Article

Preempting to nothing: neoliberalism and the fight to de/re-regulate agricultural biotechnology

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Abstract

On August 31th, 2006 the California Senate shelved SB1056, a bill which would have granted the State jurisdiction over the regulation of seed and nursery stock. Ostensibly proposed to ensure “a level playing field” for agricultural and food producers, SB1056 is one of a host of legislation drafted across the United States to preempt county and municipal bans on genetically engineered crops. In California, the heated struggle around “preemption” exemplifies the interweaving of neoliberal ideology with industry attempts to prevent an unfavorable regulatory environment, but more importantly the contingencies and vulnerabilities of this strategy. After reviewing SB1056’s history, this paper examines how a diverse opposition movement capitalized on the friction between the neoliberal arguments mobilized by supporters and dominant Californian political philosophies. The paper then highlights the ultimate effect of SB1056 through a critical exploration of current state and federal regulation and the entrenched interests of the California government. I argue that more than simply opening new spaces for accumulation, SB1056 would have muted opposition voices and transferred power to institutions financially committed to the technology’s commercialization.

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... Critical scholars have argued that this lack of regulatory oversight of ag-biotechnology reflects neoliberal ideology, discourses and practices that prioritize limited state intervention and regulation of business and markets (Binimelis et al., 2009;Kinchy et al., 2008;Roff, 2008;McCarthy and Prudham, 2004;Campbell and Pedersen, 2001;McAfee, 2003). From a neoliberal perspective, market forces alone should determine the shape and nature of economic development (e.g. which biotech products to develop), and industry should largely manage itself (e.g. ...
... manage the human safety and environmental risks associated with products). The state should facilitate this process by promoting the development, commercialization and uptake of new biotech products, both at home and abroad, as well as by protecting business product development and profits through legal protections, such as patent laws or property rights (Roff, 2008). Kinchy et al. (2008) argue that support for minimal state regulation of ag-biotechnology has been garnered through merging the ideology of neoliberalism with the ideology of scientism. ...
... Its strength derives from the assumption that science is value free and capable of transcending the messy world of interest-driven, value-based politics (Kleinman and Kinchy, 2003;Kinchy et al., 2008). Decisions regarding ag-biotech, therefore, should be based on a scientific assessment of risks, costs, and benefits, together with considerations regarding whether the decisions are economically expedient and rational (Kinchy et al., 2008;Roff, 2008). Together, neoliberal and scientism discourses are used by biotech proponents to "depoliticize ag-biotech" (Kinchy et al., 2008: 148). ...
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... By simultaneously expanding the power of a higher level of government and reducing the power of a lower level of government (Weiland 1999), preemption is a way to rescale, redistribute, and remove city and local government regulatory authority over planning, environmental hazards, and business activities. Prominent examples in the US and Texas include preemptive legislation pertaining to tobacco sales and smoking bans (Laposata et al 2014), city and regional sustainability planning efforts (Trapenberg Frick et al 2015), municipal bans on genetically engineered crops (Roff 2008), and local living wages (Lafer 2013) and non-discrimination ordinances (Blanchard 2015). ...
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... In examining the policies and actions of government and corporate players, we pay heed to Roff's (2008Roff's ( , p. 1424 contention that work centred on the "strategies used to legitimise or oppose biotechnology's advance" has tended to focus "largely on dominant discursive justifications and has not yet grappled with the multiple ways in which the present regime is contested and stabilized." In our account of the mobilisation of food security discourses in relation to contested agricultural futures in the UK and Australia, we consider the means by which agricultural biotechnology has been introduced and entrenched or resisted. ...
