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Crop Biotech Update

Cost of Developing a GM Crop Demystified

August 3, 2016

A recent study published in the International Journal of Biotechnology demystifies the belief that releasing a GM crop costs tens, if not hundreds, of millions of U.S. dollars. The study assessed the cost and time of developing a GM late blight resistant (LBr) potato variety for deregulation and release as a public good, in a specific developing country. Two independently not-for-profit assessed projects have estimated that to deliver one LBr variety to resource-poor farmers in a developing country, it would cost between US$1.3-1.5 million, within a period of eight to nine years. Such costs are not far from a conventionally-bred variety, although the two should not be compared since GM produces products unachievable by conventional breeding.

Publicly funded institutions have been deterred from developing biotech crops because of the cost implications attached to the process of developing and releasing a GM variety. Previous costs, from discovery to deregulation and release, have been estimated at US$136 million. These findings therefore suggest that public institutions in developing countries can make significant contribution to crop improvement through genetic engineering.

The paper titled Demystification of GM crop costs: releasing late blight resistant potato varieties as public goods in developing countries is available online using DOI: 10.1504/IJBT.2016.077942.

For more information on the study, contact Marc Ghislain at M.Ghislain@cgiar.org.