How the debate over genetically modified crops in India is transforming science and politics
Genetically modified or transgenic crops are controversial across the world. Advocates see such crops as crucial to feeding the world’s growing population; critics oppose them for pushing farmers deeper into ecological and economic distress, and for shoring up the power of agribusinesses. India leads the world in terms of the intensity of democratic engagement with transgenic crops. Anthropologist Aniket Aga excavates the genealogy of conflicts of interest and disputes over truth that animate the ongoing debate in India around the commercial release of transgenic food crops. The debate may well transform agriculture and food irreversibly in a country already witness to widespread agrarian distress, and over 300,000 suicides by farmers in the last two decades. Aga illustrates how state, science, and agrarian capitalism interact in novel ways to transform how democracy is lived and understood, and sheds light on the dynamics of technological change in populous, unequal polities.
About the Author
Aniket Aga is an associate professor of environmental studies at Ashoka University in Sonipat, Haryana, India. His research on science, politics, and agrarian change in India won the 2016 Sardar Patel Award from UCLA, and the 2019–20 Bharadwaj‑Wolf Prize from the Journal of Peasant Studies.
“Aniket Aga’s Genetically Modified Democracy explores transgenic crops in all their historical and contextual contingency, revealing what they can tell us about state practice, bureaucracy, justice claims, and the agrarian economy.”—Sarah Besky, author of Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea
“Anyone interested in the intersections of science, policy and democracy in the Global South will find Genetically Modified Democracy a fascinating case study, and anyone interested in the future of the world’s most populous democracy and the crisis of its agrarian sector will find many important insights.”—Ian Scoones, co-director STEPS Centre, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
“With sensitivity and analytical insight, Aniket Aga lays bare the invisible links between governmental ambitions, science-technology claims, and civil society assertions that are now cultivating new cultures in India’s agriculture.”—A.R. Vasavi, author of Shadow Space: Suicides and the Predicament of Rural India
“With crystal clarity, Aniket Aga delivers a deeply textured analysis of India’s scientific enterprises, regulatory agencies, and home-grown businesses in the GM revolution. The result deftly complicates global accounts of the GM controversy.”—Julie Guthman, author of Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry
“Technologies don’t float freely. In this superlatively detailed ethnography, Aniket Aga shows the pesticide industry sparred with its opponents from the fields to the Supreme Court in India, demonstrating how technology and state come to constitute, and reconstitute, one another.”—Raj Patel, Research Professor, University of Texas at Austin