and nonadopters and unwanted or potentially unforeseen social effects (Guehlstorf, 2008). With such information, the likelihood of maximizing social benefits while minimizing socials costs is increased. To demonstrate the necessity for increasing commitments to the conducts of research on the social effects of GE-crop adoption, this chapter synthesizes what is known in the scientific literature about the social impacts of farm-technology adoption and the interactions between farmers’ social networks. The chapter also identifies future research needs.

SOCIAL IMPACTS OF ON-FARM TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION

The earliest academic research in the United States on the social impacts of technology adoption at the farm and community levels was focused on mechanical technologies. More than a century ago, the use of machines in U.S. agriculture not only displaced labor but widened socioeconomic discrepancies between skilled and unskilled laborers (Quaintance, 1984). Academic interest in the socioeconomic consequences of agricultural mechanization was particularly strong in the 1930s and 1940s in the southern United States (Buttel et al., 1990) and again in the 1970s throughout the country. Berardi (1981) summarized the findings of the literature and found that mechanization was associated with decreases in the agricultural labor force, particularly those among the least educated and least skilled workers and in minority groups; with better working conditions and less “drudgery” for the remaining work force; with a decrease in farm numbers and an increase in farm size; with increased capital costs for agricultural producers; and with a decline in the socioeconomic viability of agriculture-dependent rural communities. Data also suggested that the technological development of U.S. agriculture had contributed to declines in farm labor, in community dependence on agriculture, and in rural community viability although other on-farm and off-farm factors also contributed to these changes (Van Es et al., 1988).

In the 1980s, social scientists broadened their research on the impacts of technology adoption on farms and farm communities to include studies of the potential and actual impacts of biological (pregenetic engineering) technologies in agriculture. Many observers assumed that, unlike the earlier wave of mechanical agricultural technologies, genetic-engineering technology would not be biased towards large-scale farming operations. Such an assumption was supported by analyses of the production capabilities of agricultural biotechnology. For example, it was noted that no interaction effect was observed between genetic predisposition to produce milk and the use of the growth hormone bovine somatotropin (BST) to increase milk production in dairy cows (Nytes et al., 1990). However,



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement