1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Research

Genomics in relation to agriculture and development (2004-2008)

Steve Hughes

Start date


Affiliated staff

Guido Ruivenkamp (Wageningen), and Joske Bunders (Amsterdam)



Email: s.g.hughes@ex.ac.uk

Funded by

This is a joint project sited at Wageningen University, the Free University of Amsterdam and Egenis which is funded by the Dutch Genomics Initiative.


Genomics between prescriptive code and social construction: An analysis of the constraints and possibilities for social choices in genomics for developing countries.


The interrelationship between technological and social aspects implies that specific social dimensions are integrated in genomics research that prescribes certain activities. At the same time negotiation processes may play a role in socially constructing the social/technical dimensions of genomics. Genomics research finds itself between the tension of being prescriptive and/or being formed.

This research program explores empirically whether and how the co-creation of social (gamma) and technical (beta) elements in food genomics research can be "opened and (re)constructed" by actors and advocates from developing countries, working on endogenous developments. The program plan proposes to carry out three research projects plus the establishment of an interactive hub that will function as a collective feedback system for the development of the projects and as a tool for broad dissemination of information. The latter activity will include the re-launch of the international Biotechnology and Development Monitor (until recently supported by ISNAR) as a peer review journal called Tailoring Biotechnologies: potentialities, actualities and spaces.


Project 1. Weitse Vroom

"The international organisation of food genomics research, analysing its contradictions” explores whether, where and how room for manoeuvre can be identified within the complex set-up of the internationally organised food genomics research. It investigates where “openings” can be found within the complex genomics networks and how negotiations can be started to disconnect actual food genomics research from its prescriptive codes and to "open" it for social constructions by actors from developing countries.

Project 2. Daniele Puente

"Tailoring genomics to the needs of the poor" investigates whether and how civil society organisations can make use of the openings in the genomics research and tailor genomics to sustainable, location-specific (endogenous) developments. The second project is composed of two parts.

Firstly, it will organise information exchange about the experiences of several civil society organisations to tailor biotechnologies to the needs of the resource poor. And whether these experiences can (or cannot) be implemented in the reconstruction of food genomics research. The information exchange will take place through the interactive hub (www.tailormadebiotechnologies.net) that will function as a collective feedback system to strengthen the research activities of the different projects. The information exchange will be carried out in collaboration with different partners, all bringing in their different expertise and disciplinary backgrounds. These partners are:

The multi-stakeholder platforms of the Tailor-Made BioTechnologies network (TMBT); The Network University of the University of Amsterdam, as formal editor of the Biotechnology and Development Monitor; The University of Exeter, Centre for genomics in society (Egenis), The Centre for Society and Genomics (in formation); The European University Institute in Florence as co-supervisor of Ph.D genomics research;The Centre for Biosystems Genomics as experts in beta-gamma interactions for specific crops.

Together with these organisations the research team will start a scientific discussion on tailoring elements by setting up a Digital Dossier on Genomics for the resource poor,

Project 3. Eric Deibel

"Dialectical changes in food genomics research: New opportunities for managing its contradictory knowledge developments" explores whether the ongoing interactions between technological and social-economic developments have led to the emergence of a new social/technological context, which offers new opportunities for managing knowledge development.

The project investigates which dialectical changes in scientific development and social and economic relations take place in the domain of food genomics research and investigates in particular two parallel tracks of knowledge development, present in food genomics research. The increased open-source approach applied for the development of new genomics tools (such as in bioinformatics) and the exclusive, patenting approach applied for the products of functional genomics (genes to be patented).

It will explore whether this internal and paradigmatic conflict between tools and product development may hinder or facilitate the creation of new networks, composed of scientists and civil society organisations that aim to empower local knowledge systems.


Policy implications

Project update



Guido Ruivenkamp, Tailor-made biotechnologies: Between Biopower and Sub-Politics (2005), Tailoring Biotechnologies 1 p 11-33

Steve Hughes, Navigating Genomes: the space in which genes happen (2005), Tailoring Biotechnologies 1 p32-46

Steve Hughes, Knowledge-Sharing: cultivating a creative Commons (2004), Proceedings of the Institute of Innovation and Transdisciplinary Research, Da Vinci Institute conference on Sharing Knowledge, Amsterdam Oct 2004, to be published in Bunders and Willems (eds), A new role of Universities in Society.

Steve Hughes, Genomics and Crop Plant Science in Europe,(2005) Plant Biotechnology Journal, in press

Further information