The arrival of genetically modified crops has added another level of complexity to farming in the developing world, says a sociocultural anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
Glenn D. Stone, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and of environmental studies, both in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis, has completed the first detailed anthropological fieldwork on these crops and the way they impact — and are impacted by — local culture.The study, published in the February 2007 issue of Current Anthropology, focuses on cotton production in the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, India, one of the nation's key cotton-growing areas. There, Stone found several factors affecting farmers' ability to adjust to new developments by practical methods. Among them are the speed of change, the overwhelming number of choices in the seed market and the desire for novelty — all of which lead to lack of proper seed testing by farmers.
Bt cottonseed, genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, was introduced in India in 2002. Between 2003 and 2005, the market share of Bt seed — created through collaboration between Monsanto Co. and several Indian companies — rose to 62 percent from 12 percent.
Stone's research reveals that the increase resulted not from traditional farming methods of testing seed for efficacy, but from a pattern of "social learning" — farmers relying on word of mouth to choose seeds.
"Very few farmers were doing experimental testing, they were just using it because their neighbors were," Stone says. "There has been a breakdown in the process of farmers evaluating new seed technologies."
While Bt seed exacerbates the problem by creating yet another option, the farming troubles predate its introduction. In the late 1990s, there was an epidemic of farmer suicide in the Warangal District. Many farmers are deeply in debt and have been for generations.
Stone's study shows that the farmers' inability to recognize the varying seeds being sold at market contributes to those woes. The farmers' desire for novelty leads to rapid turnover in the seed market. Seed firms frequently take seeds that have become less popular, rename them and sell them with new marketing campaigns, Stone says.
"Many different brands are actually the same seed," he says. "Farmers can't recognize what they are getting. As a result, the farmers can't properly evaluate seeds. Instead, they ask their neighbors. Copying your neighbor isn't necessarily a bad thing; but in this case, everyone is copying everyone else, which results in fads, not testing."
Stone argues that the previously undocumented pattern of fads, in which each village moves from seed to seed, reflects a breakdown in "environmental learning," leaving farmers to rely on "social learning." Stone refers to this situation as "de-skilling."
"The bottom line is that the spread of Bt cotton doesn't so much reflect that it works for the farmers or that the farmers have tested it and found it to be a good technology," Stone says. "The spread more reflects the complete breakdown in the cotton cultivation system."
Editor's note: Glenn Stone is available for interviews. Television and radio reporters can conduct live or taped interviews via Washington University's broadcast studio, which is equipped with VYVX and ISDN lines.
Glenn D. Stone | EurekAlert!
Six-legged livestock -- sustainable food production
11.05.2017 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen
Elephant Herpes: Super-Shedders Endanger Young Animals
04.05.2017 | Universität Zürich
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Event News