Fighting for the Future of Food

Fighting for the Future of Food

Activists versus Agribusiness in the Struggle over Biotechnology

Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro

How activists changed the trajectory of the new agricultural biotechnologies

280 Pages, 6 x 9 in



Fighting for the Future of Food

Activists versus Agribusiness in the Struggle over Biotechnology

Series: Social Movements, Protest and Contention

Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro

ISBN: 9780816647620

Publication date: August 5th, 2010

280 Pages

8 x 5

"Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro take a fresh and carefully balanced look at the social movement spawned by this technology. Anyone who wants to understand why groups across the globe oppose genetically modified foods will find this book revelatory." —Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and Safe Food

"Fighting for the Future of Food provides a new and compelling account of the contemporary struggles over agricultural biotechnology. This superb depiction of the cultural and social lifeworlds of both the agro-industries and of the activists, simultaneously reveals the hubris and market ambition of agro-genetic engineering and of the formation of an oppositional ideology.  A brave and unflinching account of the world of contemporary agribusiness and its opponents." —Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley

"Compelling and eminently readable account." —Global Environmental Politics


"This volume provides an excellent account of many of the complex twists and turns of the GMO debates in the United States, Europe, and Africa over the last thirty years." —Contemporary Sociology


"With Fighting for the Future of Food, Schurman and Munro deliver an empirically and theoretically revealing, politically dedicated and very readable account of one of the biggest protest movements of today." —Social Movement Studies


"All scholars will admire the breathtaking methodology of the book, a fine example of conjunctural analysiswoven together by a coherent argument and clear architecture. . . . It must be read." —Economic Geography

When scientists working in the agricultural biotechnology industry first altered the genetic material of one organism by introducing genes from an entirely different organism, the reaction was generally enthusiastic. To many, these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) promised to solve the challenges faced by farmers and to relieve world hunger. Yet within a decade, this "gene revolution" had abruptly stalled. Widespread protests against the potential dangers of "Frankenfoods" and the patenting of seed supplies in the developing world forced the industry to change course. As a result, in the late 1990s, some of the world's largest firms reduced their investment in the agricultural sector, narrowed their focus to a few select crops, or sold off their agricultural divisions altogether.

Fighting for the Future of Food tells the story of how a small group of social activists, working together across tables, continents, and the Internet, took on the biotech industry and achieved stunning success. Rachel Schurman and William A. Munro detail how the anti-biotech movement managed to alter public perceptions about GMOs and close markets to such products. Drawing strength from an alternative worldview that sustained its members' sense of urgency and commitment, the anti-GMO movement exploited political opportunities created by the organization and culture of the biotechnology industry itself.

Fighting for the Future of Food ultimately addresses society's understanding and trust (or mistrust) of technological innovation and the complexities of the global agricultural system that provides our food.

Rachel Schurman is associate professor of sociology and global studies at the University of Minnesota. She is coeditor of Engineering Trouble: Biotechnology and Its Discontents.
William A. Munro is professor of political science and director of the international studies program at Illinois Wesleyan University. He is author of The Moral Economy of the State: Conservation, Community Development, and State-Making in Zimbabwe.
William A. Munro is professor of political science and director of international studies at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Introduction: The Contending Worlds of Biotechnology
1. Precursors to Protest
2. Creating an Industry Actor
3. Forging a Global Movement
4. The Struggle over Biotechnology in Western Europe
5. Creating Controversy in the United States
6. Biotech Battles and Agricultural Development in Africa
Conclusion: A Different Future for Biotechnology?
Appendix: Data Sources