PELLEGRINI Pablo Ariel
congresos y reuniones científicas
Where does defeated science goes? Rejected biotechnology rebuilding networks.
PELLEGRINI, PABLO ARIEL
Congreso; 1st ISA Forum of Sociology; 2008
International Sociological Association
Biotechnology, particularly when related to genetically modified organisms, has been the object of several scientific controversies that took place mainly between 1998 and 2001 in the major scientific journals. These controversies concerned different risks this technology may be involved: from genetic contamination (this is: gene flow, the transfer of the gen from the modified organism to another organism), to unexpected toxic effects on some species. In other words, they were concerned about the possibility that either inserted genes or the protein they expressed could be harmful to other species of plants, bacterias or animals. All of these controversies can be analyzed in terms of sociology of scientific controversies, that is, they can be characterized as composed by a core-set of scientists who are involved in experimentation or theorization directly relevant to the scientific controversy, and within them is produced the closure of the controversy (Collins,  1992). But, what happens after consensus is made within the major scientific community, after the controversy is closed? It was suggested that different paths of adaptation were possible for those who were rejected after scientific controversys closure (Collins, 2000). In this paper, I analyze four major biotechnology controversies: the one raised by Pusztai research, the one by Losey 1999 publication in Nature, the Mae Wan-Ho 1998 research and the Quist and Chapela 2001 publication in Nature. After describing the controversies closures, I follow these actors trajectories, in order to find out what happens with scientists who appear defeated after the closure of scientific controversy in such a sensitive field to public eye as biotechnology is. The result is a whole new dynamic of scientific interactions, where those defeated scientists keep holding the same position they showed in the controversy, in what it is called undead science (Simon, 1999). More interesting yet, they engage with other actors, not merely scientists, formulating a kind of controversy where broader environmental, political, economic and ethical issues are involved, therefore expanding the core-set which turns to envelope more identities (Michael and Birke, 1994). Consequently, they appear in new scenarios, as the public issue with genetically modified crops that took place in Brazil since 1998. A transition from scientific to social controversy is proposed in order to conceptualize the phenomena, suggesting that, within this process, formerly defeated scientists manage to rebuild their network of alliances reformulating, thus, the controversy in new terms.