Ecoscript 41

Guido Ruivenkamp. The Impact of Biotechnology on the Food Chain.

The "social acceptability" of the introduction of biotechnolo-
gy into the agricultural sector is getting ever more atten-
tion. In the government policy of several countries this theme
itself is viewed as a bottleneck for the development of bio-
technology in the coming years. Also enterprises are asking
themselves if new investments in biotechnology will be remune-
rative viewing the uncertainty if farmers and consumers are
willing to use the new biotechnological products. Information
campaigns are started in which it is endeavoured to extend
information to different groups within society in order to
solve the "acceptability problem of the biotechnology". The
goal of the information is, for example to convince the far-
mers that they need not be afraid of biotechnology and to help
them adapt to the benefits that new biotechnologies have to
offer. However, these information campaigns insufficiently
distinguish between the different routes through which bio-
technology can be developed. The general discussion on the
biotechnology in fact veils the specific use of biotechnology.
More attention should be paid to the specific social-economic
content (code) that lies within the development of current

Each technology -- and also biotechnology -- is referring to
and developed within a specific context. Besides technical
dimensions (the techniques), each technology contains also
social dimensions, such as the context in which the technology
is developed, the social relations which reflect themselves in
the technological development and the specific aims for which
the technology is applied. Biotechnology is not only a cluster
of techniques and is not coming from nowhere, but has specific
social-economic aims. It is also clear that a certain form of
development of biotechnology with a certain social-economic
con-tent will -- for some parties -- be of interest, while for
other social groups it will not be acceptable. Therefore, the
"non-acceptability" of some current biotechnological develop-
ment by some agricultural producers cannot be labelled as
irrational or frightened behaviour but must be taken seriously
and understood as a criticism of the specific social-economic
content (code) of the biotechnological developments.

On request of the Foundation for Ecodevelopment (Stichting
Mondiaal Alternatief) four articles are collected for this
Ecoscript aimed at explaining this criticism on current bio-
technological developments. The first article describes the
specific goals of the actual biotechnological developments in
the first and third phase of the food chain. This specific use
of biotechnology reinforces certain structural developments in
the food chain (second article) which lead to a new social or-
ganisation of the food- and sugar production (second and third

The analysis of the development of biotechnology in the agro-
industrial chain of (sugar)production makes clear that current
biotechnological developments are especially related to the
interests of industry. Because of this specific social dimen-
sion one can speak of "industrial biotechnology". This "indus-
trial biotechnology" promotes a specific form of integration
of the agricultural sector within the agro-industrial produc-
tion chain. By reinforcing three tendencies the "industrial
biotechnology" stimulates a reorganisation of the food produc-
tion chain (fourth article). Thereby, a new control-system of
agricultural production and farm labour is created.

This specific use of biotechnology clarifies the existence of
"the acceptability problem" for the farmer concerning "in-
dustrial biotechnology". It also illustrates the need to
change the social dimension of biotechnology and to relate the
social-economic content of biotechnology more to the interests
of farmers and sustainable farming styles. The condition for
this is, that this farmer-centered biotechnology -- which can
be referred to as "tailor-made biotechnologies" -- is related
to another social context than that of the industrial-scienti-
fic circuits and that this form of biotechnology will be
(re)designed during a new model of interaction between techno-
logy-user (farmers) and technology designer (researchers).

Ever more it will become impossible to neglect or conceal the
social-economic dimensions of the new biotechnological pro-
ducts. Therefore, negotiations should be set up with farmers-
and other social organisations about the desirable social-
-economic content of biotechnology. In this negotiating proc-
ess farming organisations may stimulate the development of
only those "tailor-made biotechnologies" which reinforce the
social-economic perspectives of different sustainable farming
styles. The heterogeneity of the agricultural sector and the
different perspectives of these sustainable farming styles
might become the new context in which biotechnological devel-
opment will be (re)designed. This supposes not only an active
line up of farming organisations in this field, but also a
willingness on the part of the technology designers to partic-
ipate in the discussions on the social-economic contents (cod-
es) of biotechnology. However, the demand for a negotiating
process on a socially acceptable dimension of biotechnology
will depend on the consciousness that the actual biotechnolog-
ical developments promote a specific new form of integration
of the agricultural sector within the agro-industrial chain of
production. The aim of this Ecoscript is to clarify that. Hop-
efully, this Ecoscript also stimulates the thinking on the
possibilities of changing the social dimensions (code) of act-
ual biotechnological developments. For that purpose it might
also be useful to intensify the contacts between farming- and
other organisations working commonly at setting up a negotiat-
ing process on a socially acceptable code in the development
and application of biotechnology in the agricultural sector.



Introduction 9
Methodological remarks 9
Tendencies in the first phase of the agro-industrial
chain of production 10
Tendencies in the third phase of the agro-industrial
chain of production 11
Conclusion 12

Hunger and Technology 13
Concentrations in the Global Food Chain 14
Biotechnology and Global Food Chain 15
Growing interchangeability of producers: Case of sugar 15
Concentration on a few materials: Vegetable oils 16
Distorted research priorities in agriculture 17
Transfer of production from farm to factory 18
New Organisation of Food Production 19
Increased dependence of agriculture on chemicals 19
Interchangeability of producers 20
Agriculture without soil 21
Conclusion 21
Notes and References 23

1. Biotechnology and the Development of New Sugar
Varieties 25
1.1 The control of sugar breeding material 26
1.2 New varieties and the standardisation of regional
production areas 27
Gene transfers to the North 30
Control at a distance and interchangeable production areas 30
Restructuring national policies 31
1.3 Public ownership of sugar production and TNC Control
at a distance: political contradiction or symbiosis? 31
2 From Sugar to Sweeteners Production 32
2.1 An overview of competitive sweetener 33
2.2 The switch from sugar to high fructose corn syrup(HFCS) 35
2.3 Increasingly self-sufficient regions in the North and
flexible sources of food components in the South 36
Bibliography 38
Notes 39

Separation of crops from their original environment 41
Separation of crops from their intrinsic characteristics 41
Separation of agriculture from food production 42
Political intervention in developed countries 43
Annex I:Banana wars 44
Annex II: Companies battle over aspartame markets 44