UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Defining symbolic spaces in response to a globalized world : incorporating GMOs and segregating markets in Mexican agriculture Goodman, Jessica Lauren


Developing countries are increasingly adopting agricultural biotechnologies to meet domestic objectives of food security, industrialization, increasing commodity exports, and international competitiveness. Yet, developing country policies lack coherence and are often conflicting and contradictory. Prevalent theories on the adoption of such technologies focus on trade relationships, regime membership, institutional capacity, consumer and producer acceptance, and environmental concerns. This thesis argues there is a need to move beyond static or uni-causal explanations. It proposes a framework that incorporates notions of symbolic politics as essential components. Incoherent national policies reflect national objectives and international constraints, as well as the concerns of society as expressed through resistance campaigns. The latter seek to influence national policies by framing GMOs in relation to broader societal concerns. By organizing resistance around a specific resource or symbol associated with conceptualizations of culture, identity, and autonomy, such movements are able to alter the meanings associated with GM crops. Thus, it is through the mobilization of symbolic politics that organized opposition is able to succeed in influencing national legislation in areas dominated by trade concerns, material interests, and power politics. This argument is explored though a narrative analysis of policy development in Mexico. Despite its history of promoting biotechnologies, it has not yet introduced GM maize due to effective resistance, as maize is a powerful symbol throughout the nation. This thesis also briefly considers the cases of Brazil and India as useful contrast cases that allow us to draw larger implications.

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