Fred Buttel (1999)
'Agricultural Biotechnology: Its Recent Evolution and Implications for
Agrofood Political Economy'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/3/buttel.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 17/9/1999 Accepted: 27-09-1999 Published: 30/9/1999
2The data in this section are derived from James (1988).
3Note that the Losey et al. (1999) study has attracted considerable criticism from entomologists. One of the most biting criticisms has come from Losey's Cornell University Department of Entomology colleague, Anthony M. Shelton (see Shelton and Rousch, 1999).
4As will be stressed later, equally devastating news to agricultural biotechnology more generally was the August 1999 decision by the Codex Alimentarius Commission to uphold the EU's 1993 moratorium on commercial utilization of recombinant bovine growth morning (rBGH).
5Note that the enormously controversial Delta and Pine Land/Monsanto "terminator" technology involves "engineering" crop plants to contain three separate novel genes. The point still remains, however, that genetic engineering techniques are still unable to influence complex polygenic traits such as photosynthetic capacity (Mann, 1999).
6The University of Wisconsin's Program on Agricultural Technology Studies has collected some related data among a random sample of Wisconsin farmers on the use of GMO crop variety products during the 1998 growing season. These Wisconsin data are largely consistent with U.S. national data on the extent of adoption (e.g., 19 percent adoption of Bt corn in Wisconsin versus about 25 percent for the United States). In addition, data on the performance of HR soybean varieties were collected. The producer data for herbicide resistant soybeans shows that the performance of these transgenic crop varieties is quite mixed. Farmers tend to report slightly increased yields and reduced chemical costs, but also tend to experience higher overall input costs due to the higher price of GMO seed varieties. The farmer respondents were almost equally divided as to whether or not their per acre income had increased as a result of using HR soybean varieties (Buttel et al., 2000).
7If an agrochemical company lacks a biotechnology division and is unable to link its chemicals with seeds, the success of agricultural biotechnology will mean that this company can expect to lose market share to the integrated biotechnology-chemical-seed companies.
8Many observers of Codex Alimentarius proceedings have noted that U.S. has been losing influence in Codex since early 1999 because of the perception that the U.S. government and many U.S.-based firms tend to take extreme or inflexible positions on regulatory issues. In particular, while the EU has tried to forge a compromise on GMOs (such as expedited approval of GMO foods in exchange for U.S. acceptance of labeling of GMO foods), the U.S.' Food and Drug Administration has blocked GMO labeling. The most recent development, however, is that the U.S. government (or at least its Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman) has come to recognize that its refusal to permit labeling will prejudice access by American firms to the European market.
9Note that while input-trait GMO varieties could conceivably lead to lower consumer food prices, there are several reasons for doubting that this will be the case. First, as noted earlier, the performance of GMOs has been quite variable, suggesting that there is no strong tendency toward reduced average production costs. Second, raw food commodities have become such as small component of the retail price of food so that even quite significant decreases in food commodity production costs will tend not to have much of an impact on retail food prices (Tansey and Worsley, 1995).
BUSCH, L., W. B. Lacy, J. Burkhardt, and L. R. Lacy. (1991). Plants, Power, and Profit. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
BUTTEL, F. H. (1996). "Theoretical issues in global agri-food restructuring." Pp. 17-44 in D. Burch et al. (eds.), Globalization and Agri-Food Restructuring. Aldershot: Avebury.
BUTTEL, F. H. (1998). "Nature's place in the technological transformation of agriculture: the case of the recombinant BST controversy in the USA." Environment and Planning A 30:1151-1163.
BUTTEL, F. H. (1999). "The recombinant DNA controversy in the United States: toward a new consumption politics of food?" Agriculture and Human Values 16:in press.
BUTTEL, F. H., D. B. Jackson-Smith, and B. L. Barham. (2000). "Adoption of emerging agricultural technologies in Wisconsin." Madison: Program on Agricultural Technology Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, forthcoming.
FRIEDMANN, H. (1990). "Family wheat farms and third world diets: a paradoxical relationship between unwaged and waged labor." Pp. 193-213 in J. Collins and M. Giminez (eds.), Work Without Wages. Albany: State University of New York Press.
FROMMER, W. B., U. Ludewig, and D. Rentsch. (1999). "Taking transgenic plants with a pinch of salt." Science 285:1222-1233.
GOODMAN, D., and M. Redclift. (1991) Refashioning Nature. London: Routledge/
GOODMAN, D., B. Sorj, and J. Wilkinson. (1987). From Farming to Biotechnology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
GOULD, F. (1998). "Sustainability of transgenic insecticidal cultivars: integrating pest genetics and ecology." Annual Review of Entomology 43:701-726.
JACKSON-SMITH, D. B., and F. H. Buttel. (1998). "Explaining the uneven penetration of industrialization of the U.S. dairy sector." International Journal of the Sociology of Agriculture and Food 7:113-150.
James, C. 1998. "Global review of commercialized transgenic crops: 1998." ISAAA Briefs No. 8. Ithaca, NY: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
KANGASNIEMI, J. (1999). "Are exclusive technologies inclusive? 'terminator gene' controversy raises hopes and fears." Diversity 15:19-21.
KLOPPENBURG, J., Jr. (1988). First the Seed. New York: Cambridge University Press.
KRIMSKY, S., and R. Wrubel. 1996. Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
LOSEY, J. E., L. S. Rayor, and M. E. Carter. (1999). "Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae." Nature 399:214.
MALAKOFF, D. (1999). "New genes boost rice nutrients." Science 285:994-995.
MANN, C. C. 1999. "Crop scientists seeks a new revolution." Science 283:310-314.
MANN, S. A. (1990). Agrarian Capitalism in Theory and Practice. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
RILEY, P. A., and L. Hoffman. (1999). "Value-enhanced crops: biotechnology's next stage." Agricultural Outlook (Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture) (March):18-23.
SCHNAIBERG, A. (1980). The Environment. New York: Oxford University Press.
SHELTON, A. M., and R. T. Rousch. (1999). "False reports and the ears of men." Nature Biotechnology 17:832.
STRAUSS, D. G. (1999). "Possible threat to monarch butterfly posed by Bt corn sets off alarms for environmentalists, farmers, and seed industry." Diversity 15:17-18.
TANSEY, G., and T. Worsley. (1995). The Food System. London: Earthscan.
THU, K. M., and E. P. Durrenberger (eds.). (1998). Pigs, Profits, and Rural Communities. Albany: State University of New York Press.
WEISS, L. (1997). "Globalization and the myth of the powerless state." New Left Review 225:3-27.
WELSH, R. (1996). The Industrial Reorganization of U.S. Agriculture. Greenbelt, MD: Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.
WINSON, A. (1990). "Capitalist coordination of agriculture: food processing firms and farming in central Canada." Rural Sociology 55:376-394.
Major Research Resources and Data Sources Available on the Internet
Biotechnology and Development Monitor (www.pscw.uva.nl/monitor)
Biotechnology Information Resource (VBIC) website, National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.nal.usda.gov/bic)
Consumers Union (www.consumersunion.org/food/food.htm)
Center for the Application of Molecular Biology to International Agriculture (www.cambia.org.au/main/links.htm)
Information Systems for Biotechnology (www.nbiap.vt.edu/indexmain.htm)
Rural Advancement Fund International (www.rafi.org)
Agricultural Biotechnology Newspage (www.newspage.com/browse/)
Union of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.org)
Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org)