Sociologists have traditionally been concerned with technological change. We now find renewed research interest in the social impacts and risks of biotechnology. Many public and key opinion leaders recognize that closer attention must be paid to tradeoffs, uncertainties, and negative consequences related to biotechnology. Sociologists have a number of important roles to play in ensuring that the benefits of biotechnology outweigh the potential risks. This paper examines several important issues about agricultural biotechnology that have not yet received adequate attention from sociologists. The nature of biotechnology as an innovation and as a risky technology is examined. Particular attention is aid to public perceptions of biotechnology. Research opportunities and challenges in the analysis of the biotechnology research and development system are presented. Implications of the complex nature of biotechnology for social impact assessment are described. Research opportunities in the area of risk management and perception are discussed.

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