Structure, Agency and Biotechnology

Structure, Agency and Biotechnology

The Case of the Rothamsted GM Wheat Trials

By Aristeidis Panagiotou

Key Issues in Modern Sociology

“Structure, Agency, Biotechnology” argues for the significance of sociological theory and highlights the insights that it can offer into the study of agricultural biotechnology.

Paperback, 280 Pages


August 2019

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

The overarching aim of “Structure, Agency, Biotechnology: The Case of the Rothamsted GM Wheat Trials” is to propose a way of filling the analytical gap found in the current literature by offering an original theoretical framework. This framework is able to assess both the content and context of the scientific field without resorting either to deterministic or to what theorists refer to as “conflationist strategies.” In order to demonstrate the heuristic value of the framework, the 2012 GM wheat field trials carried out by Rothamsted Research, often associated with the “second push” of agribiotech firms to bring Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to the UK, areassessed, and key aspects of the experiment areunderscored. At the same time, the broader institutional arrangements, key ideological constructs and the social order are examined, and a reframing of the controversy which moves beyond the simplistic conceptualization of it being a case of science versus politics is suggested. The volume also proposes a clear set of guidelines, which stem from the methodological and theoretical deep structure of the suggested framework but do not demand prior theoretical knowledge, which can be used by a wider audience engaged with biotechnology. This audience can draw on the guidelines either for reasons of developing a critical understanding of particular situations or for initiating the process of sustained dialogue between involved parties. These two dimensions are of great significance for practical policy orientations.


“This work is both a sophisticated theoretical synthesis and a finely worked case illuminating a topic of profound importance: genetic modification. Panagiotou’s labors bring much-needed clarity to this complex and contested world, moving us well beyond the simple binaries of truth and politics, science and publics. It is recommended to those with an interest in the environment, policy and governance, risk, science and technology, and social theory.” —Steve Matthewman, Associate Professor, Head of Sociology, University of Auckland, New Zealand

“This is a fascinating account of the intricacies of one of the most important GMO episodes in the UK. Yet, the greatest achievement of this book lies in its combining a detailed case-study, arguably the hallmark of STS scholarship, with the willingness to engage with contemporary macrosociological theory.” —Eve Seguin, Professor, Department of Political Science & Programme of Postgraduate Studies in Science, Technology and Society, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

“This is a masterful piece of holistic sociological theory framing the study of a GM controversy. Revisiting structuration theory, Panagiotou offers a very rich discussion of the particularities anchored across different locations. His book presents a critical understanding of science and technology using sociological concepts and methodological bracketing.” —Dominique Vinck, Full Professor, STS Lab, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Author Information

Aristeidis Panagiotou is a researcher at the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Greece.


Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; List of Abbreviations; 1. A Holistic Approach to the GM Controversy; 2. Rethinking Science, Technology & Society Relations: Definitions, Boundaries and Underlying Theoretical Problems; 3. Science and Technology Studies: A Critical Overview of the Field; 4. Benton, Mouzelis, Stones: Some Key Advances in Contemporary Sociology; 5. A Holistic Framework for the Study of Agricultural Biotechnology 6. The Rothamsted GM Wheat Trials (I): Technology and Appropriation; 7. The Rothamsted GM Wheat Trials (II): Ideology; 8. What is the GM Controversy? Science, Politics and Prospects; 9. Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


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