some genetic-engineering proponents argue for including GE products in organic standards and labels at the same time that they argue against the labeling of foods with GE content because they consider GE and non-GE foods to be substantially equivalent products (Klintman, 2002). That position can be understood, in part, as a desire to obtain the economic benefit of some labels while avoiding the cost of being associated with other labels. Those examples underscore the important socioeconomic and sociopolitical dimensions in public debates about genetic-engineering technology. To reconcile those debates over the potential use of genetic engineering in sustainable and developing-country agriculture, it may be wise to heed the suggestion of Ronald and Adamchak (2008) and use various social, environmental, and economic criteria in making decisions on when to use and not to use genetic-engineering technology in agriculture.
Social dynamics and networks between farmers and within local communities play a substantial role in the decisions that farmers make with respect to the use of GE crops and likely are impacted by the use of and conflicts over those crops. Research on the adoption of other agricultural technologies has demonstrated substantial social impacts on a farm level and a community level. Those impacts include but are not limited to: decreases to and change of composition in the agricultural labor force; better on-farm working conditions; changes in farm and agricultural-industry structure; increases in capital requirements for farmers; and a decline in the socioeconomic viability of some rural communities. Comparable research on the effects of GE crops is lacking, and although it is reasonable to hypothesize that the social impacts of the spread of GE crops have been low due to the assumed scale neutrality of this technology, it is equally reasonable to assume that the social impacts have been numerous and profound. Those questions cannot be answered without short- and long-term empirical research on the social processes surrounding, and the social impacts associated with, the adoption of genetic-engineering technologies at the farm level. Such research must take into account the various contextual factors that are influencing social changes on U.S. farms and rural communities.
Research has demonstrated that farmers’ interest in genetic-engineering technology and patterns of adoption are influenced by farmers’ social networks and by farmers’ associations, private firms, and public actors, including universities. Research also has identified the continuing consolidation of the seed industry and its integration with the chemical industry. The market power of firms that supply seed has not adversely