Agricultural Biotechnology Reconsidered Book CoverAgricultural Biotechnology Reconsidered: Western Narratives and African Alternatives. (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2005).

Abstract

Since the 1980s, advances in biotechnology have captured the popular imagination. Mainstream accounts of the new technology have emphasized both the potential dangers and the possible benefits. The rise of commercial biotechnology has generated extensive debate between its advocates-for whom recent innovations will lead to cures for nearly every disease known to humanity while simultaneously curing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty-and its critics, who warn that biotechnology will create new environmental dilemmas and ultimately prove unable to deliver any of the benefits its advocates claim. Both positions, however, are overstated. Biotechnology is unlikely to prove either as beneficial or as dangerous as either its advocates or critics contend. Instead, biotechnology is a tool that, as like any other, reflects the social conditions of its production. In this book, I seek to understand the nature of those conditions, examining in particular the position of science and technology in capitalism. I outline the contours of commercial biotechnology in the context of global capitalism. Beginning from the premise that technology is socially mediated, reflecting the conditions of its development and production, I explore the way in which biotechnology has developed as a commercial enterprise in the United States, transitioning from its early beginnings as a field of academic research into a major focus of American high technology and competitive advantage. I explore the impact that (now globalized) biotechnology has on Southern Africa. Finally, I analyze the development of other models of agricultural research and production-Zimbabwe’s system of maize research and the African Model Law-which highlight important alternatives to the capital-intensive farming and research practices of the United States.

Review of Agricultural Biotechnology Reconsidered by Toyin Falola. Journal of African and Asian Studies, Vol. 42, No. 351 (2007).