4 Choice of technology

Technology policy covers a wide range of activities and issues. At the most general, it is concerned with the whole question of which way society is going, or ought to be going. Over the past few decades a significant debate has grown up over the role of technology in society, fuelled in part by concerns about environmental impact, resource scarcity, and the implications of new technologies for employment and society generally. You have an opportunity to reflect on this in the next activity.

Activity 10

In many African countries there is a growing public debate about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In order to explore choice of technology and drawing on your general knowledge of the debate around GMOs, please answer the following SAQs:

What are the tensions around GMOs for African governments?

Why would governments want to be involved in regulating GMOs?

Comment

The tensions for African governments are around promoting economic growth through higher crop yields and increased trade offered by GMOs, and preventing the potential damaging environmental impacts of the technology. African governments have to balance these conflicting interests with limited human, policy and infrastructural capacities.

African governments want to be involved in regulating GMOs to protect their country’s biodiversity, food production systems, traditional knowledge and culture. The asymmetrical power relationship between African governments and large agro-business makes this a challenging task.

Out of this ‘Society and Technology’ debate has come proposals for effective ‘social control’ of technology, as an alternative, or at least an addition, to leaving choices up to market mechanisms. Various forms of longer range technology assessment or technology foresight process, coupled with mechanisms for ‘regulating’ the development of technology so as to avoid undesirable outcomes, have been suggested as public concerns have grown about a whole range of scientific and technological issues.

3.2 A reduced role for government

4.1 Research and development policy