Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
farmers (Herring 2009). Such varieties are likely to be less potent against insect pests,
and to give them a greater chance to build up resistance.
Greenpeace4 has already very successfully built up fears about loss of food sover-
eignty, as well as about the rejection of Bt rice in export markets, and it has highlighted
the possibility that scientists with financial interests in the spread of the technology are
manipulating evidence. Even though Bt rice was developed in public sector institutions,
it is still possible that scientists can have financial interests as shareholders in public
companies that stand to profit from selling Bt rice (Greenpeace 2008; Pray et al. 2007).
A  Chinese organization called “Utopia” that styles itself as “New Left” but espouses
nationalist sentiments, and which has been leading the criticism of genetically engi-
neered rice, accuses the government of being beholden to big agribusiness (Stone et al.
2011). The Chinese government, still strongly committed to agricultural biotechnology,
has been responding to this public criticism by putting considerable resources into sci-
ence education and public communication about biotechnology (Jiao 2010; Jie 2010).
The story of Bt rice in China reflects problems that are very much like those that show
up in the case of Bt brinjal in India, including the tension between expert scientific
advice and public opinion as it can be mobilized by civil society organizations (even if
the numbers of people involved are actually small), drawing upon the powers of modern
social media and of consumer resistance (growing in countries like China and India,
with their expanding middle classes), in a context in which governments, whether in a
formally democratic regime or an authoritarian one, have to be concerned about their
legitimacy. Both cases, too, demonstrate the limitations of science. It is one of the great
ironies of the condition of modernity, as the sociologist Anthony Giddens has argued,
that those living in modern societies look to science for truth when science actually
advances through systematic doubt and the questioning of existing knowledge:
Even philosophers who most staunchly defend the claims of science to certitude,
such as Karl Popper, acknowledge that, as he expresses it, “all science rests upon
shifting sand.” In science nothing is certain, and nothing can be proved, even if scien-
tific endeavour provides us with the most dependable information about the world
to which we can aspire.
(Giddens 1990, 39)
These fundamental limitations apply, of course, as much to public sector science as to
corporate science, though Giddens's point also hints at the need always to be aware of
the straightforward biases that can affect scientific research.
The foregoing discussion leads to the conclusion, unsatisfactory though it may seem,
that there remains—and there will remain—uncertainty about the impacts of both the
Green Revolution and of transgenics. In large part this is because of the complexity of
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