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Assessing environmental impacts of productivity-enhancing crop research: concepts, evidence, and challenges

By: Maredia, M.K | Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT), Mexico DF (Mexico) | International Conference on Impacts of Agricultural Research and Development San José (Costa Rica) 4-7 Feb 2002.
Contributor(s): Nelson, M [coaut.] | Pingali, P.L [coaut.] | Watson, D.J [ed.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookAnalytics: Show analyticsPublisher: Mexico, DF (Mexico) CIMMYT : 2003Description: p. 41.ISBN: 970-648-076-5.Subject(s): Cost analysis | Economic development | Environmental impact | Pesticides | Production policies | Soil erosion and reclamation | Technology | CIMMYT | Soil fertility AGROVOC | Agricultural research AGROVOCSummary: The objectives of the paper are to present and discuss (1) an empirical estimation the environmental impacts associated with productivity-enhancing technologies; and (2) the problems and possibilities of attributing environmental impacts to research. This is achieved by examining the factors that contribute to positive and negative externalities and the conceptual and methodological issues related to impact assessment. Evidence related to the nature and magnitude of environmental impacts of productivity-enhancing technologies include: land-saving impacts, soil degradation impacts, human health impacts, and impacts associated with loss of genetic diversity. Aggregate cost estimates of these externalities in developing and industrialized countries are presented where appropriate to give an idea of the scale and magnitude of environmental costs of modern agricultural technologies. The review of this evidence indicates that: (1) with the exception of salinity problems associated with irrigation, the loss of soil fertility associated with monoculture, and the health impacts of pesticides, the evidence on the extent of the negative externality problems and their environmental impacts are not well documented; (2) it is difficult in most cases to move from examples to aggregate global estimates of externality impacts, although it is possible in a few cases; (3) the conceptual and measurement issues in estimating the monetary values (associated with impacts) are too complicated to derive any meaningful estimates of aggregate environmental costs and benefits and; (4) an appropriate measure of such impacts is reduced "land savings" or the counterpart to the positive environmental impact associated with productivity enhancing technologies, namely, "land savings" achieved. The challenge for the environmental impact assessment of productivity enhancing research is to analyze and measure impacts beyond productivity effects. This means quantifying the positive and negative externalities and assessing the environmental impacts of these externality effects. The emerging conclusions from the review indicate the difficulty and complexity involved in determining the counterfactual and attributing the impacts to agriculture research. Factors other than research have played an important role in creating the environmental problems. Moreover, many of the negative externalities observed today and discussed in the literature have nothing to do with new technologies that resulted from agricultural research (such as the Green Revolution technologies in the 1960s and 1970s). A possible option for attributing environmental costs to past research efforts is to consider the contribution of mainstream research as speeding the rate of increase in the intensive use of inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Alternatively, estimates of counterfactuals can be derived using a general equilibrium framework and modeling input use (HYVs, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides) as functions of different technical, economic and policy variables, and relating them with an associated measure of externalities at different levels of input use. Another possible approach towards integrating environmental impact assessment into economic assessment is including resource quality variables and environmental externalities in econometric models using Total Social Factor Productivity or production function analysis. A more feasible approach, at least in the short-run from a NARS' or research organization's perspective, would be to carry out site-specific case studies on environmental impacts of research. The purpose of such case studies should be to review the linkages between environmental degradation and crop technologies in specific regions/sites, which are impacted from productivity-enhancing research technologies.Collection: CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection
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Conference proceedings CIMMYT Knowledge Center: John Woolston Library

Lic. Jose Juan Caballero Flores

 

CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection CIS-3795 (Browse shelf) 1 Available 632434
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Abstract only

The objectives of the paper are to present and discuss (1) an empirical estimation the environmental impacts associated with productivity-enhancing technologies; and (2) the problems and possibilities of attributing environmental impacts to research. This is achieved by examining the factors that contribute to positive and negative externalities and the conceptual and methodological issues related to impact assessment. Evidence related to the nature and magnitude of environmental impacts of productivity-enhancing technologies include: land-saving impacts, soil degradation impacts, human health impacts, and impacts associated with loss of genetic diversity. Aggregate cost estimates of these externalities in developing and industrialized countries are presented where appropriate to give an idea of the scale and magnitude of environmental costs of modern agricultural technologies. The review of this evidence indicates that: (1) with the exception of salinity problems associated with irrigation, the loss of soil fertility associated with monoculture, and the health impacts of pesticides, the evidence on the extent of the negative externality problems and their environmental impacts are not well documented; (2) it is difficult in most cases to move from examples to aggregate global estimates of externality impacts, although it is possible in a few cases; (3) the conceptual and measurement issues in estimating the monetary values (associated with impacts) are too complicated to derive any meaningful estimates of aggregate environmental costs and benefits and; (4) an appropriate measure of such impacts is reduced "land savings" or the counterpart to the positive environmental impact associated with productivity enhancing technologies, namely, "land savings" achieved. The challenge for the environmental impact assessment of productivity enhancing research is to analyze and measure impacts beyond productivity effects. This means quantifying the positive and negative externalities and assessing the environmental impacts of these externality effects. The emerging conclusions from the review indicate the difficulty and complexity involved in determining the counterfactual and attributing the impacts to agriculture research. Factors other than research have played an important role in creating the environmental problems. Moreover, many of the negative externalities observed today and discussed in the literature have nothing to do with new technologies that resulted from agricultural research (such as the Green Revolution technologies in the 1960s and 1970s). A possible option for attributing environmental costs to past research efforts is to consider the contribution of mainstream research as speeding the rate of increase in the intensive use of inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Alternatively, estimates of counterfactuals can be derived using a general equilibrium framework and modeling input use (HYVs, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides) as functions of different technical, economic and policy variables, and relating them with an associated measure of externalities at different levels of input use. Another possible approach towards integrating environmental impact assessment into economic assessment is including resource quality variables and environmental externalities in econometric models using Total Social Factor Productivity or production function analysis. A more feasible approach, at least in the short-run from a NARS' or research organization's perspective, would be to carry out site-specific case studies on environmental impacts of research. The purpose of such case studies should be to review the linkages between environmental degradation and crop technologies in specific regions/sites, which are impacted from productivity-enhancing research technologies.

Socioeconomics Program

English

0309|R01CIMPU|AGRIS 0301|AL-Economics Program

Juan Carlos Mendieta

CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection

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