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The sticky materiality of neo-liberal neonatures: GMOs and the agrarian question

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  • Myles Carroll

Abstract

This article uses Marxist theories of agrarian capitalism to explore the political economy of genetically modified organisms (GMO) agriculture. It argues that the successes and failures of GMO agriculture have been partly circumscribed by the structural requirements of the capitalist system, as well as by the materiality of GMO crops themselves. Successful innovations have been able to mitigate the material barriers to accumulation found in agricultural production, and thus appeal directly to farmers as comparatively profitable capital inputs. In this way, they cohere with David Goodman’s notion of appropriationism, where manufactured capital inputs (such as pesticides, machinery and fertilisers) replace ‘natural’ inputs (such as manure or draft animals), reducing labour time and biological contingency, and thus creating a competitive advantage for those farmers who adopt the new technology (at least temporarily). Conversely, innovations that are geared at consumers rather than farmers have largely failed due to their status as value-added products (whose value is subjective and market-driven) rather than capital goods. The article uses contrasting case studies of herbicide-tolerant soybeans, beta-keratin-enhanced rice and slow-ripening tomatoes to demonstrate how and why the structural imperatives of global capitalism have enabled the success of some, and the failure of other innovations.

Suggested Citation

  • Myles Carroll, 2017. "The sticky materiality of neo-liberal neonatures: GMOs and the agrarian question," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 203-218, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:cnpexx:v:22:y:2017:i:2:p:203-218
    DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2016.1214696
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    1. Daniel W. Drezner, 2007. "Bringing the Great Powers Back In, from All Politics Is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes," Introductory Chapters,in: All Politics Is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes Princeton University Press.
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