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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Implementation of biotechnology research and development policy : implications for agricultural sustainability Griffiths, Angela


Biotechnology has been represented as the key to agricultural sustainability and as a means of increasing world food supply. The thesis examines the implementation of agricultural biotechnology policies in Canada, specifically canola and the effects of these policies on research and development and implications for agricultural sustainability. Concepts of sustainability were reviewed and a conceptual framework for assessing agricultural sustainability developed. Approaches to sustainable agriculture were divided into ; growth and conservation oriented approaches. Sustainability criteria were developed within a conservation-oriented approach. Public involvement was deemed necessary to identify priorities for sustainable agriculture and create a more socially responsive approach to policy making. Criteria for effective public involvement were identified through the literature. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) documents were assessed against the sustainability criteria. Most government documents subscribed to a growth- oriented, economic approach to agriculture which relegated sustainability concerns to secondary status. AAFC's emphasis on economic growth has affected public involvement, research and development in agriculture, particularly new canola variety development. The process for variety registration of new canola varieties involves two influential interest groups; both have strong links to industry and are pro-biotechnology. As a result, biotechnology has been supported through the process, to the detriment of other technologies. None of the sustainability criteria were addressed in the recommendation for acceptance for new canola varieties to AAFC. AAFC, as the decision-makers, accepted recommendations of the interest groups generally without question. Participation in the process was strictly limited and represented a narrow range of interests, largely the industrial sector. Public and private sector biotechnology researchers were interviewed to ascertain their views of biotechnology in agriculture. Contribution to sustainability was not a primary motive for identifying research goals and the majority of researchers did not support public involvement in policy making or technology assessment. Farmers, as users of biotechnology, were surveyed by mail. Results indicated that many farmers do not follow recommended agricultural practices and distrust government sources of information. AAFC does not have the information necessary for assessing the impact of biotechnology in agriculture. The thesis suggests methods by which the public could be involved in setting priorities for agricultural research, policy development and technology assessment.

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