Conclusion: Food for the Few?
GERARDO OTERO AND GABRIELA PECHLANER
The purpose of this concluding chapter is to offer a conceptual wrap-up of the foregoing discussions, address potential alternatives, and propose a research agenda. What does it all mean for Latin American countries? First, looking at the general overview chapters of Latin America and the case studies from three of its largest countries makes it very clear that the export of the U.S. model of modern agriculture has some very particular effects for this region. In the introductory chapter, Gerardo Otero outlined some potential concerns over the export of this model to developing countries. As we indicated in Chapter 2, a number of social issues with this model already became apparent with the introduction of Green Revolution technologies in the postwar period. Kathy McAfee highlighted the “geographies of difference” and how these make a direct transfer of genetic engineering products, designed for U.S. conditions, highly problematic. Both socioeconomic profiles of most Latin American producers, and the specific ecological conditions of the region, make it imperative to move toward a locally based, bottom-up approach to plant breeding.
The case studies presented here substantiate many of these concerns and draw further attention to three issue areas of particular salience to the Latin American agricultural biotechnology experience: social polarization at the national level, international equity, and environmental impacts. These will be discussed in more detail below. The case for the development of an alternative to the technological paradigm offered by biotechnology as the continuation of modern agriculture is weak, but imagining an outline is possible. Finally, we will offer some areas for future research on how the biotechnology revolution is affecting agrarian social structures, biodiversity, and the environment.