United States policy makers are promoting bio-fuels as an economic development opportunity, especially for rural America. A USDA study claims that developments in energy production from biomass could increase profits for agricultural commodity producers. However, as William Heffernan and his colleagues have demonstrated, concentration in the agrifood sector limits the economic benefits going to the commodity producers. Relying on Heffernan’s framework, we compare the distribution of intellectual property of corn and other genetically modified crops with that of the emerging biomass technologies. We find that patent ownership in the emerging biofuel sector is not yet as concentrated as in the agricultural biotechnology sector. However, theories of private ordering predict concentration and our data indicate that concentration is occurring. The results suggest that rural biomass producers are unlikely to gain broad economic benefits from the biofuel economy.

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