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First the Seed spotlights the history of plant breeding and shows how efforts to control the seed have shaped the emergence of the agricultural biotechnology industry. This second edition of a classic work in the political economy of science includes an extensive, new chapter updating the analysis to include the most recent developments in the struggle over the direction of crop genetic engineering. 1988 Cloth, 1990 Paperback, Cambridge University Press Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Award of the Agricultural History Society Winner of the Robert K. Merton Award of the American Sociological Association
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New global environmental institutions, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, have become staging grounds for resistance to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and to the market-based management of genetic resources that the WTO supports. The origins, limitations, and conflicts of WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement are elaborated. In contrast to the WTO, the CBD establishes an arguable basis in international law for taking non-economic criteria into account in biotechnology regulation. It recognizes the sovereignty of states over genetic and other resources within their territories. The U.S. government's commitment to promote the international expansion of its agricultural, pharmaceutical, and technology industries prevailed over U.S. environmentalists' desire for a comprehensive conservation treaty. Enforcement of intellectual property rights at the local level may be difficult in the face of growing defiance by social movements.
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This chapter investigates the global context of the controversy over genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), since active resistance to GEOs appears to have originated in northern and northwestern Europe, and then extended to the United States through trade rules and resistance to them. It argues that globalization and the World Trade Organization (WTO) may prove to be the Achilles' heel of GEOs and the agricultural-biotechnology industry. Considerable tension over trade in general—and agricultural trade in particular—has emerged as a result of the United States having forced the European Union's hand at the WTO. The factors that caused the repoliticization of agricultural biotechnology are provided. There are several additional uncertainties in the relationship between the GEO issue and the WTO. The increasing Third World tilt of corporate and state policy strategies in support of genetically engineered crops and foods could signal another plausible direction for GEO politics.
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This chapter discusses how the politics of consumption can both enliven and eviscerate broad public participation in technological decision making. It explores the current U.S. regulation of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) by describing the discursive terrain on which the battles are being fought and then providing a brief history of the existing regulatory impasse. The chapter also reviews the labeling and the lessons to be learned from the regulation of organic products. Both the Carter and Reagan administrations were strongly committed to rapid technological development as a vehicle for economic recovery, and they provided substantial tax incentives for investment in biotechnology. GEO labeling has the potential to replicate many of the pitfalls of organic regulation. Regulations must restrict supply not only by maintaining barriers to entry but also by prohibiting substitutes. Genetic engineering technologies do not exist in a vacuum but reflect deeper tendencies in the industrialization of agriculture itself.
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The contributors to this book have explored some of the diverse mechanisms by which genetic engineering is changing the relationships of humans with the rest of nature, the character of commodity production, and conflicts over the content of food. Activists have successfully broadened the discussion about genetically engineered goods by leveraging the role of consumers. The degree of ecological risk depends on a number of factors, including the extent to which fertile transgenic fish escape into the ecosystems of wild fish. The economic benefits of output-increasing genetically engineered organisms, whether fish or crops, will likely go primarily to the firms that own the patents on the organisms and to the producers who are early adopters of the technologies. Genetic engineering has increased at a rapid pace and has introduced significant transformations, so that the horizon is rushing toward a complex array of potential benefits and risks for humankind.
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This chapter investigates the character and impact of the new antibiotech movement. It first presents a sketch of what the movement looks like and of whom it comprises. The chapter also describes the domestic regulatory sphere, the international regulatory sphere, and the corporate sphere, and evaluates their effectiveness. It then addresses the strengths and limitations of this type of activism. Social activism has not only forced the issue of biotechnology firmly onto the regulatory agenda but has also complicated the economic lives of biotechnology corporations. The antibiotechnology movement has certainly not stopped the biotechnology train in its tracks. But it has reduced its velocity, possibly altered its trajectory, and created a great deal of uncertainty for the life sciences firms by means of a vigorous and sustained political engagement with both the industry and governing agencies.
