Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America

By Gerardo Otero | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Social Movements and Techno-Democracy:
Reclaiming the Genetic Commons

MANUEL POITRAS

The commercialization of genetically engineered products from the mid1990s on was accompanied by the steady rise of activism and social movements against their use. Genetic engineering is by now a common issue in mass gatherings of the movement contesting the neoliberal character of globalization, and has motivated the creation of permanent campaigns on this issue in environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Social movements and activism around issues of genetic engineering have also emerged in parts of Latin America, with a timing, and with political and organizational characteristics, specific to the region in which they emerged and thus distinct from those of their counterparts in North America and Europe.

In this chapter I will examine the movements that have emerged in Mexico, and offer an interpretation of the meaning of these movements in the context of contemporary Mexico and Latin America. My goal is to provide an explanation for the rise of these movements that goes beyond the usual assumption that resistance arose because the movements involved are essentially anti-technology and anti-progress, or alternatively because the technology is essentially bad and thus must be rejected. The analytical framework used to interpret these movements draws from a specific understanding of the relationship between technology and politics, whereby the establishment of technological hegemonies is seen as an essential part of broader hegemonic politics. These concepts will be explained in the next section.

The interpretation proposed here views the resistance against commercial genetic engineering in agriculture as an essential part of the broader counter-hegemonic movement against neoliberal globalism. More specifically, I argue that the resistance to genetically modified organisms

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