How farmers matter in shaping agricultural technologies: social and structural characteristics of wheat growers and wheat varieties
Science and technology studies (STS) research challenges the concept of technological determinism by investigating how the end users of a technology influence that technology’s trajectory. STS critiques of determinism are needed in studies of agricultural technology. However, we contend that focusing on the agency of end users may mask the role of political-economic factors which influence technology developments and applications. This paper seeks to mesh STS insights with political-economic perspectives by accounting for relationships between availability of diverse technologies, variations in political-economic structures, and farmer interests and characteristics. We present the results of an analysis on the recent development of three wheat varieties: (a) a wheat variety that was modified genetically to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate, (b) wheat varieties with characteristics selected to serve specific markets, (c) and emerging research and development of perennial wheat varieties. Using data obtained through a survey of wheat growers in Washington State, we analyzed whether farmer interest in these three clusters of wheat varieties was associated with distinct individual characteristics and attitudes and whether those characteristics and attitudes are consistent with political economic structures. Although our analysis did not allow us to assess the degree of direct influence that farmers have on the technological development trajectory for these types of wheat, we were able to document variation in technological alternatives and farmer characteristics related to different political-economic trends. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Volume (Year): 28 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
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