we argue, favors the incumbents of agricultural input industries over the interests of almost all others in society, including (most) farmers and consumers. Moreover, we argue that—perhaps counterintuitively— it is consistent with the interests of the incumbents of the crop input industries for public opinion of crop biotechnology to remain relatively negative or at least uncertain. This can be seen as a rational strategy to minimize biotechnology’s potential to disrupt the industry. Implications are then drawn for the potential of public-sector research and smaller entrepreneurial businesses in agricultural input markets to realize the broader economic potential of crop biotechnology, including seeking to establish alternative policy paradigms for newly emerging genetic and breeding technologies.

Key words: Biotechnology, regulatory policy, intellectual property policy, science funding policy, public choice, political economy.