October 27, 2019 - Caroline

RPP #7: Qualitative Data Sources

For small-n research, I am particularly interested in studying the roles that language and information play in pesticide use along the commodity chain for Bayer-Monsanto concerning glyphosate.

My small-n research question is:

What explains the success or failure of regulating glyphosate in certain countries?

The dependent variable is the outcome in an attempt to regulate glyphosate. For now, I am defining “success” and “failure” pretty broadly. “Success” includes if the sale or use of glyphosate is suspended or outlawed (even if it is later relaxed) and “failure” is continuous, mostly unchecked use. In other words, “success” would be the introduction of and effective enaction of legislation on glyphosate bans or restrictions on a national level. To qualitatively operationalize the outcome of success or failure, I would analyze government documents (if available) and official government statements from local news sources explaining why or why not action was taken against glyphosate. There is no one concise collection of official statements from other countries available, so local news sources are extremely helpful. For example, Bermuda suspended any importation of glyphosate following studies on its carcinogenetic effects in 2015, and its Minister of Health Jeanne Atherden’s full statement outlines the ban along with the departments it covers.[1] Another example is an EPA document explaining its decision to officially declare that there are no public health risks when glyphosate is used properly and that it is not a carcinogen.[2] The language used in these statements (like if the chemical is recognized as a carcinogen or not) reflects the outcome of regulating glyphosate and whether or not a case would be viewed as a “success” or “failure.” Internal company documents made public in the Monsanto Papers are useful in researching and gaining a better understanding of how corporate information influences policymaking.[3]

For cases, I am considering having four countries—possibly two where glyphosate is banned and two where it is not. I would then analyze how language used or information available affected whether or not it was deemed unsafe and banned. I would also like to incorporate the three core actors in the glyphosate commodity chain—the input suppliers (for my research purposes the MNC Bayer-Monsanto), primary producers (farmers), and consumers. Because difficulties “regulating complexity” stem from their not being located in one country alone, I think it would be more insightful to follow glyphosate along its commodity chain to see how it is perceived or used by these groups affects if it is banned or not. I am leaning towards having these actors represent how my independent variable(s) are indicated.

[1] “Bermuda Suspends Glyphosate-Ridden Roundup Indefinitely,” Natural Society, last modified May 13, 2015, accessed October 27, 2019, https://naturalsociety.com/bermuda-suspends-glyphosate-ridden-roundup-indefinitely/.

[2] “Glyphosate: Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision Case Number 0178,” EPA, April 2019, Accessed October 27, 2019, file:///C:/Users/cspow/Downloads/EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361-2344.pdf

[3]“The Monsanto Papers-Master Chart,” Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman PC, Accessed October 26, 2019, http://baumhedlundlaw.com/pdf/monsanto-documents/monsanto-documents-chart-101217.pdf

Research / SISOlson / SISOlson19


  • Caroline — you have some relevant data sources here that are relevant to the operationalization of your DV and to establishing the value that the DV would take in a given case. Remember, though, that in this methodology the question should focus on the specific cases and the known outcomes that you are proposing to explain (e.g. “why did Kennedy pursue a transformative strategy and Johnson a non-transformative strategy in Vietnam?” to use the Saunders article as an example.) We also need to know the value of the DV in each case now, so the data that you are discussing should help you decide what that value is (in your case, that would mean stating here whether you think your potential cases are success or failures given the data you discuss). Sometimes the “success/failure” idea gets in the way of clearly stating what it is that the case study / case comparison aims to explain, so it might be more helpful to state clearly the events or policy changes (linked to a place and a time) that you are proposing to analyze.

    Your idea to focus on particular actors as part of the analysis is good, but remember that the IVs that you identify should span the range of potential factors that could explain the outcomes (there are likely factors more than just actors that would explain the successes and failures that you identify). For your sketch, make sure to remember that you have a range of potential explanations from existing scholarship that you should think about incorporating as potential explanatory factors to research.

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