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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture
cal biotechnology is the paucity of public support of discoveries in agriculture.
A third reason why public research might lead to innovations that elude the private sector is the different incentives that researchers in the private and public sectors face. For the most part, private sector researchers emphasize projects that improve existing product lines. The advancement of public researchers is affected by their publications in refereed journals, where novelty and originality have a premium. This argument suggests that public research grants should be allocated competitively to generate the highest-quality research.
A fourth argument for public support of research is that much of the funding is allocated to institutions of higher learning and used to train future scientists for the private sector. Availability of trained scientists will be a key to future innovation in pest-management technologies. Finally, the public sector should conduct research in areas that are pursued by the private sector to have the information and background for regulatory purposes.
Provision of information to policy-makers and the need to design and enforce policies to address problems of externalities is a justification of public research on benefit-risk assessment, producers' behavior, and environmental fate (externalities occur when activities of one economic agent indirectly affect the well-being of another—for example, by generating pollution). Because one avenue to reduce side effects of pesticides is improving application technologies, and the private sector might not invest in developing such innovations until policy incentives are enacted, the public sector can conduct some basic research in application technology to identify feasible avenues that will provide basic information in assessing new regulations.
The private sector is likely to invest in development and regulatory activities needed to introduce pest-control technologies for major markets. However, the private sector often cannot capture these costs in the case of specialty crops (such as, fruit, vegetable, and nursery crops). If one adds consumer and user surpluses to supplier surplus for these crops, the net social benefits might be positive. Therefore, one idea for government intervention is to support and provide extra incentives for the introduction of pest control in specialty crops where consumer surpluses could be important and supplier surpluses are typically small.
Pests will continue to thrive, and a strong science and technological base will be needed to support management decisions. We need to continue to use the best science to resolve these questions, and policy-makers need to use the best science in their decision-making. As new technologies develop, theoretical frameworks for resolving such questions continue to be developed.