Emerging Technologies in an Unequal World
Edited by Susan Cozzens and Dhanaraj Thakur
Chapter 4: Strong champions, strong regulations: the unexpected boundaries of genetically modified corn
Genetically modified (GM) or engineered crops with significantly increased yields have the potential to improve farm income and overall well-being of individuals in both developed and developing countries. Potential benefits from GM varieties can accrue to seed producers, farmers of GM crops, and to consumers or the society in general. Despite the proclaimed benefits, however, the cultivation of GM crops, including GM corn, remains uneven across countries. Further, within countries that have widescale adoption, the distribution of benefits from the technology varies widely. This chapter examines how differences in the patterns of development and diffusion of the technology, socio-economic conditions, and specific policy contexts influence distributional consequences associated with the use of GM corn in the case study countries. The recombinant insulin story in Chapter 3 featured a small set of multinational firms based in Europe and the United States, which shaped their regulatory environments and used intellectual property laws to maintain control of a broadly used essential medicine. The technological champions in the GM corn story are also big multinationals that develop and package the product to maximize their own benefit, swallowing up smaller firms and local expertise along the way. The champions encounter one distributional boundary in the regulatory systems, as potential markets in some European Union (EU) and African countries place strict conditions on the use of the technologies on the grounds of risk.
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