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Issues in the Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology

Chataway, J   Wield, D   Bolo, M

Journal of Agrarian Change, Special Issue: Productive Forces in Capitalist Agriculture: Political Economy and Political Ecology   10 (3) 342-366

July 2010   (First published online June 2010)

Agricultural biotechnology is typically analyzed critically by means of a political ecological focus on the science and its ecological implications – agbio science as a radical, and ‘non-natural’, break with ‘normal’ trajectories for ‘new plant science’. Surprisingly, less attention has been paid to a range of key political economic issues, many of which were important in the last big food production technology ‘revolution’, the Green Revolution. This paper will focus on three areas of political economy. First, we discuss the corporate drivers of agricultural biotechnology, and examine whether these drivers have already set the technology so that it cannot be changed. Second, we investigate the present economics and technology of genetic modification in plants, and its possible future. Third, we examine empirical evidence for alternative visions of the technology.