Innovation Fact of the Week: Indian Farmers Who Planted Flood-tolerant Biotech Rice Increased Yields by 13.5% From 2012 to 2013
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Although rice requires wet conditions to grow, it cannot survive being submerged for too long. In the tropics, the unpredictability of flooding poses a massive risk. Because rice farmers plant seeds without knowing how much flooding there will be in the season ahead, they have little control over the impact of floods on their final harvest.
Global warming will only increase the unpredictability and scale of floods in the tropics. Fortunately, advances in biotechnology allow scientists to engineer flood-tolerant varieties of rice. The Swarna-Sub1 variant has seen great success in India, giving rice farmers a means to mitigate flood risk and damage. In 2012 and 2013, economists surveyed a sample of 1,200 Indian farmers and found those who adopted this flood-tolerant variety increased their yields by about 840 pounds per hectare, or 13.5 percent.
Photo Credit: m-louis via Flickr
Digital Trade on the Hill: Hearing on Expanding U.S. Digital Trade and Eliminating Digital Trade Barriers
Digital trade issues continue to grow in importance to the U.S. economy as people and businesses find new and innovative ways to use data and technology to deliver more goods and services via the Internet. However, the growth in entrepreneurship and innovation so vastly enabled by digital technologies is increasingly threatened by a growing range of digital trade barriers. On July 13, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade held an important hearing on the growing significance of digital trade to the U.S. economy, the rise of these digital trade barriers, and the ways in which U.S. trade policy, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), can help remove existing—and prevent future—barriers. ITIF Founder and President Robert Atkinson testified, alongside representatives from IBM, the Internet Association, PayPal, and Fenugreen (a tech startup). This post captures a few of the key takeaways.
Digital trade benefits a large segment of the U.S. economy and its workforce. Digital trade and data flows often go unrecognized (as they are often hard to see) for the important role they play in helping U.S. companies and workers, whether from firms big or
Well, maybe not. But we can hope, at least, that the noise going forward will be somewhat reduced. On July 14, the U.S. House voted 306-117 to pass the “so-called” Roberts-Stabenow bill that cleared the Senate the week before by a 63-30 vote. It’s unlikely this will stop all the shouting, but against long odds, Democrats and Republicans forged a bipartisan compromise with bicameral support to quash a classic attempt at rent seeking by a special interest group, in this case strident activists advocating for organic food. The activists’ hope had been to tar and feather genetically improved foods with mandatory labels that would have signaled to consumers that any such foods are inherently suspect. But lawmakers sided instead with the overwhelming majority of scientists in the United States and around the world / who have examined the evidence and found no such thing. So this battle in the culture wars has been clearly lost by the insurgents.
The bill was designed to preempt an ill-considered Vermont law that entered into force on July 1, requiring labels on some foods (i.e., none of those important to local producers) containing
In November 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level panel tasked with studying the relationship between intellectual property rights (IPRs) and access to medicines. The panel was charged with “review[ing] and assess[ing] proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable [intellectual property] rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules, and public health in the context of health technologies.”
Were this a panel pursuing a comprehensive research program considering the complete range of factors impacting access to medicines and incorporating a diverse set of voices representing the patients using and the enterprises producing those medicines; the governments and their health-care systems (public and private) procuring, distributing, and disseminating those medicines; and engaging the viewpoints of a broad range of stakeholders, it could have represented a serious and constructive dialogue toward tackling a significant global health challenge.
But the panel has given the game away from the outset. First, by starting from a position of supposed “policy incoherence” between IP rights, innovation, and affordable access to medicines; and, second, by focusing exclusively on IP as the main determinant of access to medicines. The German
Roving Government “Bandits” Pillaging and Stealing Intellectual Property Need to Be Confronted by “Gunboat” Nations
A number of countries see cutting-edge intellectual property, especially for life sciences and high-tech goods, much like a predatory bandit saw trade caravans in centuries past—as something there to be raided and plundered. As trade and economic activity becomes more knowledge-based and dependent on intellectual property, the battle between countries that develop and protect the latest technological innovations against those that seek to steal it will only increase. A new paper by Australian academics Sinclair Davidson and Jason Potts—The Stationary Bandit Model of Intellectual Property—presents a new model that captures key traits of this global battle over intellectual property.
Before analyzing how this model reflects the real world, it’s important to consider the contrasting foundations of the new Davidson-Potts model compared to the standard economic model of intellectual property. The standard model sees intellectual property as a government-granted monopoly designed to create public incentives, that the natural domain of this property right is under the government which grants this right, and that intellectual property theft, when it occurs, is largely private—by individuals and firms. Traditional theory paints governments as benevolent actors that create the right conditions—the supply side