Hybrid potato breeding: A framework for mapping contested socio-technical futures

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This article characterizes the diverging expectations about hybrid potato breeding in the Netherlands. This potentially disruptive innovation for breeding new potato varieties has been subject to contested expectations, ranging from hybrid breeding amounting to nothing to it strongly upsetting the existing potato sector and bringing food security to developing countries. Literature in the sociology of expectations has highlighted that expectations are key in shaping the future of this innovation. In the case of hybrid potato breeding, these expectations are articulated in an unstructured setting, often within the walls of individual organizations. This makes an informed societal debate difficult. To aid the governance of expectations in unstructured settings, this article develops a mapping framework for expectations. Building on distinctions that emerged from the empirical material, stakeholders are positioned with respect to the expected impact of the innovation on the sector and on society. We found that stakeholders can be distributed along a clear curve that leads from low expectations for sector and society, to modest expectations for the sector and low expectations for society, to high expectations for both. This overview provides a basis for an informed societal debate and the articulation of socially robust expectations.

Koen Beumer,  Rosanne Edelenbosch

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