When scientists working in the agricultural biotechnology industry first altered the genetic material of one organism by introducing genes from an entirely different organism, the reaction was generally enthusiastic.
To many, these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) promised to solve the challenges faced by farmers and to relieve world hunger. Yet within a decade, this “gene revolution” had abruptly stalled.
Widespread protests against the potential dangers of “Frankenfoods” and the patenting of seed supplies in the developing world forced the industry to change course. As a result, in the late 1990s, some of the world’s largest firms reduced their investment in the agricultural sector, narrowed their focus to a few select crops, or sold off their agricultural divisions altogether.
Fighting for the Future of Food by Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro tells the story of how a small group of social activists, working together across tables, continents, and the Internet, took on the biotech industry and achieved stunning success. Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro detail how the anti-biotech movement managed to alter public perceptions about GMOs and close markets to such products. Drawing strength from an alternative worldview that sustained its members’ sense of urgency and commitment, the anti-GMO movement exploited political opportunities created by the organization and culture of the biotechnology industry itself.
Fighting for the Future of Food ultimately addresses society’s understanding and trust (or mistrust) of technological innovation and the complexities of the global agricultural system that provides our food.
"Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro take a fresh and carefully balanced look at the social movement spawned by this technology. Anyone who wants to understand why groups across the globe oppose genetically modified foods will find this book revelatory," says Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and Safe Food.
"Fighting for the Future of Food provides a new and compelling account of the contemporary struggles over agricultural biotechnology. This superb depiction of the cultural and social lifeworlds of both the agro-industries and of the activists, simultaneously reveals the hubris and market ambition of agro-genetic engineering and of the formation of an oppositional ideology. A brave and unflinching account of the world of contemporary agribusiness and its opponents," says Michael Watts of the University of California, Berkeley.
Rachel Schurman is associate professor of sociology and global studies at the University of Minnesota. She is coeditor of Engineering Trouble: Biotechnology and Its Discontents.
William A. Munro is professor of political science and director of the international studies program at Illinois Wesleyan University. He is author of The Moral Economy of the State: Conservation, Community Development, and State-Making in Zimbabwe.