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Farmers' Understandings of Genetically Modified Crops within Local Communities

The prospect of the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK has been hugely controversial. At the outset of this study, in 2004, the UK Government was about to decide whether or not to allow commercial production to go ahead, after three years of intensive evidence gathering, including public debates and large-scale on-farm trials (the Farm Scale Evaluations or FSEs).

Our study investigated an important but neglected aspect of that debate '“ the view of the farmers, the people who are ultimately responsible for decisions about adopting and managing new technologies such as GM crops. We wanted to know: what did they think about new technologies such as GM crops? If they had taken part in the FSEs, how practical had they found the crop management guidelines they were required to follow? And, in their farming decisions about new technologies, who did they rely on for support and advice, and how might that support be improved? We interviewed farmers with experience of growing GM crops in the FSEs, and a similar group of farmers without that experience. All the farmers were growing commodity crops on a large scale.