Selected Publications - Abstract

Cleveland, David A. (2001) Is Plant Breeding Science Objective Truth or Social Construction? The Case of Yield Stability. Agriculture and Human Values 18(3):251-270.

This article presents a holistic framework for understanding the science of plant breeding, as an alternative to the common objectivist and constructivist approaches in studies of science. It applies this approach to understanding disagreements about how to deal with yield stability. Two contrasting definitions of yield stability are described, and concomitant differences in the understanding and roles of sustainability and of selection, test and target environments are explored. Critical questions about plant breeding theory and practice are posed, and answers from the viewpoint of the two contrasting definitions of yield stability are analyzed, based on key publications in the field. Differences in answers to these questions appear to result both from the contingencies of plant breeders' experiences with particular crop varieties and growing environments, and from differences in social and institutional settings: plant breeding science is both objective truth and social construction. The goal of using a holistic framework is to encourage discussion among plant breeders, farmers, social scientists and others, of the bases for disagreements within plant breeding, in order to facilitate plant breeding's contribution to a more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable agriculture.

Full text from Agriculture and Human Values:
corrected figure 19(1):91: corrected figure