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Can genetically modified foods be considered as a dominant design?: An actor-network theory investigation of gene technology in agribusiness

Labrecque, J., Charlebois, S., Spiers, E.
British food journal 2007 v.109 no.1 pp. 81-98
genetically modified foods, biotechnology, agribusiness, agricultural policy, food policy, innovation adoption, technology, food marketing, policy analysis, ethics, North America, Europe
Purpose - Technology influences market growth and productivity, and the food industry has seen major technological and productivity method changes in recent years. The debate on genetically modified (GM) food, in particular, has been led on multiple levels in both Europe and North America. Studies to date have described the structural differences between the North American and European regulatory agencies as reasons for differing attitudes towards GM foods. The purpose of this paper is to establish a conceptual framework that puts forward a systemic view on the interconnections between corporate marketing strategies (i.e. tool makers), public policies (i.e. rule makers), and science (i.e. fact makers) when a dominant design emerges in the food industry. Design/methodology/approach - This paper begins by describing the fundamental elements of the dominant design concept and the actor-network theory (ANT). This is followed by the presentation of levers that permit the emerging agrifood dominant design to be successful. Third, these theories are applied to the appearance of GM foods in both North American and European markets. Finally,a framework is presented outlining actors' tasks associated with the emergence of an agrifood dominant design. Findings - This research uncovered the reality that technology developers, policy makers, and research protagonists all have the capacity to change the outcome of a dominant design in the food industry. All operate under a strict set of values and objectives and may influence the adoption process. The model in this paper presents a macro perspective of the institutional dynamics of a dominant design in the food industry when it appears in any given market around the world. Originality/value - This study is one of the first to systemically examine the development of technological change as a dominant design within the unique reality of the food industry. As such it makes a number of contributions which should be the subject of further study.