Fighting for the Future of Food: Activists versus Agribusiness in the Struggle over Biotechnology

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U of Minnesota Press, Nov 30, 2013 - Science - 296 pages

When scientists working in the agricultural biotechnology industry first altered the genetic material of one organism by introducing genes from an entirely different organism, the reaction was generally enthusiastic. To many, these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) promised to solve the challenges faced by farmers and to relieve world hunger. Yet within a decade, this “gene revolution” had abruptly stalled. Widespread protests against the potential dangers of “Frankenfoods” and the patenting of seed supplies in the developing world forced the industry to change course. As a result, in the late 1990s, some of the world’s largest firms reduced their investment in the agricultural sector, narrowed their focus to a few select crops, or sold off their agricultural divisions altogether.

Fighting for the Future of Food tells the story of how a small group of social activists, working together across tables, continents, and the Internet, took on the biotech industry and achieved stunning success. Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro detail how the anti-biotech movement managed to alter public perceptions about GMOs and close markets to such products. Drawing strength from an alternative worldview that sustained its members’ sense of urgency and commitment, the anti-GMO movement exploited political opportunities created by the organization and culture of the biotechnology industry itself.

Fighting for the Future of Food ultimately addresses society’s understanding and trust (or mistrust) of technological innovation and the complexities of the global agricultural system that provides our food.

 

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Contents

1 Precursors to Protest
1
2 Creating an Industry Actor
15
3 Forging a Global Movement
51
4 The Struggle over Biotechnology in Western Europe
83
5 Creating Controversy in the United States
117
6 Biotech Battles and Agricultural Development in Africa
147
A Different Future for Biotechnology?
179
Acknowledgments
193
Data Sources
197
Notes
199
Bibliography
227
Index
243
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Rachel Schurman is associate professor of sociology and global studies at the University of Minnesota. She is coeditor of Engineering Trouble: Biotechnology and Its Discontents.

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