Unnatural Growth: The Political Economy
of Biotechnology in Mexico
Biotechnology has been said to hold unique promises both for peasants and for the hungry. A number of ex ante studies considering the technological potential of biotechnology have proposed that this set of technologies, including genetic engineering, is distinct from Green Revolution technologies and should lead to more positive development outcomes (Barajas 1991). Notably, in contrast to the Green Revolution package of hybrid seeds and agrochemicals, biotechnologies have been said to be scale-neutral, and thus potentially beneficial to producers of any size. However, the analysis of the actual political economy of the introduction and use of genetically engineered technologies in a developing country such as Mexico, as will be presented here, leads to different conclusions. I will first introduce recent modifications to the intellectual property rights regime and to the regulation of this most crucial agricultural input, the seed. I will then analyze state responses to the new agricultural biotechnologies by reviewing the regulation of the use of these technologies in Mexican agriculture, and the position of public research on this matter. Finally, I will present the private sector's outlook regarding these technologies by looking at the transgenic products that have been commercialized in Mexico so far, as well as the strategies of the only life science company of Mexican capital, Pulsar. What will come out of this analysis is that the mode of introduction of genetic engineering technologies into the Mexican countryside in the current context of neoliberal political economy does not favor their use by peasant farmers.
What characterizes the general political economic context for the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in the Mexican countryside is a situation in which technological change in agriculture is the preserve of capital-rich producers. This situation is reinforced by the current credit