Valuation of the Environmental Impact of Roundup Ready Soybeans Based on a New Herbicide Risk Index

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Title: Valuation of the Environmental Impact of Roundup Ready Soybeans Based on a New Herbicide Risk Index
Author: Sydorovych, Olha
Advisors: Bryan Hubbell, Committee Member
Dan Phaneuf, Committee Member
Nick Piggott, Committee Member
Michele C. Marra, Committee Chair
Abstract: Genetically engineered crop varieties are designed to simplify and provide additional options for pest management. However, the empirical evidence concerning the impacts of GE crops adoption on pesticide use and resulting environmental quality is mixed. A methodology was developed for the analysis of the environmental impacts of pesticides that can be applied in the areas of comparative evaluation of alternative pest management strategies and individual pesticides. First, an index system was developed for individual herbicides combining the information on their acute and chronic health risks with their toxicity to non-target species and the environment. A key challenge was to choose the weights that will determine the relative effects of the individual components of the index. An improvement on the previous attempts to create pesticide environmental indexes was made by applying revealed preference information, resulting in more reliable weight estimates based on a cardinal scale of the importance of different risks. Second, the stated preference valuation technique was used to estimate the monetary value of a change in herbicide safety resulting from adoption of Roundup Ready soybean varieties. The data were generated by a computer-aided telephone survey of U.S. soybean farmers. The information on actual herbicide choices made by the farmers, combined with the information about different production-related and safety attributes of the herbicides, was used to establish which herbicide attributes mattered most to the farmers in their herbicide choices. In particular, information on the farmers' preferences for herbicide environmental and human safety attributes was used to calculate the relative weights of the herbicide risk index incorporating all the relevant herbicide safety information. The results show that, in addition to production related characteristics, farmers consider herbicide safety attributes in their choice decisions. The risk indices of individual herbicides developed here were used to calculate the average toxicity of herbicides used on conventional and Roundup Ready soybeans, and the corresponding difference in herbicide toxicity indicating that, on average, the farmers experienced a reduction in herbicide toxicity when switching to Roundup Ready soybeans compared to conventional soybeans. To the average farmer the value of improved herbicide safety on Roundup Ready soybeans was estimated to be between $0.04 and $1.13 per acre per year.
Date: 2005-11-13
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Economics

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