The anti-GMO advocacy: an institutionalist and systems-theoretic assessment

Vladislav Valentinov, Stefan Hielscher, Sebastian Everding, Ingo Pies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: Public debates on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are strongly influenced by the nongovernmental organization (NGO)-led advocacy, most of which is harshly critical of genetic engineering. This advocacy has resulted in discourse failures marked by the disregard for the scientific consensus on the risks and benefits of GMOs. This paper aims to present a theoretical inquiry into this phenomenon. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on American institutionalism and Niklas Luhmann social systems theory, the paper explains these discourse failures in terms of the problematic relationship between institutions and technology. Findings: Clarence Ayres would likely see these discourse failures as a form of “institutional resistance” to the progress of science and technology. In contrast, Marc Tool’s social value principle stresses the importance of democratic legitimation and public acceptance of new technologies, while being sensitive to the possibility of ideologically biased discourses. It is argued that the institutionalist understanding of the interplay between democracy, science and technology would benefit from a better account of Niklas Luhmann’s concept of “complexity reduction”. Social implications: The study shows that some NGOs are powerful enough to actively shape, if not manipulate, public attitudes and sentiments against GMOs. Originality/value: The case of the anti-GMO advocacy calls for a new conceptualization of how democracy, science and technology fit together.

LanguageEnglish
JournalKybernetes
Early online date2018
DOIs
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2018

Fingerprint

discourse
non-governmental organization
science
democracy
genetic engineering
institutionalism
legitimation
system theory
Genetic engineering
social system
Social Systems
Values
System theory
new technology
Systems Theory
acceptance
Design Methodology
Biased
Likely
methodology

Keywords

  • American institutionalism
  • Complexity reduction
  • Discourse failure
  • GMO
  • NGO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

Cite this

The anti-GMO advocacy : an institutionalist and systems-theoretic assessment. / Valentinov, Vladislav; Hielscher, Stefan; Everding, Sebastian; Pies, Ingo.

In: Kybernetes, 2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Valentinov, Vladislav ; Hielscher, Stefan ; Everding, Sebastian ; Pies, Ingo. / The anti-GMO advocacy : an institutionalist and systems-theoretic assessment. In: Kybernetes. 2018.
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