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International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Published by Michigan State University

Official publication of the Research Committee on Sociology of Agriculture and Food (RC-40)
of the International Sociological Association (ISA)

Editors: Raymond Jussaume, Claire Marris and Katerina Psarikidou

Frequency: 3 issues per year 
ISSN: 0798-1759

Volume 10, Issue 2 (2002)

Creating Markets for Biotechnology                                                                                                                                           33-46

Author: Vivien Walsh
Affiliation: Manchester School of Management, UMIST, Manchester, UK

Abstract             PDF

Much recent literature on biotechnology has focused on supply side issues such as technological opportunities and applications, or organisational changes in the innovating firms. This paper examines the demand side of biotechnology, focusing on GM foods in particular, and analysing the creation of a selection environment in which the innovation might diffuse. In neo-Schumpeterian economics, the concept of 'selection environment' is used to mean the features of the environment of the firm that determine whether innovations succeed or fail. Creating a market is not only an economic but also a social-shaping activity, and the selection environment is a wider and more complex and subtle concept than a market. This paper has drawn on several disciplinary perspectives to analyse the phenomenon, in particular on sociology, anthropology and evolutionary economics. The many elements of the selection environment for agrobiotechnology included the market of consumers; potential consumers (some of whom resisted the new technology); the regulatory system; retailers; policy makers; environmentalists; consumer organisations; the intellectual property régime; intermediaries which promoted the new products, which informed consumers, and which raised areas of concern; the politicisation of the whole process; and the market creation activities of the innovating firms (especially Monsanto). Monsanto's promotional activities, which would normally fall within the realm of traditional market creating behaviour, in the context of other elements of the selection environment had a counter effect. It generated a learning process in which the companies concerned discovered the merits of trying to open up a dialogue with other elements of the selection environment.



Creando un Mercado para la Biotecnología

La literatura reciente sobre la biotecnología se ha enfocado a temas relacionados con la oferta, como las oportunidades tecnológicas y sus aplicaciones, o los cambios de organización en las firmas innovadoras. Este artículo examina el lado de la demanda de la biotecnología, particularmente los alimentos genéticamente modificados, y analiza la creación de un medio ambiente selectivo en el cual la innovación puede difundirse. En la economía neo shumpeteriana, el concepto de “medio ambiente selectivo” se utiliza para designar los elementos del medio en el que se inserta la firma y que determinan si las innovaciones tendrán éxito o fracasarán. Crear un mercado no es solamente una actividad económica sino también de formación social y el medio ambiente selectivo es un concepto más amplio, más complejo y más sutil que el mercado. Este artículo parte de varias perspectivas disciplinarias para analizar el fenómeno, en particular la sociología, la antropología, y la economía evolutiva.

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