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The breakthrough of genetic engineering and the subsequentformation of biotechnology as a strategic technology of the future comes at a time when science has become an object ofpolitical struggle and neoliberalism has experienced an upturn and has become hegemonic. This article shows how neoliberalism has proven itself able to cope effectively with a variety of opposing arguments, above all environmentalist and ethical. The patterns of the social structuring of biotechnology are analysed in thefields of innovation, risk management, patenting, biodiversity, and bioethics. With regard to the political and ethical void of the neoliberal strategy of biotechnology release, observations are given as to how it has beenfilled with an effective ideology and aesthetic of technology. In thefinal analysis, perspectives beyond an authoritariatn or subaltern technological deterninism are argued for, especially with reference to concepts of sustainable development within the framework of global and local economies.
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In this paper I critically assess the alleged process of globalisation of the world economy. Five interrelated themes are addressed. First, I argue that the 'real' myth of the globalisation discourse is part of an intensifying ideological, political, socioeconomic, and cultural struggle over the organisation of society and the position of the citizen therein. Second, the 'mythical' resurrection of the 'local' or 'regional' scale-both in theory and in practice-is an integral part of the 'myth' of globalisation. Third, the preeminence of the 'global' in much of the literature and political rhetoric obfuscates, marginalises, and silences an intense and ongoing sociospatial struggle in which the reconfiguration of spatial scales of governance takes a central position. Fourth, the 'rhetoric' of globalisation is paralleled by and facilitates the emergence of more authoritarian or at least autocratic forms of governance. Fifth, the proliferation of new modes and forms of resistance to the restless process of deterritorialisation-reterritorialisation of capital requires greater attention to 'spatial scale' in order to assess how the emerging new 'gestalt of scale' could be turned into an emancipatory and empowering process.
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In May of 2000, thousands of residents of the town of Walkerton, Ontario became ill from drinking municipal water contaminated by Escherichia coli and Campylobacter jejuni bacteria. Seven people died, while many suffered debilitating injuries. A highly unusual and risk prone local hydrological regime, coupled with manure spreading on farms near municipal wells, and lax oversight by municipal water utility officials, were quickly blamed by Ontario government figures, including then premier Mike Harris. However, the scandal surrounding Walkerton's tragedy and a subsequent public inquiry into the incident also implicated neoliberal reforms of environmental governance introduced by Harris's government subsequent to its election in 1995. This paper examines the Walkerton incident as an important example of a “normal accident” of neoliberalism, one that can be expected from neoliberal environmental regulatory reforms arising from systematic irresponsibility in environmental governance. This irresponsibility is promulgated by an overarching hostility to any regulatory interference with free markets, as well as specific regulatory gaps that produce environmental risks. The paper also serves as a case study of the extent to which neoliberalism is constituted by environmental governance reform, and conversely, how environmental governance reform is reconfigured as part of the emergent neoliberal mode of social regulation.
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1. Neoliberalism and the environmentNeoliberalism is the most powerful ideological andpolitical project in global governance to arise in thewake of Keynesianism, a status conveyed by trium-phalist phrases such as ‘‘the Washington consensus’’ andthe ‘‘end of history’’ (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Jessop,1994; Harvey, 2000; Peck, 2001). Yet the neoliberalproject is not hegemonic: it has been roundly criticizedand attacked, and it has faltered in a number of respects.In fact, the most nakedly extreme forms of neoliberalstate rollbacks and market triumphalism may well bepast, beaten back in places by virulent resistance (asurprise to those who believed history was at an end);undermined by the spectacular failures of neoliberalreforms judged even by the standards of neoliberalchampions (as in Argentina, for example); and replacedby ‘‘kinder, gentler,’’ Third Way variants (Peck andTickell, 2002).Neoliberalism’s adventures and misadventures areincreasingly well-chronicled,
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In this article we argue that while new kinds of political activism are flourishing in local areas, increasing partnership with economic development interests poses serious challenges to the political efficacy of environmental activism. We examine the shifting terrain of local political activism within the context of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, a new federal program designed to facilitate environmental preservation, economic development, and cultural preservation along U.S. rivers. This article is based on research done along the New River in North Carolina and Virginia with a collection of local groups organized into a regional partnership. That partnership exemplifies emerging forms of local political action under new regimes of state power and hybrid partnerships. We argue that if hybrid forms of environmental activism spread, with their emphasis on neoliberalism and ecological modernization, they will likely pose challenges for grassroots politics and, as has been the case along the New River, blunt the critical edge of the environmental critique. [environmental activism, neoliberalism, American Heritage Rivers Initiative, new social movements]
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Calls for community forestry on public forests grew in strength in both British Columbia and the United States during the 1990s, as part of a global movement touting the advantages of community control over centralized state administration of forests. Despite structural similarities, the trajectories of community forestry in the two locations diverged sharply, with community forests rapidly becoming a reality in British Columbia while similar proposals in the United States were blocked. This article explains these divergent trajectories by examining the differences in property relations, state institutions, stakeholder interests, and environmental social-movement strategies that led to nearly opposite outcomes in initially similar situations. It also analyzes community forestry in British Columbia relative to current debates over neoliberalism and alternative economies, arguing that detailed examination of such empirical examples demonstrates the utility of neoliberalism as an analytical concept.
