CRISPR-ing Agriculture: producing science, seeds, and pathways of development

Authors: Maywa Montenegro*, Human Ecology, UC Davis
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Development
Keywords: CRISPR, agriculture, food, political ecology, biotechnology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since its discovery in 2012, CRISPR-Cas9 has emerged as a powerful tool for gene editing, suffusing fields from basic biological research to applications in pharmaceuticals and agriculture. CRISPR is a molecular Swiss Army knife, capable of sequence modifications, targeted transgene insertions, and gene knockouts. Such capabilities bring into relief CRISPR’s potential for agriculture, as seen in projects underway at university, industry, and government laboratories worldwide. CRISPR, however, presents a conundrum for agri-food systems, particularly in the Global South. While scientific and industrial developments are progressing quickly, societal and government understanding and involvement lags behind. Questions have already surfaced about genomic editing advancing a new wave of Green Revolution appropriation: the expansion of global commodity markets, introduction of intellectual property rights, and replacement, displacement, and contamination of local agrobiodiversity. Yet pathways of CRISPR development are not predetermined or passive. This paper is grounded in early investigations of CRISPR-Cas9 development at the University of California Berkeley and Davis. It asks: how is the production of CRISPR science and knowledge shaping the trajectories of its possible applications and uses? Which traits are being developed, and for whose benefit? Who will decide, and according to which criteria?

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