Some of my work on agricultural biotechnology was started as work for a National Research Council committee on  the regulation of plants genetically engineered to express pesticidal compounds.  Some came out of research on food safety and risk assessment.

Some research highlights in this area are:

Research Results


An analysis using a generic model of the risk generating process and an approach to accommodating uncertainty about risk suggests that regulation should concentrate on reducing uncertainty about environmental impacts of transgenic crops. Thus, it may be cost effective for the US to de-emphasize restrictions on planting but expand post-commercialization monitoring.  The analysis also indicates that there are tractable ways of incorporating firms’ and consumers’ reactions to regulation into models of the risk generation process.  The main impediment to doing so is a lack of empirical models, which suggests a need for empirical work aimed at producing results that can be extrapolated to biotechnology regulation.

Lichtenberg, Erik, “Regulation of Technology in the Context of Risk Generation”, in R.E. Just, J.M. Alston, and D. Zilberman. Regulating Agricultural Biotechnology: Economics and Policy.New York: Springer, 2006.

Different countries have different traditions of food and food preparation and different kinds of concern about food safety, including the safety of genetically engineered foods. Science-based standards are essential for ensuring accountability in international trade.

Lichtenberg, Erik, “Impact of Food Safety on World Trade Issues”, in K. R. Schneider, B.G. Swanson, and S.E. Valdes Martinez (ed.) Current Issues in Food Safety. New York: McGraw-Hill, forthcoming.

As a member of a National Research Council committee on regulation of plants genetically engineered to express pesticidal proteins, I examined the economics of crop breeding and potential impacts of stricter regulation.  Multifactor productivity in U.S. agriculture has grown consistently at a rate of about 2% a year for the past 50 years.  As a result, food has gotten cheaper and farmer's income has gone up.  Crop breeding has contributed significantly to that growth in productivity.  Mergers among big agrichemical companies seem to have increased concentration in the U.S. seed markets only in the case of vegetables.  Biotechnology products introduced by big agrichemical companies can enhance competition in some cases.  The direct costs of complying with strict regulation roughly equal the cost of breeding a trait into marketable varieties, so strict regulation can be a barrier to entry for small seed companies and public sector breeders.

Lichtenberg, Erik, “Costs of Regulating Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants”, in National Research Council, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation. Washington: National Academy Press, 2000.