Biotechnology: A Woman's Business

By Kneen, Cathleen | WE International, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Biotechnology: A Woman's Business


Kneen, Cathleen, WE International


Biotechnology: A Woman's Business

by Cathleen Kneen

Simply put, biotechnology encompasses all methods of changing the internal makeup, the genetic pattern, of an organism to make it behave in a way which it would not otherwise have done, thus creating a product which is deemed useful or commercially viable. Sometimes genetic manipulation is carried out with material from the organism itself, such as the "anti-sense" gene in the Calgeneis tomato which supposedly slows down the ripening process. Sometimes it is a question of transferring genetic material from one organism to another across species, including animals and humans.

When we think of biotechnology as a women's issue, what immediately comes to mind are the new reproductive technologies. There are a number of additional issues for women and for the human community which these technologies raise. Fundamental to all of them, however, is the issue of ownership and control.

This is not disinterested science. Commercial value is dictated, not only by the cost of research and development of these technologies, but also by the process itself. Once upon a time, every gardener and farmer would seek out the plants which exhibited characteristics she wanted: taste, time of ripening, size, productivity, whatever. She would carefully collect seeds of these plants and use them for her next crop, or trade them.

With the discovery of hybrids, we have plants which, when interbred, are capable of producing a seed that is more vigorous or productive than either of its parents, but which will not "breed true". This means that seed from the daughter plant will not reproduce the characteristics of it parents: the farmer has to purchase from the seed company annually. This process has been furthered with patenting, where the new seed is the property of the company and may not be reproduced without royalties paid to the patent holder. Clearly, the control is in the hands of the seed companies, and they are ensured that farmers are dependent on them.

Biotechnology is another step in this process of corporate dependency. The majority of biotechnology patents are in "crop protection": they enable the crop to resist, not just pests or disease, but the deleterious effects of particular herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. A good example is Monsantois "Roundup Ready" crops which can survive treatments with the company's own agrotoxin: major seed companies are owned by major chemical companies.

Saving seeds to locally sell a ready crop is not a simple circumvention of this system. To begin, corner stores and supermarkets alike are locked into supply agreements with the few major distributors remaining: California, Florida, or Mexican produce is stocked and selling in stores even at the height of more northern local growing seasons. Supply times, quantity, quality and price are set by distributors and chains. In order to ensure that one can produce within such parameters, producers find themselves using all the industrial inputs, from seeds to agrotoxins, which have been designed precisely to fulfill this scenario.

Though most of the world's farmers are women, they are generally involved in small-scale or subsistence production, with produce destinations being their families or immediate neighbourhoods. The dominant mode of agriculture is quite different; it is an industry operating on an upwardly linear model, producing commodities for a global market. This is the agriculture that shows on Gross Domestic Product statistics, and through which we characterize whole countries as producers of one or another commodity (as in the infamous banana republics of Central America).

Success for a farmer is defined in business terms of profit, rather than on human terms of community health and welfare. Among the outward marks of success are the large machines which characterize the male role in agriculture. The ideology surrounding this agriculture makes it very difficult to even think of alternatives to the definitions of progress embedded in its system.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Biotechnology: A Woman's Business
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.