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The Herbicide Revolution in Developing Countries: Patterns, Causes, and Implications


Two major shocks in global supply systems have driven a rapid recent surge in herbicide adoption in the developing world. A flood of off-patent herbicide formulations has hit global markets at the same time that emerging low-cost Asian suppliers have mastered herbicide production technologies, scaled up productive capacity, and significantly lowered production costs. Together, they have increased availability and driven down herbicide costs in farming communities across the developing world. In settings where rural wage rates face upwards pressure, from non-farm and urban employment alternatives, herbicide adoption has responded rapidly. The years since 2005, in particular, have witnessed a sharp spurt in herbicide adoption in countries as diverse as China and Ethiopia. The six case studies reported in this special issue – the USA, EU, China, India, Ethiopia, and Mali – examine the differences in timing, key drivers, and consequences of herbicide adoption across this broad range of global settings.

Les systèmes d’approvisionnements mondiaux ont subi deux chocs importants, qui ont engendré la hausse récente et rapide de l’adoption des herbicides dans les pays en voie de développement. D’abord, les marchés globaux ont étés inondés par des herbicides hors protection de brevet. Au même temps, des nouveaux fournisseurs asiatiques ultra-compétitifs ont maitrisé les technologies de production des herbicides, augmenté leurs capacités de production, et considérablement baissé les couts de production. Parmi les communautés agricoles dans les pays en développement, ces deux facteurs ont augmenté la disponibilité des herbicides et baissé leurs couts. Dans les localités où les salaires ruraux font face à des pressions à la hausse (dû à d’autres alternatives d’emploi, soit agricoles que non agricoles), l’adoption des herbicides s’est rapidement installé. En particulier, à partir du 2005, chaque année a été marqué par une forte croissance dans l’adoption des herbicides dans des pays si différents comme la Chine et l’Ethiopie. Les six études reportées dans cette édition spéciale – les Etas Unis, l’Union Européenne, la Chine, l’Inde, l’Ethiopie et le Mali – examinent les différences clés dans l’adoption des herbicides (la chronologie de cette adoption, ses moteurs principaux, et ces conséquences) dans cet ensemble d’environnements si différents.

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Figure 1
Figure 2

Source: Traoré and Haggblade (2017).

Figure 3

Source: Benbrook (2016).

Figure 4

Source: FAOSTAT.


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The authors wish to thank Jikun Huang, Scott Swinton, and Justus Wesseler for their highly perceptive insights and constructive comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Steven Haggblade.

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Haggblade, S., Minten, B., Pray, C. et al. The Herbicide Revolution in Developing Countries: Patterns, Causes, and Implications. Eur J Dev Res 29, 533–559 (2017).

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  • agriculture
  • herbicides
  • global
  • intensification
  • environment