A few weeks ago I was honored to learn that my article, “We Are Not Starving: Challenging Genetically Modified Seeds and Development in Ghana” (2018, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment) received the 2019 Boahen-Wilks Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Article in Ghana Studies.
Many thanks to the prize committee — Gretchen Bauer, Isidore Lobnibe, David Donkor and Ben Talton — for the award; Nana Akua Anyidoho, for your dedicated service to the Ghana Studies Association; and Brandi Janssen for helping the article find a home at CAFE.
This fascinating article provides an interdisciplinary story of the history, politics and science behind the debates on GMOs in Ghana. By analyzing discursive narratives of donors, activists, officials and scientists as well as Ghana’s history of agricultural commercialization, the author demonstrates how the county’s relative good standing in food security indicators influences and shapes how Ghanaians talk about GMOs. Rock’s ethnographic research offers a deeper level understanding of the views of activists and officials and scientists than is available from media reports, moving past narratives of GMO resistance to show the social realities – concerns about representation, modernity and sovereignty – in which GMOs are embedded.
“We are not Starving” uses the author’s interaction with Susie to introduce the problem (the character of public response to GMOs) and argument (both Ghanaian scientists and GMO activists are unsatisfied with donor-imposed constructions of GMO-related realities). “Greening the Dark Continent” points out “donors’ neoliberal positioning that overlooks the structural causes of poverty and insufficient food access,” and blames marginalized communities for their predicaments in ways that invoke ideas of Africa as the dark continent. The next sections place GMO developments in Ghana within “A History of Agricultural Modernization.” Thereafter, “Ghanaian Food Sovereignty Activism” points out how food sovereignty activists in Ghana directly challenge discourse of the African continent (and African farmers) as deficient and unequipped for modernity. “Scientific Entanglements” describes a similar stance among Ghanaian officials and scientists doing GMO-related work. Although entrenched in international donor/development networks, they critique the discourses and practices of those very donors. Rock concludes by reiterating that both activists and scientists and officials share a desire for sovereign agricultural science and development.
This is an empirically and theoretically rich article that provides great insights into a contested topic in Ghana. It does an excellent job of contextualizing the core issues. It places Ghana at the center of analysis, and makes a significant contribution to Ghana Studies.