George Frisvold, John Sullivan, and Anton Raneses
University of Arizona, Economic Research Service & Defense Logistics Agency

The distribution of gains of plant breeding and plant genetic resource exchange has been the source of heated North-South debates in meetings of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. We report results of a study using a world agricultural trade model to estimate the size and distribution of economic gains from yield increases in major United States (US) crops attributable to genetic improvements. The net global economic benefits of a one-time, permanent increase in US yields are about $8.1 billion (discounted at 10%) and $15.4 billion (discounted at 5%). The United States captures 50-60% of these net gains. Gains to consumers in developing and transitional economies range from 6.1 billion (10% discount rate) to $11.6 billion (5% discount rate).

Key words: Genetic resources; plant breeding; returns to research; yields.