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Cesagen · People

Professor Larry Busch

Professor of Standards and Society


44 (0)1524 510840


44 (0)1524 510856






Institute for Advanced Studies


I was born and raised in New York City, but have spent most of my life elsewhere. I have an undergraduate degree in history from Hofstra University and an MS and PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. In between my undergraduate and postgraduate work I spent about four years in West Africa (Guinea and Togo) as a beekeeper, and several years running a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program in eastern North Carolina. Upon receiving my doctorate I began work at the University of Kentucky. In 1990 I joined the sociology faculty at Michigan State University and I remain jointly employed by that institution and, since September 2008, by Lancaster University.

For much of my career I have engaged in research on various issues surrounding the food and agricultural sciences. Starting in the late 1970s I became interested in the emerging field of science studies, and began research on problem choice among agricultural scientists. In the early 1980s I began to study the (then new) agricultural biotechnologies, examining how their use would transform biology as well as food and agriculture. This, in turn, led me to ask questions about crop biodiversity; as such I led a team that examined plant germplasm conservation in four nations: the United States, France, Brazil, and Chile.

On completion of the work on crop biodiversity, I began to study the canola (oilseed rape) commodity chain, doing comparative work in Canada and China. As that work progressed it became apparent that canola would not have existed at all as a commodity were it not for a wide range of standards that ‘disciplined’ the crop from seed production through to the cooking oil on the supermarket shelf. That interest in standards grew leading to my becoming founding director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards, an interdisciplinary group concerned with these issues.

Numerous studies and action projects on standards followed, including the ‘Partnerships for Food Industry Development – Fruits and Vegetables’ project, a multi-country project designed to help small farmers produce higher value crops by meeting various public and private, national and international standards.

Over the years I have spent a considerable amount of time doing research on food and agriculture in various locales in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the late 1980s I led a joint Indo-American review of the Indian Agricultural Universities. I served for several years on the Scientific Committee of CIRAD (La Recherche Agronomique au Service des Pays du Sud), and worked for a year for what is now the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement. I have also worked with Brazilian colleagues on the introduction of genetically modified soybeans in that nation. More recently, I have been involved with research on food safety with colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, where I am a visiting professor at their graduate school.

I am a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, past president of both the Rural Sociological Society and the Food, Agriculture, and Human Values Society, an Elected Member of the Académie d'Agriculture de France, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole. I have been a visiting scholar at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim), the University of Edinburgh, and Cardiff University. I recently received a Doctor Honoris Causa from the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.


Recent Books:

Rudy, A.P.; D. Coppin, J. Konefal, B.T. Shaw, T. Ten Eyck, C. Harris, and L. Busch. 2007. Universities in the Age of Corporate Science: The UC Berkeley–Novartis Controversy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Bingen, J. and L. Busch, eds.. 2006. Agricultural Standards: The Shape Of The Global Food And Fiber System. Dordrecht: Springer.

Busch, L. 2000. The Eclipse of Morality: Science, State and Market. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine DeGruyter.

Recent Journal Articles:

Busch, L. 'The Private Governance of Food: Equitable Exchange or Bizarre Bazaar? Agriculture and Human Values 2010; In press.

Busch, L. 'What What Kind of Agriculture Do We Want? What Might Science Deliver?' Natures, Sciences, Sociétés 2010; 17(3): 241-247.

Hongping, F., Ye, Z., Zhao, W., Tian, H., Qi, Y. and Busch, L. 'Agriculture and Food Quality and Safety Certification Agencies in Four Chinese Cities', Food Control 2010; 20: 627-630.

Loconto, A. and Busch, L. 'Standards, Techno-Economic Networks, and Playing Fields: Performing the Global Market Economy.' Review of International Political Economy 2010.

Fan Hongping; Zhihua Ye; Weijun Zhao, Heshan Tian, Qi Yamei, and Lawrence Busch. 'Agriculture and Food Quality and Safety Certification Agencies in Four Chinese Cities.' Food Control 2009; 20: 627-630.

Busch, L. 'What Kind of Agriculture Do We Want? What Might Science Deliver?.' Natures, Sciences, Sociétés 2009. In press.

Busch, L. 'Nanotechnologies, Food, and Agriculture: Next Big Thing or Flash in the Pan?.' Agriculture and Human Values 2010. 25 (2) :215–218.

Hatanaka, M. and L. Busch. 'Third-Party Certification in the Global Agrifood System: An Objective or Socially Mediated Governance Mechanism?' Sociologia Ruralis 2008; 48 (January): 73-91.

Qi Yamei, Ye Zhihua, Zhao Weijun, Tian Heshan, Fan Hongping, and Lawrence Busch. 'Third-Party Certification of Agro-Products in China: A Study of Agro-Product Producers in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Qingdao.' Food Protection Trends 2008; 28 (11): 765–770.

