Vale Dr Janet Grice

Janet Grice – well known to many of us in AFRN – died in her sleep in Rockhampton, Queensland, on Tuesday 19 May.

After completing a degree in mathematics at Central Queensland University she became a Research Assistant, in 1994, on a national project on the social aspects of agri-biotechnologies, working alongside Geoff Lawrence. Her interest in the topic blossomed and she commenced a PhD in 1995, which was awarded in 1999. Entitled ‘Science, Technology and the Risk Society: Australian Consumers’ Attitudes to Genetically-Engineered Foods’ the thesis harnessed Janet’s quantitative research skills to examine findings, from a national sample of adults, on attitudes to GM foods. She utilised the theoretical approach of Ulrich Beck to ascertain the extent to which consumers were concerned with biotechnological risks. It was an excellent study and led to the publication of many chapters, journal articles and conference papers. Janet was also a co-author of the highly successful book Altered Genes – Reconstructing Nature which was in the New Scientist bestseller list from May to July 1999, reaching No 7 in the latter month.

Janet was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland in 2003, where she continued researching public attitudes to farming and food-based biotechnologies. She was co-recipient of a prestigious Australian Research Council grant to enable her to continue her research. She later joined the New Zealand-based Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CSAFE) where she continued to practice social science-based research. While at the Centre she was part of a team that raised over $800,000 to examine public attitudes to biotechnologies in New Zealand. She was also a leading contributor to a set of insights into sustainable agriculture that began to illuminate the role of ‘green conventional’ farmers in promoting sustainable land-use. Janet was also the ringleader of years of social events, parties, barbeques and late-night adventures in her ongoing mission to bring what she considered to be ‘Australian standards of enjoyment to a cold southern town’. When Janet left Dunedin to move closer to her family, she left us all a little more bereft of fun and laughter.

Rigorous in her research, Janet was able to grapple with complex problems and to create insightful and original findings. She was popular among staff and students alike and was, for many years, a strong contributor to the meetings, discussions and social life of the Agri-Food Research Network. Her intellectual legacy – being among the first to publish cutting-edge research on community attitudes to biotechnology and genetic engineering – will be a lasting one. We are sure you will join us in expressing sorrow at Janet’s passing.


Geoffrey Lawrence
Emeritus Professor of Sociology
The University of Queensland

Hugh Campbell
Professor of Sociology and Head of Department,
Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work
University of Otago

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