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Anti-genetic engineering activism and scientized politics in the case of “contaminated” Mexican maize

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  • Abby Kinchy


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    The struggle over genetically-engineered (GE) maize in Mexico reveals a deep conflict over the criteria used in the governance of agri-food systems. Policy debate on the topic of GE maize has become “scientized,” granting experts a high level of political authority, and narrowing the regulatory domain to matters that can be adjudicated on the basis of scientific information or “managed” by environmental experts. While scientization would seem to narrow opportunities for public participation, this study finds that Mexican activists acting “in defense of maize” engage science in multiple ways, using and producing scientific knowledge as well as treating scientific discussions as a stage for launching complex social critiques. Drawing from research in science and technology studies, this article assesses the impacts and pitfalls of three tactics used by maize activists that respond to the scientization of biotechnology politics: (1) using scientific information as a resource; (2) participating in scientific research; and (3) reframing policy problems as broadly social, rather than as solely scientific or technical. The obstacles that maize activists have faced in carrying out each of these efforts indicate that despite diverse and sophisticated engagements between social movements and the scientific field, scientization remains a significant institutional barrier to democratizing agricultural governance. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

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    Article provided by Springer & The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS) in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 27 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 505-517

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:505-517
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9253-2
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    1. Daniela Soleri & David Cleveland, 2006. "Transgenic Maize and Mexican Maize Diversity: Risky Synergy?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(1), pages 27-31, 03.
    2. Elizabeth Fitting, 2006. "Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(1), pages 15-26, 03.
    3. Mauricio Bellon & Julien Berthaud, 2006. "Traditional Mexican Agricultural Systems and the Potential Impacts of Transgenic Varieties on Maize Diversity," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(1), pages 3-14, 03.
    4. Aarti Gupta & Robert Falkner, 2006. "The Influence of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: Comparing Mexico, China and South Africa," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 6(4), pages 23-55, November.
    5. Alejandro Nadal, 2006. "Mexico’s Corn-Producing Sector: A Commentary," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(1), pages 33-36, 03.
    6. Daniel Kleinman & Abby Kinchy, 2007. "Against the neoliberal steamroller? The Biosafety Protocol and the social regulation of agricultural biotechnologies," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(2), pages 195-206, June.
    7. Driedger, S. Michelle & Eyles, John, 2001. "Organochlorines and breast cancer: : the uses of scientific evidence in claimsmaking," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 1589-1605, May.
    8. Peter Weingart, 1999. "Scientific expertise and political accountability: paradoxes of science in politics," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 151-161, June.
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