Coase, Pigou and the Potato: Whither Farmers' Rights?

25 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2008 Last revised: 14 Jul 2013

See all articles by Enrico Bertacchini

Enrico Bertacchini

University of Turin - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 2, 2008


This paper explores the realization of farmers' rights in order to reward farming communities for their contribution in conserving and developing crop genetic resources. Current proposals to realize farmers' rights follow both Coasean and Pigouvian approaches, which try to solve the public good dilemma generated by traditional farmers in supplying agrobiodiversity. However, both the solutions not only may be difficult to realize but also provide just incomplete incentives to traditional farmers in enhancing in situ and on farm genetic diversity. In analogy with emerging open source models in the digital information economy, I contend that traditional farming systems, with the customary practices of seed saving and exchange, must be regarded as a commons based peer organization for germplasm production and distribution. For this reason, new options for implementing farmers' rights should be devised in order to strengthen farmers' practices to use and exchange seeds within the traditional seed systems.

Keywords: Farmers' Rights, genetic resources, agrobiodiversity, conservation, benefit sharing

JEL Classification: O34, P14, P48

Suggested Citation

Bertacchini, Enrico, Coase, Pigou and the Potato: Whither Farmers' Rights? (August 2, 2008). Ecological Economics, Vol. 68, pp. 183-193, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Enrico Bertacchini (Contact Author)

University of Turin - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Po 53
Torino, Turin - Piedmont 10100

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