Based on the widely held notion that a crisis can be an opportunity for learning and change, as well as cause members of society to (re)evaluate the roles and effectiveness of key institutions, I conducted research in 2007 to explore: To what extent did the BSE crisis serve as an opportunity for learning and changes?
I examined evidence of learning and changes in the perceptions, practices and organization of government representatives and beef producers in the Peace Country M.D. 135 in Alberta, Canada. Semi-structured open-ended interviews with beef producers in the Peace District (N=10), as well as government representatives such as ministers, agricultural extension agents and field officers (N=10).
In Canada, there are two divergent perspectives on the BSE crisis. The first is that Canada had learned numerous lessons, that the crisis was well-managed and is now resolved, and BSE will be eliminated from the Canadian herd in the next decade. The other is that the lessons have not been learned to the degree of reflexive modernization and, that BSE is a symptom of underlying problems in modern intensive agriculture. The same factors that prevented reflexivity in the BSE crisis may play a role in turning food safety issues into crises in the future. For specific details of the findings, see attached poster.