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Food for the Few

Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America

Edited by Gerardo Otero

Publication Year: 2008

Recent decades have seen tremendous changes in Latin America's agricultural sector, resulting from a broad program of liberalization instigated under pressure from the United States, the IMF, and the World Bank. Tariffs have been lifted, agricultural markets have been opened and privatized, land reform policies have been restricted or eliminated, and the perspective has shifted radically toward exportation rather than toward the goal of feeding local citizens. Examining the impact of these transformations, the contributors to Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America paint a somber portrait, describing local peasant farmers who have been made responsible for protecting impossibly vast areas of biodiversity, or are forced to specialize in one genetically modified crop, or who become low-wage workers within a capitalized farm complex. Using dozens of examples such as these, the deleterious consequences are surveyed from the perspectives of experts in diverse fields, including anthropology, economics, geography, political science, and sociology. From Kathy McAfee's “Exporting Crop Biotechnology: The Myth of Molecular Miracles,” to Liz Fitting's “Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity,” Food for the Few balances disturbing findings with hopeful assessments of emerging grassroots alternatives. Surveying not only the Latin American conditions that led to bankruptcy for countless farmers but also the North's practices, such as the heavy subsidies implemented to protect North American farmers, these essays represent a comprehensive, keenly informed response to a pivotal global crisis.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Throughout this project, I benefited from a Standard Grant from the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council of Canada, which I thankfully acknowledge. Thanks to Yolanda Massieu for suggesting the first part of the book’s title. She also contributed by assessing some of the initial chapter proposals for this volume. Manuel Poitras offered invaluable help...

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pp. xi-xiii

Latin America’s agriculture has been one of the economic sectors most negatively affected by the neoliberal reform set off in the 1980s. In most countries, a broad program of agricultural liberalization was launched under pressure from the United States and suprastate organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Economic liberalization generally included...

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CHAPTER 1. Neoliberal Globalism and the Biotechnology Revolution: Economic and Historical Context

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pp. 1-30

Agricultural biotechnology is poised to “make deserts bloom,” solve the world’s food problems, and put an end to hunger. Or is it? Industry proponents and others advocated similar views in regard to the previous agricultural revolution—the Green Revolution of the 1970s. When agricultural biotechnology was still in the laboratory or field-trial stage of ...

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CHAPTER 2. Latin American Agriculture, Food, and Biotechnology: Temperate Dietary Pattern Adoption and Unsustainability

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pp. 31-60

The main proposition addressed in this chapter is that, with the globalization of capitalism, national agricultures in Latin America have increasingly conformed to temperate-climate food consumption and production patterns. Because the Green Revolution has been effectively transferred, at least to the regions with irrigated agriculture, Latin America has become technologically dependent...

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CHAPTER 3. Exporting Crop Biotechnology: The Myth of Molecular Miracles

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pp. 61-90

It is often asserted that genetically engineered crops can prevent a looming crisis of global agricultural productivity. Enthusiasts assert that these new, transgenic crops—varieties containing genes introduced in the laboratory—are essential to produce sufficient food for a burgeoning world population, and that they can avert ecological damage from the expansion of agriculture...

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CHAPTER 4. Biosafety Regulation and Global Governance: The Problem of Absentee Expertise in Latin America

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pp. 91-114

Global developments are putting pressure on Latin American countries to construct regulatory frameworks that open the path for a smooth introduction of transgenic crops. Prompting demands for regulations are a series of factors, including technological uncertainties; potential high risks such as biosafety, human health, and changes in agrarian structures; the ethics of modifying nature; and the huge economic interests involved....

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CHAPTER 5. Unnatural Growth: The Political Economy of Biotechnology in Mexico

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pp. 115-134

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...

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CHAPTER 6. Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity

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pp. 135-158

Some of the earliest maize cobs on record have been found by archaeologists in the Tehuac

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CHAPTER 7. Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology in North America: The Case of rBST in La Laguna, Mexico

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pp. 159-188

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...

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CHAPTER 8. Genetically Modified Soybeans and the Crisis of Argentina’s Agriculture Model

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pp. 189-216

One of the most dramatic consequences of the current Argentine crisis is the suffering of millions of hungry people who have experienced a widespread decline in their living conditions. In 2001, at the height of the crisis, over half the population—20 million persons, according to official figures—was living below the poverty line. Around one in four was ...

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CHAPTER 9. Brazilian Biotechnology Governance: Consensus and Conflict over Genetically Modified Crops

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pp. 217-242

The Brazilian case of biotechnology governance represents a key test in understanding the future global distribution of genetically modified (GM) crops. In Brazil, a legal moratorium against commercial planting of GM crops was in force from 1998 to 2003; however, contraband or “Maradona” soybeans occupied significant areas of cropland, especially in...

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CHAPTER 10. Brazilian Farmers at a Crossroads: Biotech Industrialization of Agriculture or New Alternatives for Family Farmers?

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pp. 243-266

As the world’s second largest soybean producer and exporter, Brazil has emerged as an important battlefield in the global conflict over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) since the late 1990s. Given the fact that the majority of soybean growers in the United States and Argentina have already adopted the associated package of new technologies, European...

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

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pp. 267-288

The commercialization of genetically engineered products from the mid-1990s 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...

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CHAPTER 12. Conclusion: Food for the Few?

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pp. 289-300

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...

About the Contributors

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pp. 301-305


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pp. 305-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794252
E-ISBN-10: 0292794258
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292717701
Print-ISBN-10: 0292717709

Page Count: 335
Illustrations: 2 maps, 2 figures, 14 tables
Publication Year: 2008