Busch, L. 'Comments' [on Stone, ‘Agricultural Deskilling….’], Current Anthropology 2007; 48(1): 87-88.

Busch, L. 'Performing the Economy, Performing Science: From Neoclassical to Supply Chain Models in the Agrifood Sector.' Economy and Society 2007; 36 (3): 439-468.

Peterson, N., Riley, S., Busch, L., and Liu, J. 'Reconciling Wildlife Management’s Conflicted Purpose with a Land Community Worldview.' The Journal of Wildlife Management 2007; 71(8): 2499–2506.

Holt, D.; T. Reid, and L. Busch. 'Les Normes dans l’Agriculture Contemporaine: Du Droit Positif à l’Etat Evaluateur et Auditeur.' Déméter 2007; 13: 89-115.

Mascarenhas, M. and L. Busch. 'Seeds of Change: Intellectual Property Rights, Genetically Modified Soybeans and Seed Saving in the United States.' Sociologia Ruralis 2006; 46 (2), 122–138.

D. Winickoff, Jasanoff, S., R. Grove-White, L. Busch, and B. Wynne. 'Adjudicating the GM Food Wars: Science, Risk, and Democracy in World Trade Law.' The Yale Journal of International Law 2005; 30 (1): 81-123.

Hatanaka, M., C. Bain, and L. Busch. 'Third-Party Certification in The Global Agrifood System.' Food Policy 2005; 30: 354–369.

Busch, L. 'Commentary on ‘Ever Since Hightower: The Politics of Agricultural Research Activism in the Molecular Age,’' Agriculture and Human Values 2005; 22: 285-288.

Recent book chapters:

Busch, L. 2005. 'Agricultural Sciences.' In Science, Technology, and Society: An Encyclopedia. Sal Restivo, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2-8

Hatanaka, M., C. Bain, and Busch L., 2006. 'Differentiated Standardization, Standardized Differentiation: The Complexity of the Global Agrifood System.' In T. Marsden and J. Murdoch, eds., Between The Local And The Global: Confronting Complexity In The Contemporary Food Sector. Amsterdam: Elsevier: 39-68

Konefal, J., C. Bain, M. Mascarenhas and L. Busch, 2007. 'Supermarkets and Supply Chains in North America.' In G. Lawrence and D. Burch, eds., Supermarkets and Agri-food Supply Chains: Transformations in the Production and Consumption of Foods. London: Edward Elgar: 270-290

Busch, L., 2007. 'Commentary on Agricultural Biotechnology.' In Charles McManis, ed., Biodiversity and the Law: Intellectual Property, Biotechnology & Traditional Knowledge. London: Earthscan: 202-206

Busch, L. and Lloyd J., 2008. 'What Can Nanotechnology Learn from Biotechnology?.' In Paul Thompson and Kenneth David, eds., What Can Nano Learn from Bio? New York: Academic Press: 261-276

Busch, L., 2008. 'Agricultural Intensification and the Environment.' In P. Thompson, The Ethics of Intensification. Heidelberg: Springer: 149-155

Busch, L. 2008. 'Science, Standards, and Safe Food: Challenges and Opportunities.' In Singh, S. P., Julie Funk, S. C. Tripathi, and Nanda Joshi, eds., Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Global Trade: Concerns and Strategies. Lucknow, India: International Book Distributing Company: 13-24

Busch, L, A. Loconto, and X. Li. 2008. 'New Technologies, Standards, and Local Food Resources.' In Proceedings of the Third Afrasian International Symposium. Resources Under Stress: Sustainability of the Local Community in Asia and Africa, Y. Kawamura, H. Nakamura, and S. Ishizaka, eds. Kyoto: Afrasian Centre for Peace and Development Studies, Ryukoku University: Pp. 163-181

Research Interests

My current research interests include:

  1. An ongoing project on agrifood nanotechnologies: This project examines the development of nanotechnologies in the agrifood sector, with special interest in their relation to biotechnologies, as well as the development of standards for these new technologies.
  2. Certification and accreditation of food and agricultural products: Third Party Certification of food products is becoming increasingly widespread, as are systems of certification and accreditation that link a wide range of actors. I am examining the dynamics of certification processes in both industrialized and ‘southern’ nations with a particular interest in how scientific tests are employed in these private ‘regulatory’ processes.
  3. A general volume on standards: This volume is an attempt to synthesize the vast body of literature on various kinds of standards – in the food sector, but also in education, health care, engineering, information technology, etc. – by developing a general theory of standards.
  4. Alternative futures for agriculture and agricultural research.