Pesticide productivity and transgenic cotton technology: The South African smallholder case
Shankar, B. and Thirtle, C. (2005) Pesticide productivity and transgenic cotton technology: The South African smallholder case. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 56 (1). pp. 97-115. ISSN 0021-857X
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This paper empirically investigates how the productivity of pesticide differs in Bt versus non-Bt technology for South African cotton smallholders, and what the implications for pesticide use levels are in the two technologies. This is accomplished by applying a damage control framework to farm-level data from Makhathini flats, KwaZulu-Natal. Contrary to findings elsewhere, notably China, that farmers over-use pesticides and that transgenic technology benefits farmers by enabling large reductions in pesticide use, the econometric evidence here indicates that non-Bt smallholders in South Africa under-use pesticide. Thus, the main potential contribution of the new technology is to enable them to realise lost productivity resulting from under-use. By providing a natural substitute for pesticide, the Bt technology enables the smallholders to circumvent credit and labour constraints associated with pesticide application. Thus, the same technology that greatly reduces pesticide applications but only mildly affects yields, when used by large-scale farmers in China and elsewhere, benefits South-African smallholder farmers primarily via a yield-enhancing effect.