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Recurrent themes in agrifood literature examine the shifting relationships between globalization,regulation and locality. Drawing on lessons from New Zealand’s pipfruit sector and the activities of the rural lobby group United Fruit,this paper evaluates the relative success of local contestation of the terms of neoliberalism and globalization. Arguments are made for reconceptualizing rural phenomena as inexorably linked to wider socio-economic processes of transformation in New Zealand and elsewhere.
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The 1989 privatization of the water supply sector in England and Wales is a much-cited model of market environmentalism—the introduction of market institutions to natural resource management as a means of reconciling goals of efficiency and environmental conservation. Yet, more than a decade after privatization, the application of market mechanisms to water supply management is much more limited than had been expected. Drawing on recent geographical research on commodities, this article analyzes the reasons for this retrenchment of the market environmentalist project. I make three related claims: resource commodification is a contested, partial, and transient process; commodification is distinct from privatization; and fresh water is a particularly uncooperative commodity. To illustrate these claims, I explore how water's geography underpinned the failure of commodification initiatives in England and Wales. I focus specifically on contradictions faced by industry regulators, water companies, and the government when attempting to implement direct competition, universal metering, and full-cost pricing of water supply. The failure to resolve these contradictions was a critical driver in the reregulation of the water supply industry and in the overall trend toward improvement in environmental and drinking water quality, a finding that underpins my closing argument—that neoliberalization is implicated in processes of reregulation that rescript the entitlements of both humans and nonhumans, with outcomes that are not necessarily negative for what we conventionally delimit as the environment.
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Recent changes in fisheries regulation in the U.S. North Pacific reveal how neoliberalism is constituted in practice, and the forms that neoliberalism takes when it engages with environmental management and ecological processes. Whereas neoliberalism can be taken as a political economic philosophy that posits that markets, without state involvement, can best allocate resources, the history and practice of neoliberalism show that it is not as unified as it often appears. Analysis of contemporary fisheries policy reveals not only contradictions in neoliberal approaches, but also how those contradictions are shaped by the environmental context of the industry. This article discusses the rationale for neoliberalism in fisheries and the governance changes enacted in the 1998 American Fisheries Act, which privatized the fishery for Alaska pollock by closing the fishery to all new entrants, providing a set percentage of the yearly catch to “cooperatives” of participants, and allowing individuals to lease their shares. Karl Polanyi's notion of the “double movement” provides a framework to argue that even though regulators tout these reforms because they rely on market mechanisms to resolve recalcitrant ecological and economic problems in these fisheries, writing and implementing the act simultaneously involved complex rule making designed to protect the market. This form of neoliberalism results from the history of fisheries regulation, including recent emphasis on cooperative management, and the ecological characteristics of marine fish. Moves to privatize the oceans entail developing distinctive forms of neoliberal practice that uniquely combine private industry and government regulation. Because fish are one of the last great resource commons, neoliberal approaches to fisheries mark a profound geographical transformation in the political economy of the oceans.
