The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

Non technical abstract

GM Foods and 21st Century Agriculture:  An Assessment of Key Stakeholder Perspectives

     Daniel B. Waggoner*and Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr.**

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture has expanded at a rapid rate in North America. There can rarely have been a new technology that has attracted so much intense discussion of its potential risks and benefits from such an early point in its development. Production of genetically modified (GM) food has prompted public policy makers to consider the necessity of additional regulatory oversight. Chances for widespread acceptance of a technological innovation, such as GMOs, can be enhanced through timely anticipation of problems of public perception and consumer backlash. Drawing on insights from stakeholder theory, the ultimate aim of this paper is to assess a range of complex issues and identify key participants involved with the ongoing GM foods debate using stakeholder analysis.

A central purpose of this paper is to enhance current understanding of and appreciation for the disparate forces influencing the GM foods debate -- a discussion of far-reaching importance for United States (US) public policy in the new millennium. Due to the intricate character of biotechnology generally, and its dependency upon private and public interests, a holistic, multi-perspective approach to our analysis is called for. The argument runs that identifying and assessing various stakeholder positions is a prerequisite for the successful adoption of any technology. By systematically observing the key positions and parties shaping the GM foods debate, one is better able to develop a dynamic perspective regarding those factors impacting upon genetic engineering’s likely success in production agriculture.

In summary, we present a framework that brings into sharper focus various dimensions of the GM food discourse, along with identifying key constituencies based on the form of their interaction within the debate. Such an identification process, and the ability to decipher disparate parties according to their positions within a multidimensional context, should foster greater understanding  and improve the ability of decision-makers to evaluate the relative importance of pending issues. Thereby, the framework offered here will provide a means by which public policy officials and analysts can better organize communication efforts with different stakeholders involved in the GM foods debate. Importantly, our discerning approach to the topic will allow the identification of possible scopes of action and potential inconsistencies that should be considered when pursuing the public interest.

* Judge Institute of Management Studies, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England.

** Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

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