Genetically Modified Crops & the Dispossession of Farming Communities

November 14, 2009 - 8:00pm
Ashok Kumbamu, PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Alberta, speaks on "How Introducing Genetically Modified Crops Can Lead to the Dispossession of Farming Communities." Saturday, November 14, 2009, at 1 p.m. in the Meeting Room of the Riverbend Public Library, 460 Riverbend Square, Rabbit Hill Road and Terwillegar Drive. Everyone welcome!

Sponsored by ND Edmonton-Whitemud. For further information, call 780-993-0839.


Born in Southern India, Ashok Kumbamu received his Master’s degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague, Netherlands. At the University of Alberta he is completing a PhD in Sociology with a thesis on the implications for sustainability of agriculture of adopting genetically modified crops. His broader interests include environmental sociology, agrarian studies, science and technology, development and globalization, and social movements. He has published numerous book chapters and scientific papers.


The Green Revolution package combining miracle seeds, controlled irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, and related farm management skills was introduced with the objective of averting the Malthusian specter of famine. These new agricultural technologies have helped to boost global food production by 270% with only a 7% increase in land under food grain crop cultivation.

Despite this tremendous increase in food grain production, the “Green Revolution” did not completely solve the problem of feeding the world’s rapidly growing population. Since feeding the world’s rapidly growing population was not solved through the Green Revolution’s technological interventions, a new “war on hunger,” using cutting-edge technologies in molecular and cell biology, often discussed under the general rubric of “biotechnology,” or the “Gene Revolution,” is now being waged.

From the “Green Revolution” to the “Gene Revolution,” the proponents of the new technology claim that the technology is “pro-poor,” ‘‘need-driven,’’ ‘‘sustainable,’’ ‘‘humane,’’ and ‘‘neutral’’­ i.e., beneficial for small and big farmers alike. But critics disagree, and identify concerns about the safety of food, the potential environmental impacts, human and animal health, the erosion of agro-biodiversity, farmers’ rights, community well-being, and rural livelihoods. With the advent of genetically modified (GM) technology, there have been growing trends in the commodification of both agricultural inputs and outputs, consolidation of the seed industry, and monopolization of research and development. The new technologies thus reproduce inequalities within societies as well as the technological dependency between countries.

My talk will focus on the strategies and mechanisms of global capitalism that enabled the restructuring of global agri-food systems, and dispossession of millions of farmers across the globe from their means of production as well as the conditions of production. Particularly, it examines three important mechanisms of agricultural globalization: (i) technological mechanisms (the technological paradigm shift from the “Green Revolution” to the “Gene Revolution”), (ii) institutional mechanisms (the restructuring of international agricultural research and development institutions), and (iii) legal mechanisms (the imposition of a stringent patent regime). Also, I will discuss the implications of agricultural restructuring in Canada for farming communities in Alberta.


Meeting Room, Riverbend Public Library
460 Riverbend Square (Rabbit Hill Road & Terwillegar Drive)
Edmonton , AB