Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2019
Affiliation at the time of the award:
University of California, Berkeley, USA
“for developing economic models to answer fundamental agricultural economic and policy questions”.
David Zilberman has been a professor in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department in Berkeley since 1979 where he holds the Robinson Chair. He is the cofounder and co-director of the BEAHRS Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) and is the director of the Master of Development Practice (MDP). David writes both for professional journals and the general public and aims to integrate economic theory to real world problems in both developed and under developing countries. He is also an extension specialist, and co-editor of ARE Update. David is a fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. He has published in various fields on the Economics of agriculture, environment, technology and risk. David completed his B.A. in Economics and Statistics from Tel Aviv University in Israel and his PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from U.C. Berkeley.
Dr. Zilberman has incorporated biophysical features of agroeconomic systems to develop economic models and econometric decision-making frameworks to answer fundamental agricultural economic and policy questions in several important areas:
Water: He developed models of choice and impact of water conservation technologies, showing that they are yield-enhancing and usually water-saving, though when yield effects are especially high, they may lead to increased water use per unit of land. Introduction of water trading can facilitate adoption of conservation practices.
Pest Control: Zilberman revolutionized research on the economics of pest control by
(a) Introducing the damage control function to estimate the productivity of pest control strategies.
(b) Developing methods to assess the benefits of pesticide under regulation.
(c) Introducing a method to regulate environmental health risks of chemical pesticides.
Biotechnology: His studies challenge myths about genetically modified (GM) crops. He showed that the introduction of GM cotton has increased yields substantially in India and that GMOs have increased supplies of corn and soybean, reducing prices and benefitting the poor. His work provides a framework to assess the cost of delay in introducing new technologies due to prolonged regulatory processes. He estimated the social cost of regulation for golden rice and banning the introduction of biotechnologies to Africa.
Payment for Ecosystem Services: Zilberman developed better mechanisms to allocate government payment for agricultural services, and motivated the redesign of programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the US.
Technology Adoption: Zilberman’s work developed a sophisticated approach to analyze adoption of modern technologies in agriculture incorporating farmer behavior, heterogeneity, and dynamic processes of learning. This approach has been applied heavily.
Dr. Zilberman’s career presents a unique mixture of theoretical work, applied research and extension, and he is a leading protagonist in debates over water policy, environmental and resource policy in agriculture and the bioeconomy.