Working paper

A discussion of the market and policy failures associated with the adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops

David S. Bullock, Filippo Maria D'Arcangelo, and Marion Desquilbet

Abstract

Weed control in the U.S. Midwest has become increasingly herbicide-centric due to the adoption of herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops in the 1990s. The scarcity of the use of integrated weed management (IWM) practices, including biological and mechanical controls, is concerning for two reasons. First, herbicides create negative health and environmental externalities. Second, weed resistance to some herbicides is increasing, which creates incentives to use additional herbicides. However, it seems certain that weeds will develop resistance to those herbicides as well, so applying “herbicide upon herbicide” is socially problematic. In this context, we develop an economic framework to clarify the interplay among the different market failures that either contribute to the herbicidal “lock-in” or make it problematic. We then analyze the evidence for and perceptions of these market failures based on twenty-four semistructured interviews with farmers and experts conducted in 2017, as well as discussions in the academic literature. To this end, we put into perspective the possible self-reinforcing effects in the adoption path of HT crops, such as increasing farm size, changes in farm equipment, increasing incentives for simplified crop rotations, and the loss of practical knowledge of IWM practices.

Keywords

herbicide-tolerant crops; integrated weed management; health and environmental; externalities; weed resistance; lock-in;

Reference

David S. Bullock, Filippo Maria D'Arcangelo, and Marion Desquilbet, A discussion of the market and policy failures associated with the adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops, TSE Working Paper, n. 18-959, September 2018, revised November 2018.

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 18-959, September 2018, revised November 2018