Herbicide tolerant sugar beet: The most promising first-generation GM crop?
In the spring of 2008, US sugar beet growers started planting genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) varieties at a commercial scale and were one step ahead of Europe, the world's largest producer. In this article we will present a practical graphical rule of thumb for technology providers to assess the value and benefit-sharing of HT technologies. To illustrate this method, we will apply it on Czech and Hungarian beet growing conditions. It is widely known that effective weed control is crucial for economic beet production. Therefore, we graphically analyze heterogeneity of weed pressure and develop a framework for predicting adoption and profitability of HT sugar beet. Our analyses suggest that farmers could substantially gain from GM sugar beet. The total value of this technology is estimated at €252-262/ha, of which two thirds accrue to farmers and one third to the seed industry (seed company and technology provider). Our framework predicts high adoption potentials of 60-80%, which underline the importance of the technology for the European sugar sector. Our framework provides a practical tool for breeders, technology providers and seed companies to evaluate new sugar beet varieties incorporating HT traits and licensing contracts between the seed and biotechnology industry.