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Farmers’ Understandings of GM Crops within Local Communities

Funded by the ESRC Science in Society Programme

New farming technologies raise social issues as well as scientific, agronomic and ecological ones. This is especially so in the case of contentious technologies such as genetically-modified (GM) crops. While much is now known about the public’s view of GM crops, there has been little research into what farmers think.

Research aims

This research will investigate the attitudes, intentions and practices of farmers regarding the new technology of GM crops, in relation to their social setting. Interviews with farmers with and without experience of growing GM crops, and workshops with their local community, will be used to:

• Explore how farmers’ social interactions (for example, with their family, advisors and their local community) contribute to their understanding of new technologies such as GM crops
• Ascertain the acceptability to farmers of the management practices recommended for GM crops
• Identify systems to support mutual learning among farmers and their local community about such new technologies.

Theoretical approaches

The research is based on a systemic approach. This involves consideration of farmers, their farming activities and their social setting as a whole – as a ‘human activity system’. It involves concentrating on interactions and relations between the different parts of the system, rather than studying each part (such as the new technology) in isolation.

The research will be informed by theories about social learning – that is, the type of mutual learning that occurs as a result of interactions and networking among people within a community, rather than as a result of information provided by outside ‘experts’.

Developing recommendations

The results will be used to develop recommendations for informing policy and practice. Throughout the research team will seek the advice and active involvement of key stakeholders. Towards the end of the research, a workshop will be held with farmer participants and other stakeholders, to develop recommendations about the most appropriate ways to manage a new farming technology where the likely impacts are unclear or contested.

This project is associated to the INNOGEN Research Centre http://www.innogen.ac.uk/


The Open University Staff:
Dr. Andy Lane
Dr. Sue Oreszczyn
Dr. Susan Carr.

Secretary: Marlene Gordon
Tel: 01908 654782

Contact for information:
Sue Oreszczyn, tel. O1908-653433
fax 01908-654825

Technology Faculty,
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Biotechnology Policy Group

OU Main Website