Emergence of controversy in technology transitions: Green revolution and Bt cotton in India

S.V. Ramani*, A. Thutupalli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Technology transitions following radical technological breakthroughs are often marked by controversies and the transitions to Green Revolution (GR) and Genetically Modified (GM) seeds in India were no exceptions to this rule. Controversies can trigger social dilemmas, but in economics we do not yet have a clear understanding of how they emerge in the wake of major technological transitions. In order to provide insight, we develop a novel conceptual framework of technology transition integrating ‘Nature’ as a non-economic actor in the innovation system. Then this framework is applied to analyze India's GR and GM transitions in cereals and cotton respectively, using the methods of historical reconstruction, meta-analysis of impact literature and a farmer survey. We show that the trigger points of controversies were different in the two cases, and in general can emerge in any stage of a technology transition. In particular, in the agricultural innovation system, the ecological outcomes rather than economic outcomes are likely to be stronger focal points of controversy. Controversies are also likely to increase as the innovation system becomes complex. High immediate payoffs can override concerns founded on scientific uncertainty in the adoption of new technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-212
Number of pages15
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date28 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • controversy
  • green revolution
  • genetically modified
  • Bt cotton
  • agriculture
  • India

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