What Kind of Agriculture? What Might Science Deliver? by Lawrence Busch
Within the scientific community there are growing gaps among the sciences. On the one hand the new molecular sciences of genetics, genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, among others, are attracting both attention and considerable financial resources (Evans, 2000). They hold the promise of radical transformation of both foodand agriculture. They promise greater harvests for the same inputs, and foods with tailored dietary properties. Virtually every industrial nation and quite a few middle income nations have invested heavily in these fields of research.

At the same time, however, traditional fields of agricultural research have often received short shrift. Systematics has nearly disappeared as a field. Thirty years ago, Jack Harlan (1984) and other systematists were considered central actors in agricultural research. Today, the very term “systematics” has largely faded from most agricultural laboratories and experiment stations. Similarly, in the plant sciences, it was plant breeders who were kings of the hill; those in other plant sciences built on what the breeders suggested. Today, they are relatively rare in public research institutions and they are no longer in such central positions.

The grandiose claims of the mid-1980s have been scaled back somewhat. Indeed, despite several decades of lavish investment in research, most of the promises of agricultural biotechnology remain as yet unfulfilled. And, there has been a realization that even when molecular and whole plant approaches are combined, only a few years can be shaved
of what is a lengthy process of inserting the genes that code for the desired trait into an agronomically viable crop plant. Perhaps this is one reason why the recent International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAKSTD, 2008) has given only lukewarm enthusiasm to molecular approaches to resolving problems of agriculture and food. Much as there has been a fragmentation of the sciences, and hyperspecialization within the agricultural sciences, there has also been a veritable explosion of standards.
Technological paradigms Genetic engineeringAgroecological engineering
Basic definition

Deliberate modification of the characteristics of an rganism by the manipulation of its genetic


Application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable
Implicit objective
Engineering plants: modify plants to our best advantage by making them productive in adverse
conditions or by designing them to fit new objectives

Engineering systems: improve the structure of an agricultural system to make every part work well;
rely on ecological interactions and synergisms for soil fertility, productivity and crop protection


Scientific paradigm underlying the technological paradigm


Ecology and holism
Examples of subtrajectories progressing along the
technological paradigm
Bt insect resistant plants, herbicide-tolerant plants,
virus-resistant plants etc.
Biological control, cultivar mixtures, agroforestry, habitat management techniques etc.

Genetic engineering and agroecological engineering are two different technological paradigms.

How agricultural research systems shapea technological regime that develops genetic engineering but locks out agroecological innovations, by Philippe V.Baret and Gaetan Vanloqueren, elsevier.com, 05 April 2009,