Monday, September 17, 2012

Glenn Stone on BT cotton narratives in India

In some of the narratives which involve lots of technical stuff, it is difficult to follow what is what after a while. In some areas like GM foods, I have developed trust in some writers and generally try to follow the guidelines provided.This too changes with time and I started being careful with George Monbiot's writings after what I felt was his hasty reversal on nuclear power. In GM writings, I have been generally following the writings of Glenn Davis Stone, David Andow and writings from organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists. Here is the latest article on BT cotton in India from Glenn Stone "Constructing Facts: BT cotton narratives in India". Abstract:

"A group of researchers and industry writers have constructed a narrative of technological triumph for Bt cotton in India, based on an empirical record of superior performance compared to conventional seed. Counterclaims of Bt cotton failure are attributed to mutually reinforcing interactions among non-governmental organisations which avoid rigorous comparisons. However, researchers and the biotechnology industry are also engaged in a similar authentication loop for generating, validating, and publicising such facts. With Bt cotton, the convention of routinely ignoring the effects of selection bias and cultivation bias benefits researchers, journals and the industry, but keeps us from drawing meaningful conclusions about the relative performance of the technology. But as poor as the case for isolating the technology impact of Bt cotton in India has been, it is useful in helping us understand the social conventions for creating one's "own facts"."

The article is also available at his site. He also has a blog fieldquestions but there is no discussion of the article yet though similar things have been discussed before.

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