An investigation of the potential utility of technology assessment to the food industry
Kimber, J (2011) An investigation of the potential utility of technology assessment to the food industry. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.
This PhD contributes to the discipline of food policy by introducing Technology
Assessment (TA) as a potential tool for the food and biotechnology industries and
food policy decision-makers. TA is an analysis tool used to consider the consequences
of new technologies. This social research project investigated how TA can be used in
the food industry and specifically how it can be used to assess the impacts of a new
crop biotechnology on society.
The potential use of TA was evaluated using an emerging food biotechnology, longchain
omega-3 production in canola, which is being developed by the CSIRO Food
Futures Flagship. This emerging biotechnology involves the production of genetically
modified oil seed plants, designed to synthesise essential omega-3 long-chain
polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3 LC-PUFA). For the purpose of the thesis, these will
be referred to as long-chain omega-3 oils. These oils are normally absorbed by
humans by eating seafood, and are deficient in most people’s diets. With declining
global fish stocks, this dietary deficiency is likely to be exacerbated in the future. By
making these nutrients available in commercial crops such as canola, it is anticipated
that there will be improved health and environmental outcomes.
The qualitative social research methods used in this study included key informant
interviews together with focus groups with a range of social groups who may be
affected directly or indirectly by the omega-3 technology. The broader aim of the
project is to increase awareness of the social issues present in the food industry and
create information that can inform decision-makers at all levels of food industry.
The results identified several groups that would benefit directly from the technology,
for example, the aquaculture and livestock industries, farmers that used conventional
broadacre farming methods and the broader community in general as a result of
improved health outcomes. Other groups that may be opposed or adversely affected include the fishing industry, organic farmers and environmental groups. There are some issues that warrant further attention if this technology is to be accepted into
society. These revolve around the GM process used to produce long-chain omega-3
oils and the desire for labelling that would enable the Australian publics to make an
informed choice about whether to purchase a particular product that contained the oil.
The type of TA that could be used in the future and some of the potential problems
that may be encountered if it was to be implemented into the food industry are
discussed. The initiation and implementation of biotechnology policy is reviewed.
There are some areas of concern regarding Australia’s current GM regulatory
framework, for example, compensation in the advent of inadvertent co-mixing. It is
proposed that a TA vision assessment framework could create a shared vision for the
future of food, which would inform policy-makers at all levels. TA has the potential
to increase democratic principles by allowing a broader range of social groups to
The thesis in that it is likely to be the first Australian application of
technology assessment in the food industry.
|Item Type:||Thesis (PhD)|
|Keywords:||Food policy, Genetic modification, technology assessment, social issues, Governance|
|Deposited By:||ePrints Officer|
|Deposited On:||19 May 2011 09:28|
|Last Modified:||11 Dec 2012 14:08|
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