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As insects increasingly bite into rice crops, who should pay for crop research?

Keeping ahead of crop diseases and pests is a continual challenge, particularly as climate and weather patterns change.  This challenge is in part compounded by the involvement of governments around the world in in subsidizing the consumption of certain crop staples like rice and in subsidizing crop research.  

The New York Times has published an article that blames cutbacks in research on new rice varieties to a growing threat to rice crops posed by new diseases and pests.

World’s Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut

Should the West respond with more subsidies to research for crops grown in poor countries, or with less subsidies and greater reliance on private incentives that already exist in Western markets?  Are there private researchers that are stepping into the gap?

  1. TokyoTom
    May 20th, 2008 at 08:19 | #1

    Fred, thanks for your comment.

    I have expressly raised the suggestion that it may be preferable for Western governments to spend less taxpayer money on crop research and to leave this matter as one for private markets to respond to. Western aid in this area has perhaps created a moral hazard that has led to greater levels of subsidies (and lower levels of private investment) in the developing nations.

    However, I do think it is worth paying attention to the ongoing problems of development/misgovernance and hunger in the third world.

    Analysts at Cato have suggested that such problems merit investment by the West in resolving: See Indur Goklany, “What to do about climate change”, http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9125.

  2. Solreyus
    May 19th, 2008 at 14:45 | #2

    You frame the question “should” as if it were a purely utilitarian matter. The bigger question is whether the stolen funds (taxes) used by government can legitimately be used for anything at all, or if the whole thing is immoral and unethical.

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