Thursday, September 4, 2014

Study Finds Argentina’s Soy Boom Model Socially and Ecologically Unsustainable


Dear Friends and Colleagues

Re: Study Finds Argentina’s Soy Boom Model Socially and Ecologically Unsustainable 

A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Geoforum examines the growth and impact of Argentina’s agro-export model (called modelo sojero) of large-scale mechanized production of genetically engineered (GE) soy in the socio-economic context.  

GE soy was introduced in Argentina in 1996 and the country is the third largest global grower and exporter of GE soy today. The study finds that although Argentina has profited greatly from its transition to GE soy, there is a “fundamental conflict” between the so-called success of the industry and socio-ecological sustainability.  

Radical changes in the socio-ecological dynamics in Argentina cited include: increased inequality due to concentration of landholdings and agribusinesses, rural displacement through violent dispossession of land, the loss of food security and health hazards due to agrochemical exposure and disruption of the ecosystem including from deforestation, loss of biodiversity, emergence of glyphosate-resistant superweeds, nutrient depletion, and air pollution. The paper describes how small and medium-scale food producers have been increasingly forced to abandon their traditional crops to plant GE soy because it is the only crop that gives them enough money for the next growing season. However, small farmers remain at a huge disadvantage in a model that unfairly favours industrial farms with many being forced to rent or sell their plots, thereby exiting farming completely. 

The paper concludes, In sum, the policies taken to allegedly protect domestic food consumption have actually produced food insecurity. Argentina….has lost its food sovereignty. The GM soy-based agro-export model as currently configured in Argentina is a socially and ecologically unsustainable model of development.” The author calls for a broader analytical framework in to appraise new agrarian technologies not in themselves, but as they are embedded in the social and environmental context.  

The full citation for the article is: Leguizamón, A. Modifying Argentina: GM soy and socio-environmental change. Geoforum (2013), 10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.04.001. The abstract is reproduced below.

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Amalia Leguizamón

The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10016, United States

This paper examines Argentina’s agro-export strategy for socioeconomic development based on the adoption and expansion of genetically modified (GM) soy. The modelo sojero a model based on large scale mechanized production of GM soy, is widely praised at home and abroad and used as an example of “success” for other poor countries on the brink of adopting GM biotechnologies for socio-economic development. In this work I interrogate and contextualize this dominant representation of the success associated with Argentina’s soy boom. Indeed, in terms of economic growth Argentina’s transition to GM soy has been a success. However the GM-induced soybean boom is illusory when other factors are taken into consideration, most importantly its impact on socioenvironmental dynamics. Thus, I argue that there is a fundamental conflict between the narrative of “success” of the Argentinean GM soy boom and socio-ecological sustainability. After an introduction, section two looks at the historical context of GM soy adoption in Argentina and shows the trend of expansion of production since the adoption of the new GM biotechnology. Section three explores the socio-environmental impact of the GM soy-based agrarian transformation in Argentina. Section four looks at the current context of the Argentinean soybean boom. Thus, it focuses on Argentina’s current domestic political economy, particularly the Kirchners’ National-Popular model. I argue that the GM soy-based agro-export model as currently configured in Argentina is a socially and ecologically unsustainable model of national development.

Source: GM Watch

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