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Understanding the Status of Social License: Adoption of Bt-brinjal in Bangladesh



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Abstract The discovery of agricultural biotechnology provides opportunities to address challenges in agricultural production and food security, especially for developing countries. However, technology has encountered controversy around the world. Societal views towards genetically modified (GM) technologies differ across different contexts. Today’s agriculture operates in a new information environment. Now the public can more readily access information and thus, some consumers or interest groups are concerned about new technologies in agriculture. Interest in the right to know about new technologies brings to the forefront the concept of social license in agriculture and why earning of social license for a new GM crop is important in its acceptance and adoption. Much of the previous work on social license has addressed this issue from a developed country perspective. This thesis examines the concept of social license in a developing country context. The purpose of this thesis is to examine factors that drive social license for adopting Bt-brinjal in Bangladesh. Bt-brinjal is a new GM food crop in Bangladesh and was approved for commercial cultivation in 2013. The crop is resistant to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) insect, which causes significant losses in brinjal production in Bangladesh, and is currently undergoing phased-in commercialization. One objective of this study was to develop a conceptual model of social license. Previous studies on public perceptions of and attitudes towards technology adoption are reviewed to understand the concept of social license and a conceptual model of social license is developed based on the literature reviewed. The conceptual model of social license represents the interrelationships among different stakeholders. Developers, government, producers, consumers, NGOs, civil society groups, and media are the main stakeholders with potential influence on the technology adoption process. The literature suggests that social license is difficult to measure directly and thus, the proposed conceptual model of social license uses ‘willingness to accept’ to examine the level of social license. To apply the conceptual model of social license in technology adoption in the case of Bt-brinjal, data were gathered through primary survey data collection of different stakeholders across Bangladesh in March and April 2017. Two sets of farmers were surveyed: adopters of Bt-brinjal and non-adopters. The surveys were complemented with interviews with key stakeholders (Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) representatives and NGOs) and a small sample of consumers. Analysis of the farmer survey and stakeholder interview data confirms that most stakeholders have a strong positive inclination about Bt-brinjal with the exception of a few NGOs and civil society groups in Bangladesh. Both adopter and non-adopter farmers expressed a strong willingness to adopt Bt-brinjal. A multinomial logit model (MNL) is estimated to examine the most important reason that influences adopters and non-adopters’ willingness to adopt Bt-brinjal. Results show that growing vegetables in the winter season is significant for both adopters and non-adopters and it influences farmers to pick more marketable yield as the main reason for their willingness to adopt Bt-brinjal in the next cropping season. In addition, the total number of pesticide applications to control other pests, yield difference between Bt-brinjal and non-Bt brinjal, adopters’ age and off-farm income have significant effects on adopters’ decision. Insights from consumer survey and other stakeholders’ interviews suggest that stakeholders are not knowledgeable about Bt-brinjal. Although consumers perceived the introduction of Bt-brinjal positively, the small number of NGO representatives interviewed expressed negative perceptions about the introduction of Bt-brinjal in Bangladesh. This study used Bangladesh as the study area to understand the concept of social license from a developing country’s context. Results of this study suggest that at this point in time, Bangladesh has established a strong social license for accepting Bt-brinjal. Although, policymakers in Bangladesh need to take steps to provide appropriate information about this technology to all stakeholders especially farmers (non-adopters) and consumers as they have limited knowledge about the technology.



Social license, GM technology adoption, Stakeholders, Developing country.



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Agricultural and Resource Economics


Agricultural Economics


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