Enterprise and Biodiversity: Do Market Forces Yield Diversity of Life?

David Schap, Andrew Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the early 1900s, American farmers were becoming well able to ‘‘read’’ maize and recognize which physical characteristics translated into varying yields, quality, insect and disease resistance, and even aesthetic value. By 1925, the University of Illinois Department of Agronomy compiled a list of distinct corn strains totaling 19 (7 white strains and 12 yellow strains). By 1990, a market for privately produced hybrid maize seed in the United States had developed in excess of $2 billion a year. Along with this market, and other hybrid seed markets, came the establishment of legally enforceable private property rights in the form of trade secret laws and the patentability of privately bred and engineered strains. We explore whether, within these institutional structures, market forces promoted biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-67
JournalCato Journal
StatePublished - Jul 1999


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