Knowledge for Development

The Ethics of Innovation in Agriculture: Inclusivity and Reflexivity

Author: Kristal Jones

Date: 08/03/2015


By Kristal Jones, Research Associate, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, University of Maryland, USA   

 Kristal Jones asks whose values and which ethics should drive innovation in agriculture and makes the case for an ethic of innovation in agricultural development that is built on the foundation of inclusivity and reflectivity. 


Since innovation is itself a dynamic process that leads to the creation of new things, systems and ideas, ‘individuals and institutions must constantly make decisions on which innovation priorities they value and which innovation processes they consider ethical’, says Jones. In introducing the topic, she zeroes in on the lessons learned from Norman Borlaug, who described the innovation process as ‘neither a stroke of luck nor an accident of nature.’ It took Borlaug two decades of research on Mexican wheat varieties using significant amounts of imported seed from multiple locations to successfully increase food production in Pakistan and India. Jones notes that the research priorities, the research process and the scientific method were interconnected and influenced by many people, including agricultural scientists (with PhDs), as well as by the context (population growth and hunger) within Borlaug’s ‘innovation process’. The ethic of innovation in agricultural development should recognize and prioritize participatory approaches and indigenous knowledge.  

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