Intellectual Property, Scientific Independence, and the Efficacy and Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops

Leland L. Glenna, John Tooker, J. Rick Welsh, David Ervin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Neoliberalism is the political ideology behind efforts to commercialize university science. The development of genetically engineered (GE) crops has facilitated the commercialization process because GE crops generally have more restrictive intellectual property protections than conventional crops. Those restrictions have led some to question whether long-term university research and innovations are being compromised to protect short-term intellectual property interests. This concern is evident in two letters submitted by public-sector entomologists in February 2009 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The letters asserted that scientists are prohibited from conducting fully independent research on the efficacy and environmental impact of GE crops. In response to the letter, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) negotiated an agreement between university scientists and seed companies to protect industry property rights while enabling university scientists to conduct research with more independence. Through a survey of public- and private-sector entomologists who are members of two regional entomologist research groups, we document scientists' perspectives on the adequacy of the ASTA agreement and whether those scientists have experienced limitations on their research projects involving efficacy and environmental impacts. Our findings show that limitations exist and that certain forms of public knowledge about crops are likely being compromised. These findings have implications for the legitimacy of current risk management institutions, as well as for future technological breakthroughs and innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-172
Number of pages26
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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