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Biotechnology Resistance in Guatemala: Unlikely allies and uncommon critiques

Authors: Carrie Seay-Fleming*, University of Colorado - Boulder
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Food systems, Cultural and Political ecology, Guatemala, Latin America, Food justice
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Despite pressure from transnational corporations and powerful trade partners, Guatemala has been unable to pass legislation that would legalize the sale and distribution of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This struggle came to a head in 2014, when Congress attempted to pass a law establishing intellectual property rights for plant breeders and instituting harsh penalties for the unlawful use of these seeds. Broad based mass mobilizations ensued leading Congress to eventually repeal the law. Accounts of these events have labeled the movement a re-articulation of Mayan struggles while at the same time attributing the movement’s success to its ethnic and class heterogeneity. This paper untangles the complexity of resistance to GMOs in Guatemala, drawing on accounts of the diverse actors involved in these struggles. I examine differences, both ideological and tactical, as articulated in their resistance to the ML as well as how these actors imagine themselves in relation to one another. I show how aspects of the plant protection law itself and the historical moment in which it arose created space for more palatable forms of resistance for those unlikely allies of the cause. In particular, I demonstrate how urban, professional class Guatemalans articulate their opposition as fundamentally “technical”, aligning themselves with science and the law. These findings exemplify Gramsci’s ideas about hegemony-- how even countermovement’s that destabilize hegemony can fail to ultimately challenge it.

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