Agricultural Biotechnology

Development discourse creates a narrative of the African continent as a singular, hungry place in need of urgent intervention. One intervention being pursued by international donors and African research councils are genetically modified (GM) crops.

Since 2013, I have been examining efforts by an international consortium of US government agencies, private foundations and agribusiness corporations to research, design and commercialize GM crops in select African countries.

In my first project (2013-present), I examine controversy surrounding the commercialization of GM crops in Ghana with a focus on plant breeding, regulatory and patent law, and anti-GM activism. I employ an ethnographic methodology to examine the intersections of taste, identity and commercialization across three sets of actors: Ghanaian scientists and bureaucrats working on GM projects, a large and active social movement opposing those projects, and farmers caught in the middle. A day in the life of this project looks something like this.

My second project (2018-present) expands my original inquiry to half a dozen African countries where GM crops are either commercialized or under field trial. My current goals are two-fold:

  1. to map the complex international networks supporting GM crops for Africa, and;
  2. to monitor and assess the adoption and application of biosafety laws.

My research has been generously funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Fulbright-Hays Program, American University, and Explorers Club Washington Group.