Power, progress and prevarication: Local knowledge and GE papaya in Thailand
Volume 3, Issue 2
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Pages 104 - 110http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/gmcr.19331
: Thailand, agricultural biotechnology, farmer adoption, farmer perception, genetically engineered papaya, grounded theory, papaya ringspot virus, small-holder farmer, virus-resistant papaya
Authors: Sarah N. Davidson View affiliations
Genetically engineered (GE) papaya was developed in the 1990s to improve the livelihoods of small scale farmers in Thailand. Yet these farmers have been excluded from the discourse around its deregulation and deployment. While elite stakeholders continue to debate in Bangkok, little is known about small scale farmers’ understanding of biotechnology, their perceptions of the technology and whether or not they are likely to be adopters if it became available. In this case study, I report on farmer knowledge of agricultural biotechnology and genetically engineered papaya in northeast Thailand. Forty farmers in four villages were surveyed with regard to their knowledge and perceptions of GE papaya. A qualitative grounded theory approach was employed to understand their responses, from which three themes emerged: progress, power and prevarication. From these themes, the decision-making process of farmers seems to be dominated by their existing local knowledge and their interest in progressing their economic status. The responses of small-scale Isaan farmers provide a new perspective on the debate over GE virus-resistant papaya in Thailand. Based on the results of this study, we can conclude that this small subset of Thai papaya growers perceive GE virus-resistant papaya as a compatible innovation that is likely to be adopted by Thai farmers if it becomes available.
Received: November 23, 2011; Accepted: January 11, 2012