Contentious politics, contentious knowledges : mobilising against GM crops in India, South Africa and Brazil
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Debates about science and technology are central to the future of development. No recent controversy has highlighted this as much as the debates about genetically-modified (GM) crops. Looking at the experiences of anti-GM activism in India, South Africa and Brazil, this paper explores how knowledge and politics are intertwined in mobilisation processes. These interactions are fundamentally shaped by different local and national contexts of history, politics and economics, but also influenced by global connections. Through a documentation of the unfolding of the anti-GM campaigns in the three sites over the past decade, the paper shows how strategic alliances have been formed – across actors and across debates – which have allowed concerns about GM crops to be inserted into public policy debates. The strategies and tactics used by anti-GM activist networks are explored across seven ‘spaces’ for citizen engagement: formal, invited spaces; informal networking and lobbying; party political and electoral processes; the legal process and the courts; research, practice and demonstration sites; protest and direct action; and the media. The case studies highlight the constraints and limitations of activist mobilisation, and how alternative knowledge framings and perspectives on science, technology and policy are often silenced. The paper concludes with a discussion of the ways forward, focusing on the need to bring consideration of wider politics and values into deliberations about future science and technology options, with a move beyond standard mechanisms and processes for deliberation and negotiation about science and technology policy. Keywords: GM crops, mobilisation, South Africa, Brazil, India.