Anticipating the future: 'Biotechnology for the poor' as unrealized promise?

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This article analyses visions of the future articulated by proponents of `biotechnology for the poor¿, those who claim that an embrace of transgenic technology in agriculture is critical to alleviating poverty in developing countries. Specifically, we analyse how such `biotechnology for the poor¿ proponents represent a future with or without transgenic crops. Such representations include visions of a beckoning (promising) future, where much is to be gained from an embrace of transgenic technology in agriculture, and an onrushing (threatening) future, where much will be lost if the technology is not embraced. The article shows that claims about a beckoning or onrushing future by `biotechnology for the poor¿ proponents are based upon unexamined or problematic assumptions about the poor and poverty. As such, poverty becomes merely a moral backdrop against which visions of a future are articulated. Furthermore, `biotechnology for the poor¿ writings do not engage in dialogue with alternative voices in articulating their perspectives on the future, losing a key opportunity to democratize debate about this crucial issue. We conclude by considering the policy consequences (in regulatory and institutional terms) of `biotechnology for the poor¿ depictions of the future, particularly for the global South where such consequences will be felt
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-445
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • developing-countries
  • agricultural biotechnology
  • crop biotechnology
  • gm crops
  • governance
  • revolution
  • biosafety
  • poverty
  • science
  • world

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