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Research Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society | IREES Research

Project: Responsible innovation in Dutch potato breeding

Societal and technological development do not happen independently from each other but should rather be approached from a so-called co-evolutionary framework that considers both domains as strongly coupled and interweaved. As an example, the development of hybrid breeding technology has been part of a comprehensive socio-technical transition of agriculture that can be characterized as the global emergence of agro-industrial production chains. This development has led to a strongly polarized debate about the merits and impacts of industrialized agricultural production.

Until now potatoes breeding has not been strongly affected by hybrid breeding technologies as propagation of potatoes take mainly place by tubers. However, the Dutch start-up company Solynta has recently developed a diploid potato hybrid breeding technology which may resolve serious limitations of conventional potato-breeding and allow the rapid development of new potato varieties with desired features as disease resistance and attuned to specific local or regional needs. On the other hand, this innovation may have disruptive and controversial impacts on the production and cropping systems in the potato sector, which may hamper or even block the introduction of this technology. The new hybrid breeding technology raises important questions about its implications for the potato production system in the Netherlands and on a global level because potatoes is a staple food in many countries.

This research project aims to guide this transition in a societally responsible way by involving relevant stakeholders from the sector, civil society, governments and knowledge institutions in a dialogue focusing on various options for valorization. The main research question is: How to create optimal conditions for a responsible development of hybrid potato breeding in ways that benefit the productivity, sustainability and diversity of the current potato production system.

This project is subsidized by MVI program (Societal Responsible Innovation program) of NWO and financially supported by Solynta and Kramp Group as industrial partners. The research project will be carried out by a consortium consisting of Rathenau Institute, the Centre of Crop System Analysis (Wageningen University) and the Science and Society group (University of Groningen). The Groningen research project focusses especially on the implications of hybrid breeding as a new technological resource for the institutional arrangements and rules that characterize current practices of resource management in potato breeding.

Contact information for the Groningen part of the project:
dr. J.A.A. (Sjaak) Swart
Science and Society Group
University of Groningen

Last modified:04 November 2020 4.41 p.m.