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Socio-economic research on genetically modified crops: a study of the literature

Abstract

The importance of socio-economic impacts (SEI) from the introduction and use of genetically modified (GM) crops is reflected in increasing efforts to include them in regulatory frameworks. Aiming to identify and understand the present knowledge on SEI of GM crops, we here report the findings from an extensive study of the published international scientific peer-reviewed literature. After applying specified selection criteria, a total of 410 articles are analysed. The main findings include: (i) limited empirical research on SEI of GM crops in the scientific literature; (ii) the main focus of the majority of the published research is on a restricted set of monetary economic parameters; (iii) proportionally, there are very few empirical studies on social and non-monetary economic aspects; (iv) most of the research reports only short-term findings; (v) the variable local contexts and conditions are generally ignored in research methodology and analysis; (vi) conventional agriculture is the commonly used comparator, with minimal consideration of other substantially different agricultural systems; and (vii) there is the overall tendency to frame the research upon not validated theoretical assumptions, and to over-extrapolate small-scale and short-term specific results to generalized conclusions. These findings point to a lack of empirical and comprehensive research on SEI of GM crops for possible use in decision-making. Broader questions and improved methodologies, assisted by more rigorous peer-review, will be required to overcome current research shortcomings.

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Abbreviations

GM:

Genetically modified

GMOs:

Genetically modified organisms

R&D:

Research and development

SE:

Socio-economic

SEI:

Socio-economic impact(s)

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Acknowledgements

Georgina Catacora-Vargas did not receive any specific financial support for the research involved in the preparation of this article. Rosa Binimelis acknowledges partial financial support for her work at The Agri/Cultures Project funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Grant No. 231146). Anne Ingeborg Myhr worked on this manuscript as part of her regular activities at GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, without any specific grant. Before retirement, Brian Wynne worked on this research as part of his regular Lancaster University activities. The co-authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.

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Catacora-Vargas, G., Binimelis, R., Myhr, A.I. et al. Socio-economic research on genetically modified crops: a study of the literature. Agric Hum Values 35, 489–513 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-017-9842-4

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Keywords

  • Socio-economic impacts
  • Genetically modified crops
  • Research methods