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  In 2002 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled to deny Harvard College a whole organism patent over the oncomouse. In 2004, the same court ruled that Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser had violated Monsanto patents covering GM canola. Both decisions rejected whole organism patents, running counter to US precedents. Yet both, nevertheless, consolidate private claims to life as patentable inventions, and critics claim, with some support from Justices in the Schmeiser case, that patents over genes amount to de facto patents over whole organisms. In this paper I argue these cases are broadly consistent with the notion of accumulation by dispossession as a means to expand the scale and scope of capital accumulation via so-called ‘extra-economic’ means. As such, I examine the cases as privatizations, but also as relational moments in the commodification of nature. However, in hoping to unpack and fill out this notion of the extra-economic, as well as to critically examine the necessarily incomplete character of commodification as a tendency, I look to the ways in which judges and interested activists deliberate over the economic, legal, ecological, ethical, and even metaphysical arguments and representations required to uphold discrete genes, processes, and whole organisms as inventions.
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This paper investigates why and how issues around the diffusion of GM technologies and products to developing countries have become so central to a debate which has shifted away from technical issues of cost-benefit optimisation in a context of uniform mass production and consumption in the North, to the moral case for GM crops to feed the hungry and aid ‘development’ in the South. Using comparison between agricultural biotechnology and the ‘Green Revolution’ as a cross cutting theme, the contributions of this paper are threefold. Firstly, by analysing biotechnology as a set of overlapping frames within a discursive formation, four frames are identified which summarise key challenges presented by biotechnology era. Secondly, the use of Foucault's concept of bio-power to synthesise key themes from the frame analysis illuminates the ‘revolutionary’ nature of the biotech revolution. Thirdly, the potential of actor-network theory to provide a tools for the empirical study of processes of (re)negotiation of nature/society relations in the context of agricultural biotechnology controversies is explored.
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This article traces the emergence of industrial tree improvement along the Pacific Slope of western Oregon and Washington. Anxieties about timber famine in the United States prompted research on forest genetics and Douglas-fir provenance as far back as 1913, while diminishing supplies of old-growth timber resources in this region led to tree improvement—systematic tree breeding to enhance commercially attractive characteristics—on an industrial scale beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout, tree improvement has been characterized by a preponderance of co-operation among private, otherwise competitive capitalist firms, with considerable support from state agencies and from science in both research and applied settings. Pacific Slope tree improvement is explored as a case study of the social production of nature by capital and science, particularly the ways in which, in response to natural-resource constraints, the reproductive biology of forest trees has been increasingly targeted, appropriated, and subsumed as a source of industrial productivity. The general absence of exclusively private, proprietary approaches to tree improvement is discussed as a reflection of a set of particular biophysical challenges, including the “problem” of biological time. Thus, while biophysical nature is increasingly socially produced through tree improvement, the social organization of tree improvement bears the inscription of biophysical nature. The article closes with an examination of one of the main avenues by which biotechnology—including genetic engineering—is being incorporated into tree improvement. The new technological possibilities and opportunities for establishing exclusive property rights over plant varieties that biotechnology entails may lead to a more complete model of commodification in tree improvement. Some evidence of such change is already apparent. Though forestry biotechnology is subject to regulatory and wider social sanction, its advent reinforces a main theme in the article: that social and environmental change are interlocking, dialectical processes.
