'Warehouse' or research centre? Analyzing public preferences for conservation, pre-breeding and characterization activities at the Czech genebank

Tyack, N., Ščasný, M. (2020) Food Security, 12(5), 1035-1046

Genebanks are places where crop varieties are stored, catalogued, and made available for redistribution so that their genetic diversity is not lost. Besides conserving cultivated crop diversity, some genebanks also conserve the wild relatives of crops, which can contain useful traits not present in the domesticated genepool, and can undertake other activities to make genetic diversity more usable in breeding, such as characterization and evaluation efforts and pre-breeding. We present here the results of a stated preference survey that elicits the preferences of the general Czech public for the conservation of additional wheat and wild wheat varieties, characterization and evaluation activities, and pre-breeding efforts. Czech citizens were asked whether they would be willing to make a one-time voluntary payment to finance specific, 10-year conservation programmes at the Czech genebank. Using a sequence of single-bounded dichotomous choice questions, we estimate a random effects probit model to analyze preferences for such conservation programmes. We find that Czech respondents had a strong preference for characterization and evaluation, and while they do not value pre-breeding, they are willing to pay for the conservation of additional wild wheat accessions (though not for cultivated wheat varieties). In aggregate, the estimated benefits are substantial compared to the current costs of conservation. The stated preference approach of this paper permits the estimation of the social value of crop diversity conservation and associated investments in research, including non-market values. Our results provide information of potential use for policymakers in relation to setting priorities for the funding of agricultural research.


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