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Bioscience Issues

Glenn Davis Stone

GM Crops and Indigenous Management

Glenn Davis Stone


The core concern with our project is with agricultural decision-making and “indigenous management skill” (IMS; a/k/a/ indigenous technical knowledge or metis) on small farms. Leading scholars in various disciplines, including economics (e.g. Ester Boserup), anthropology (e.g., Robert Netting), political science (e.g., James Scott), and geography (e.g., Harold Brookfield), have studied and underscored the importance of IMS; particularly in intensive smallholder farming. Netting in particular showed that in sustainable intensive smallholder agriculture, “skill replaces scale.” A key element of this IMS is how technology is integrated into farm management; this is a highly variable process. Our previous work on cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, examined how the successful integration of technology into farm management may be impeded by introduction of technologies that are difficult to trial. (The breakdown in successful trialing of seeds actually began prior to the introduction of GM cotton.) Preliminary research on rice farming suggested an important contrast, with farmers integrating more trailable, gradually-changing technologies, with greater success than in cotton production. The current project centers on a comparative cotton / rice analysis, which will be doubly valuable because these are particularly key crops for the present and future of GM crops in developing countries.

This project examines effects of technological change on farmer knowledge and decision-making in both cotton and rice farming in India, and in rice farming in India and the Philippines. Aside from building general knowledge of effects of change in seed technologies on indigenous farm management, the project will provide analyses of the effects of two key GM crops – Bt cotton and Golden Rice – on farm management in India and the Philippines.

In part to make it probable that fieldwork will coincide with the anticipated release of Golden Rice in the Philippines, the fieldwork was scheduled for 2013-15. An ethnographer has been identified for the India fieldwork, which will begin in July 2013. I will be conducting preliminary fieldwork in the Philippines in July 2013 and continuing fieldwork in India in January 2014. Intensive fieldwork will take place in the Philippines in 2014-15.