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The history of the controversy overrecombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is exploredin terms of the issue of the potential robustness ofa consumption-driven ``new'' politics of food andagriculture. It is noted that while the dominanthistorical traditions in the social sciences haveserved to discount the autonomous role that consumersand consumption play in modern societies, there hasbeen growing interest in consumption within foodstudies as well as other bodies of scholarship such aspostmodernism, social constructivism, socialcapital/social distinction, and environmentalsociology. A review of the shifting pattern ofdiscourses during the rBGH controversy shows thatconsumption-driven claims and politics played atangible, but relatively minor role. Even so, it issuggested that the rBGH experience along with paralleltrends in food politics (e.g., anti-pesticidecampaigns such as the ``Alar scare,'' agribusinessattempts to intimidate opponents through fooddisparagement laws, conditions-of-productionprovisions of the World Trade Organization agreement)could make the consumption/consumer dimension of foodpolitics more important in the future.
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Biotechnology innovations in field crops are jointly regulated by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, with the objectives of ensuring safety of the environment and human health. The coordination mechanism has been criticized, but seems likely to persist, barring some dramatic safety failure. Economic analysis has established costs of alternative refugia requirements for insect-resistance technologies, but has to date contributed little else to determining the nature and extent of regulatory oversight.
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In 1973, Jim Hightower and his associates at the Agribusiness Accountability Project dropped a bombshell – Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times – on the land-grant college and agricultural science establishments. From the early 1970s until roughly 1990, Hightower-style criticism of and activism toward the public agricultural research system focused on a set of closely interrelated themes: the tendencies for the publicly supported research enterprise to be an unwarranted taxpayer subsidy of agribusiness, for agricultural research and extension to favor large farmers and be disadvantageous for family farmers, for public research to stress mechanization while ignoring the concerns and interests of farm workers, and for the research and extension establishment to ignore rural poverty and other rural social problems. By 1990, however, there had been a quite fundamental restructuring of the agricultural technology opposition movement – one that is not often well recognized. Two overarching changes had occurred. First, agricultural-technology activism had shifted from contesting land-grant/public research priorities and practices to contesting private agribusiness technological priorities and practices. Second, the relatively integrated, overarching Hightower-type opposition had undergone bifurcation into two quite distinct social movements: the agricultural sustainability/local food systems movement on one hand, and the anti-GM food/crop and anti-food-system-globalization movement on the other. In this paper I explore the causes and consequences of these restructurings of the agricultural research and technology opposition movement. Chief among the major factors involved was the fact that “Hightowerism'' involved an ineffectual representational politics. Hightowerist claims – especially the claim that land-grant research was detrimental to family farmers – generated little support among the groups it claimed to represent (particularly “small'' or “family'' farmers). The two successor movements, by contrast, have relatively clear and dependable constituents. Further, the progressive molecularization of agricultural research, which proved to be both an antecedent and consequence of corporate involvement in agricultural research in the US, has decisively changed the issues that are contested by technology activists. Since the age of Hightower, the agricultural technology activist movement has shifted its 1970s and early 1980s emphasis from contesting public sector/land-grant research priorities to contesting private sector activities, particularly genetic engineering, GM crops, and globalization of agricultural technologies and regulatory practices. Even the sustainability/localism wing of the new agricultural technology movement configuration has progressively backed away from contesting public research priorities. The efforts of the sustainable agricultural and localism movement have increasingly focused on quasi-private efforts such as community supported agriculture, green/“value-added'' labeling and marketing strategies, and community food security. Some implications of this increasingly bifurcated, agricultural technology, activist movement configuration in which there is decreased interest in land-grant/public research priorities are discussed.
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Biotechnology regulation has been dogged by allegations of bias, usually phrased in terms of ‘conflicts of interest’. Social constructionist analyses of regulatory science have shown up serious epistemological difficulties with such ‘interest’ explanations of regulatory power, but in the process they have also destabilised the platforms such as ‘objectivity’, upon which critiques of regulatory bias are usually grounded. This paper argues that their critical impotence follows from not being constructivist enough. Building on Hajer’s notions of ‘story-lines’ and ‘discourse coalitions’, it argues that recovering the non-human, material components that construct regulation offers sufficiently firm ground for evaluating regulatory power even in the absence of the firm benchmarks assumed by interest accounts. The paper develops this approach by focusing on a single story-line, characterised as ‘scientism’, as it is deployed in the build up to a European Union (EU) ban on bovine somatotrophin, the first food-related product of the ‘new biotechnology’. The essay ends by discussing how far this retrospective analysis can help us to understand and intervene in the current and future EU regulation of biotechnology.
