Regulations Lead to Agbiotech Industry Concentration
July 31, 2003
Henry I. Miller, Hoover Institution senior fellow and former USDA official, recently pointed out that food crops that are genetically modified through gene splicing are much more heavily regulated than haphazard mutations created by traditional cross-breeding techniques.
Scientifically unjustified regulations discourage Research & Development, increase costs and delay or deny improved food products to consumers.
Furthermore, say Miller and Gregory Conko, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, as regulatory requirements for gene-spliced plants and foods have ratcheted up steadily for nearly 20 years, it has increased concentration in the agbiotech industry and reduced competition:
- The cost of field-testing gene-spliced plants is as much as 20-fold higher than for virtually identical plants crafted with older, less precise genetic techniques.
- The time and cost to develop a gene-spliced plant variety had risen almost to what is required to bring a new prescription drug to market: 6 to 12 years and $50 million to $300 million.
- Agbiotechnology has been concentrated in a handful of firms -- by early 2003, four companies accounted for 57 percent of research and development on gene-spliced crops -- and virtually all of the agbiotech startups of the 1980s are gone.
Academic labs still are the source of most new ideas in these related fields, but the progression from innovation in the laboratory to marketed product has become uncertain, as many speculative research projects on low-profitability organisms have become prohibitively expensive.
Source: Gregory Conko and Henry I. Miller, "Biotech Woes...and the Culprits," Washington Times, June 24, 2003.
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