The nature of public agricultural research changed in 1980 when the Bayh-Dole Act allowed universities to retain title to inventions that were created with Federal funds, and the court case Diamond v. Chakrabarty allowed patenting of living tissue and eventually other bio-engineered products. In 1997, over 2,300 new licenses and options were executed on academic life-sciences property. This raises the questions agricultural research still be a public good? This paper is a critical first step in understanding how increasingly private ownership of intellectual property affects the agribusiness environment and the evolving role of public agricultural research institutions. The innovative step in this paper is the development of a formal economic model which represents the role of applied biotech research in the agricultural life sciences. The model is built around neo-Schumpeterian ideas of endogenous innovation and growth. The most salient implications for the role of the public sector are(1)The private sector underinvests in applied R&D activity. (2) Concentration in the large-firm, life-science R&D industry increases over time. (3) The life-science revolution is reducing the number of markets, in the short run. This reduction in the number of niche markets diminishes the role of the public sector. (4) There is a role for the public sector in conducting R&D in niche markets. (5) In the long run, the life-science revolution may also create new niche markets. (6) There is a role for the public sector in the provision of basic research which increases the productivity of applied R&D.

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Working or Discussion Paper
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Staff Paper 99-49

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-04

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