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This article reviews how the process of corporatization transforms public sector management by adopting private sector principles. It argues that corporatization, as an institutional form emerging from a second wave of neoliberalism, threatens to undermine the democratic accountability of local authorities by virtue of restructuring the state in ways that are invisible to the public yet with highly negative outcomes for low-income communities. The article provides a case study on the water sector in Cape Town, South Africa by tracing the local authority's adoption of three cost-recovery policies and their impacts on low-income households over a five year period (1997–2001). Engineers are the key agents in the promotion of cost-recovery policies in the efforts to deliver services more `efficiently'. While these officials are highly skilled professionals in dealing with the technical side of the production process, they lack the social training necessary to deal with the politics of distribution. The prominence of the neoliberal agenda in urban management can be in part be attributed to the power of the technical over the political as engineers displace politicians in the deliberations over how to deliver services to poor areas of the city.
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In this article, the evolving forms of biodiversity politics are examined in the light of regulation theory and in the tradition of materialistic state theory (Gramsci, Poulantzas, etc.). Biodiversity politics is not so much oriented toward the conservation of biodiversity as towards the creation of a stable political–institutional framework for its commercialization. In this contested and contradictory process, the nation state plays a crucial role. After a few remarks on the theoretical assumptions, some basic elements of the international regulation system of genetic resources are presented. The main topics of international biodiversity politics beside conservation are: access to biodiversity and its genetic resources, benefit sharing from its use and intellectual property rights. A major problem of this system is the relationship between varying negotiation processes in different fora. Another closely connected problem is the contradictory relationship between different regulatory levels at different spatial scales (international, regional, local). These contradictions are analyzed for the case of Mexico. Central issues of Mexican biodiversity politics, and the different actors, forces and interests are outlined and discussed against our initial theoretical reflections. Bioprospecting projects in the south of Mexico have raised questions of legal and legitimate forms of access, which have generated growing concern and significant disputes within Mexico. Finally, some conclusions are drawn, binding together the theoretical with the empirical results of our study.
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Recent multilateral trade agreements are among the major manifestations of neoliberalism. They are also emerging as some of the most important sites of environmental governance in the 21st century. I argue here that these trade agreements, particularly the sweeping new protections they provide for investors, are redefining property rights and environmental governance in fundamental ways. I suggest that in addition to furthering the centuries-long process of the enclosure of nature under capitalism, the neoliberal agenda of NAFTA and similar trade agreements also involves something new: the privatization, or primitive accumulation, of conditions of production as an accumulation strategy. I explore these dynamics through examination of two cases, one in the United States and one in Mexico. I also explore the roles of social movements in these dynamics.
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This paper uses a case study to provide a critical assessment of arguments underlying market-based environmental policy. Market approaches, which rely on economic incentives and property rights to achieve environmental goals, have become increasingly popular in the past two decades. Proponents argue that market approaches should replace “command and control” regulation, which works by penalizing environmentally harmful behavior. Synthesizing results of previous research on political economy of the North Pacific pollock fishery, this paper provides evidence that contradicts hypotheses derived from the logic of market approaches. First, a lack of property rights is not the underlying cause of problems in this fishery, but instead problems were created by the institutional context of fishery development. Second, market and regulatory approaches to this fishery are not necessarily contradictory and inherently incompatible. Both markets and regulation create both economic opportunities and constraints, markets alone are not enough to protect the environment, and markets require regulation to function. Because the market approach is based on a general logic that is supposed to be universally applicable, results from this case reveal potential flaws in the market approach more generally.