The labour implications of genome editing in crops: How experts foresee jobs to be affected resulting from these revolutionary technologies
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Introduction: Genome editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, TALENs, and ZFN, are considered as revolutionary for plant breeding practices. These far-reaching technologies have been addressed in literature, which focused on multiple environmental and societal implications. However, this research did not mention the labour implications of genome editing, despite indications that genome editing could have future impact on jobs. This thesis aims to answer the following research question: What labour implications do experts expect to occur due to crop genome editing? Experts’ expectations were identified, as genome editing is still in an early phase of development and their specific expertise was essential to explore the potential labour implications in the future. Theory: This study investigates how genome editing affects jobs according to the multi-sectoral framework of Vermeulen et al. (2018). This framework considers the importance of how technology affects tasks. Certain tasks are created due to technological innovation, leading to new or transformed jobs, whereas substituted tasks lead to jobs becoming obsolete. Also, this framework addresses the differences in labour implications per employment sector. Additionally, I investigated if the expected labour effects are happening in developed or developing countries. Methodology: To study the expected labour effects, semi-structured interviews with 33 experts from both developed and developing countries were held. Two types of experts were interviewed: genome editing experts and labour experts. Results: I found that genome editing is expected to affect many types of jobs worldwide. It is foreseen that it will create new jobs, transform existing jobs, and make certain jobs obsolete. These effects differ per sector. In the sector where the technology and genome edited crops are developed, jobs are expected to be mostly newly created. In the sectors that grow, and process genome edited crops, jobs are mostly foreseen to be substituted. Last, in the sectors that are complementary to the development of genome editing, like the legal and academic sector, jobs are mostly expected to transform. These effects are seen in developed as well as developing countries. Discussion: The findings show that genome editing can have both positive and negative effects for employment. To mitigate the negative effects, strategies should be created that focus on reinstating labourers that are substituted by genome editing and ensuring that workers are allocated to newly created and transformed jobs. Finally, this research shows that labour implications should be considered when discussing potential pathways for governing these far-reaching technologies.