Political Economy of Agricultural
Biotechnology in North America:
The Case of rBST in La Laguna, Mexico
GERARDO OTERO, MANUEL POITRAS, AND GABRIELA PECHLANER
At the turn of the twenty-first century, the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture was into its second decade. Dramatic advances were made in the late 1980s in recombinant veterinary products for animal farming and in genetically modified (GM) or transgenic crops by the mid-1990s. Yet the future of these advances raises some uncertainties, accompanied as they are by numerous legislative hurdles, consumer hesitation or outright rejection, active resistance by environmental and consumer groups, and even financial troubles facing biotech companies. In addition to these social and economic actors—the state, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, biotech firms, and finance capital—there are the direct users of the technology, farmers themselves, who have a significant role to play in determining the future of agricultural biotechnology.
This chapter investigates state policies and farmers' adoption patterns with respect to the controversial recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), a milk productivity-enhancing hormone for dairy cows. After a brief discussion of the rBST technology itself, the first section provides a comparative analysis of its regulation around the world, focusing on debates in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region. The second section provides a comparative discussion of the profitability of rBST through the use of La Laguna fieldwork materials in combination with studies on the U.S. experience. La Laguna, the most important dairy-producing region in Mexico, encompasses fifteen municipalities of two bordering states in the north-central part of the country: Coahuila and Durango. Fieldwork with dairy farmers in this region was conducted separately by two of the authors at the end of 1999 and in the summers of 2000 and 2001. The third section presents fieldwork data on the