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Structural trend and conceptual evolution of research on genetically modified organisms using a science mapping approach

Elisabetta, Raparelli, Gabriele, Macari, Massimo, Scaglione, Sofia, Bajocco, Giuseppe, Scarascia Mugnozza
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.205 pp. 329-338
Agrobacterium radiobacter, Arabidopsis thaliana, biotechnology, databases, environmental impact, genetic transformation, genetically modified plants, genomics, issues and policy, models, China, Germany, United States
The aim of this study is to analyze the network structure and the conceptual evolution of research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) through time. A scientific mapping approach was used to this aim and applied to a set of scientific publications about GMOs from 1990 to 2016 retrieved from the Elsevier Scopus database. Throughout the analyzed period, the Scopus search provided 13,851 documents. In the twenty-seven years period considered, USA resulted as the most productive country followed by China and Germany. According to the co-term analysis, nominal phrases were individually assigned into three clusters, which distinguished three separate branches of research: the genomics studies, the genetic transformation, and the agronomic topics. Furthermore, results demonstrated that before 2000 the GMOs research was mainly focused on Agrobacterium tumefaciens. To the contrary, from 2000 onwards, the researchers' attention mainly concentrated on the Arabidopsis thaliana, the most used model organism in laboratory studies. The year 2000 represented also the starting point for the studies of both the negative and positive impacts of GM plants cultivation on the environment as well as on citizen health. This study allowed, on one side, to demonstrate the increasing scientific interest in GMOs research field and, on the other side, to highlight the shifting towards new GM topics like the social acceptability of the genetically modified products and the environmental impacts of biotechnologies. This study may represent a useful tool for researchers and policy makers to identify research gaps and overlaps in the GM scientific field.