Innogen  ·  Publications  ·  Working papers
The Rice “Technology Trajectory?? in History and the Recent Genetic Technologies in Developing GM Rice in China

Shen, X

January 2007

Technically, China is in the lead in developing transgenic rice and is poised to be the first in the world to make transgenic rice available in the market. However over the past four years, no approval has yet been given by the Chinese regulatory authority to any successfully trialled traits. At the core of this delay are intractable social, economic and political problems.

Applying analytical perspectives from science and technology studies (STS), this paper examines the socio-technical specificity of rice technology in China . As an agricultural technology, rice technology has an extremely close relationship with both the social setting and the natural environment. Rice technology is not singular, rather a socio-technical ensemble. To China , rice was once the pivotal feature of the society and considered the key characterising element of the economy (Bray, 1994). The paper looks into the historical development of the socio-technical system of rice technology in the particular context of China , and discusses the revolutionary changes involved in the adoption of hybridisation as a rice breeding technology. It argues that in China the subsequent application of genetic engineering and related technologies in rice variety development can be seen as an extension of traditional rice breeding technologies, rather than the radical discontinuity it is frequently portrayed as. Some of the problems associated with Genetically-Modified (GM) organisms also arose with the earlier technology of rice hybridisation. The paper suggests that China's current regulatory regime, established to align with Western regulatory practices and shaped by a particular history of controversy in the West and may not be suitable for China to deal with her own pressing issues.

The Rice “Technology Trajectory” in History and the Recent Genetic...(wp52)