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The Agri/Cultures Project: Operationalising Norways Gene Technology Act and its Requirement for Social and Ethical Justifiability

Alternative title: null

Awarded: NOK 7.1 mill.

The Agri/Cultures Project has focused on generating knowledge on different cultures of agriculture and communicating this knowledge in ways that make it accessible, engaging, and useful for academics, publics and policy-makers. The project specifically sought to develop new ways of thinking about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a package of dynamic biological and socio-economic relations rather than as isolated technologies. Through a focus on maize and fieldwork in Spain, South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay, the project compared GMO, conventional and organic modes of agriculture. It researched the ethical issues at stake, the socio-economic impacts involved, and the ecological implications, particularly for bees and their keepers. Through this work, the project specifically aimed to deliver knowledge relevant to the assessment of GMOs for their sustainability, societal utility and ethical justifiability as required by the Norwegian Gene Technology Act. Results The project has generated results targeted towards academic, stakeholder and general public audiences. This has included published articles, oral presentations, stakeholder events, short films, an interactive website, and an international art exhibition. Academic publications Research from the project has been published in a number of peer-reviewed works, including 1 book chapter, 8 articles and 1 policy brief, with another journal article still under development. These academic publications have developed the idea of GMOs as networks of biological and socio-economic relations conceptually, methodologically and empirically. The published works have described new frameworks and examples for how to study and evaluate GMOs from a systems perspective, as well as provided new knowledge to inform systems-based risk assessment and regulation. Academic presentations Since the start of the project, the researchers working on the Agri/Cultures Project have given over 30 presentations at diverse international conferences, public events and educational courses, directed towards different disciplinary domains and communities. This active engagement with different international audiences has allowed the project to create strong networks, receive inspiration for the project?s work and disseminate its findings. Work with stakeholders The project has hosted and participated in a number of events bringing together diverse stakeholders in agricultural biotechnology governance (e.g. researchers, farmers, NGOs, and policy makers). The project has, for example, facilitated two fieldtrips for Norwegian actors in GMO policy and regulation to meet and exchange experiences with Spanish farmers and cooperatives. The project also held a Stakeholder Seminar in Norway, exploring the potential of its framework of care ethics and politics for the regulation of GMOs with participants from the UK, US, South Africa, Spain and Norway. The researchers have been invited to present their work at an international seminar on new discourses for genome editing techniques, which was held in the UK and attended by a range of researchers, NGOs, and policy actors. As a consequence of the seminar, the researchers have also been invited to the European Parliament next fall to present their framework on the ethics and politics of care for improved governance of biotecnhologies. Dissemination to the general public Since April 2015, the project researchers have maintained a regular blog reflecting on the research activities for a general audience ( They have also published a number of popular science pieces, including one on the European Commission?s new directive for the cultivation of GMOs. Additionally, the project has created a number of short films to enhance the visibility of the research and reach new audiences. The project has appeared in mass media on various occasions. The researchers were interviewed for 2 TV documentaries and shortly appeared in 3 TV programs (in Spain). They have also been interviewed by 5 radio programs (Spoain & Australia). The project has been mentioned in 3 Spanish newspapers and a specialised magazine on organic production. One of the researchers was also interviewed and appeared in a farming industry newsletter. To integrate all of the learning and outcomes from the Agri/Cultures project, the researchers created an interactive website ( The Seed-Links website is available in English and Spanish and has been created as a pedagogical tool to foster learning about the complex realities of agri-food systems and everyday food choices as ethical and political acts. As a closing event, the project also curated an international art exhibition in connection with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and established the Seed Cultures Initiative ( to continue encouraging discussions about the cultural dimensions of agriculture well beyond the end of the project.

This project will develop novel concepts, methods and empirical knowledge for understanding and assessing the complex relational networks embodied in and performed by agricultural biotechnologies. The research addresses the concrete policy need of operati onalizing the Norwegian Gene Technology Act (GTA) and its internationally unique requirement to assess biotechnology according to criteria of societal benefit, contribution to sustainable development and ethical justifiability. To create analytic depth to complement a broad ranging scope, Bt maize will be used as a case study. Additionally, in later years the project will place a spotlight on a particular set of stakeholders within the relational network who are crucial yet particularly vulnerable actors in agricultural systems: bees and their keepers. The project addresses the following research questions, each with a dedicated work package: 1. What are the relational networks involved in different agricultural systems (e.g. biotechnological, convention al, and organic maize)? 2. How can these different relational networks be assessed and compared against the Norwegian GTAs criteria of societal benefit, contribution to sustainable development and ethical justifiability? 3. What is the relationship betwe en the Norwegian GTAs criteria and the prevailing European policy commitment to coexistence of agricultural systems? 4. How do the different relational networks interact with bee/keepers as a vulnerable social group and how would an assessment of the GTA criteria be for this particular stakeholder? 5. How is the European policy commitment to co-existence between agricultural systems both affecting, and being affected by, bee/keepers? The main deliverables are: 7 publications in international peer-reviewe d journals, 4 short films for display online and in public arenas, 1 policy brief, 1 policy report, 3 popular press publications, 1 stakeholder seminar, 1 combined public forum and final conference.


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