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“Our Seeds Know Our Soil”: Knowledge, Power, and Resistance to GM Food in India

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In contrast to Zambia, where poverty predominates like a heavy blanket over the landscape, India is a country of contradictions. Roughshod rickshaw drivers chatter away on sparkling new cellphones as they brazenly dodge cows, bicycles, and the odd elephant that share the streets with belching buses and shiny late-model cars. In a country that has outsourced its information technology workforce and insourced work that much of the developed world neither wants nor can afford to do, the issue of GM food spans as diverse and colorful a spectrum as everything else.

Which is not to say that it necessarily registers high on the radar screen of the average Indian citizen. In Zambia at the time of the food aid crisis, even taxi drivers were willing and able to weigh in on the issue of GM food. In contrast, in India the discourse surrounding GM food festers in isolated pockets around the country, where dueling friends and foes of the technology build isolated empires that often register greater impact outside their own country than within.

Leading the opposition to GM foods in India are a triumvirate of Western- educated scholars who have taken what the West has to offer (mostly degrees and a certain level of status) and returned to their native country intending to use their knowledge and power to defend, or at least define, a better direction for their country than following in the footsteps of the biotech multinationals. These are the voices that often speak of the indigenous food and farming traditions of their diverse nation. They speak of the potential for India to “go it on its own,” keeping its knowledge intact rather than selling it out to the sharks of corporate science, which would rather steal than share the wealth of information that the country has amassed over its generations. Despite frequently speaking on the part of the poor and impoverished, the leaders of India's anti-biotech bastion remain for the most part members of the elite, living comfortably and commanding a position from which their voices are heard round the world.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 10, 2008

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