Seeds of Discontent: The Effects of Genetically Modified Crops on Food, Farms and Our Future



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Many who support the technology of genetic modification do so because they believe that when it is used to alter crop plants that it will make substantial improvements to our agricultural system and to the lives of those suffering malnutrition and starvation. They believe that using genetics to increase plant yields will be environmentally benign and that the benefits of producing more with less outweigh any negative risks of using the technology. However, genetic modification is about more than using genetics to create more food: the technology both shapes and is shaped by the social context of which it is a part. In order to understand the true complexity of what genetic modification does one has to understand not only the scientific means by which genetic modification is carried out but also the social context of its adoption. How does it affect the plants that are altered? What effects are realized in the ecosystem as a whole? How will it affect the food choices of citizens? How will it affect farmers and the choices they can make about their livelihood? What objections are considered to be legitimate and why? What is the new role of the state in testing and regulating such a technology? These are just some of the questions that must be asked and answered in order to understand the magnitude of changes genetic modification generates. In this thesis I argue both against the logic of production embedded in and continued by genetic modification and also the privatization of knowledge that genetic modification creates. In addition to representing a new form of knowledge to which ownership rights are established, genetic modification also embodies the use of science as a hegemonic lens through which to evaluate the world. The technology continues an erosion of the environmental, scientific, knowledge, and discourse commons, severely narrowing our view of agricultural problems as and limiting our ability to identify solutions. This loss of the public sphere not only constrains our agency in agricultural decision making but greatly lessens our ability to collectively chart the best course of action for all.



Genetically modified food, Bt, corn, patents, risk