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Socioeconomic Aspects of Biotechnology

The application of biotechnology to food and agriculture can bring not only potential risks and benefits, as any technology can, but also concerns about the human dimensions associated with biotechnology. These include both positive and negative impacts on stakeholders, communities, economic and social institutions, and societies in general. Areas include:

  • Agriculture and food system issues.
  • Market and consumer issues.
  • Business issues, institutional issues.
  • Social issues.

Agriculture and food system issues include the impact of biotechnology on the organization, structure, and behavior of the agricultural industry; the co-existence of conventional, organic, and biotechnology-oriented agriculture; the capacity of the food system to segregate genetically modified commodities and products for specific markets; impacts on competition in world trade in agricultural commodities; and the economic impacts of establishing oversight, standards, regulations, and public policies concerning biotechnology.

Market and consumer issues include understanding the forces that shape consumer demand for or against products of agricultural biotechnology; the needs, desires, and concerns of consumers in domestic and international markets; the influence of culture, advertising, product labeling, scientific information, and recent news events on consumer decision-making about the use of biotechnology products; and methods for most effectively increasing the understanding on which public and private decisionmaking concerning biotechnology is based.

Business issues include the impacts of biotechnology on individual firms or groups of firms, firm-level decisions about buying or selling biotechnology products and processes, changes in business practices and alliances, and domestic and international markets including markets in Third World countries.

Institutional issues include the impact of biotechnology on universities, trade and professional associations, and policy-making bodies; the impact of intellectual property protection on academic research; the wider roles of public research, education, and extension; mechanisms for funding research and disseminating results; and the roles of local, state, federal, and international governments and organizations.

Social issues include the needs of various publics to secure meaningful information for involvement in decisionmaking on development and use of agricultural biotechnology; the role of civic engagement at the local, state, and national levels; perceived and actual risks and benefits to consumers and other stakeholder groups or society in general; environmental protection; research vandalism; agro-terrorism; and impacts on Third World countries.

View NIFA-funded projects addressing the management of the social and economic impacts of biotechnology.


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