Seeds of Globalization and India’s Global Activists

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM
Columbia Hall 10 (Washington Hilton)
Prakash Kumar, Colorado State University–Fort Collins
This paper highlights the continuum between the “global” and the “local” in interrogating the nature of resistance against the expansion of genetically modified crops or GM crops in India. The arrival of agricultural biotechnology in the 1980s and 90s enabled harvesting of seeds with desirable characteristics with through genetic modification. These technologies appeared in the Euro-American arena and its backers used these techniques for creating GM plants that they sought to globalize. The same decades in India were marked by wide-ranging social movements against the arc of technological change in Indian agriculture. Here the opposition to the prospect of launch of genetically modified Bt cotton in the nineties got embedded within existing movements against long-term trends in technological change from the “green revolution” era to the times that were pregnant with possibilities for a comprehensive transformation of Indian agriculture with GMOs. This paper specifically spotlights the operations and alliances of Indian activists in the global arena where they gained familiarity with and understanding of the upcoming regime of the World Trade Organization and its purported violence for the developing world in voicing their opposition to GM seeds. Somewhat ironically the global activism of Indian critics underwrote their endeavor to seek autonomy from the laws of international agencies and the market operations of multinational corporations through a moral condemnation of GM seeds in Gandhian terms. Globality opened the way for channeling the demand for autonomy, authenticity of local knowledge, diversity, and culture in India. The expansionary movement of GM seeds from the west and the participation of Indian activists in oppositional movements in local and global arenas afford an opportunity to study the complex entanglements of the “local” and the “global.” This nexus was apparent in historical precedents, cultural meanings, and the politico-economic salience of the anti-GMO movement in India.
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