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Abstract

Global biodiversity loss and its consequences for human welfare and sustainable development have become major concerns. Economists have, therefore, given increasing attention to the policy issues involved in the management of genetic resources. To do so, they often apply empirical methods developed in behavioral and experimental economics to estimate economic values placed on genetic resources. This trend away from almost exclusive dependence on axiomatic methods is welcomed. However, major valuation methods used in behavioral economics raise new scientific challenges. Possibly the most important of these include deficiencies in the knowledge of the public (and researchers) about genetic resources, implications for the formation of values of supplying information to focal individuals, and limits to rationality. These issues are explored for stated-preference techniques of valuation (e.g., contingent valuation) as well as revealed preference techniques, especially the travel cost method. They are illustrated by Australian and Asian examples. Taking into account behavioral and psychological models and empirical evidence, particular attention is given to how elicitation of preferences, and supply of information to individuals, influences their preferences about biodiversity. Policy consequences are outlined.

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