The Factish in the Field

An Anthropological Inquiry of Genetically Modified Seeds and Yields as Beings

  • Andrew Flachs Purdue University

Abstract

Research in GM crops is of pressing importance to biotechnologists, development economists, government officials, and concerned citizens.  Each of these stakeholders carries preconceived notions of success and failure that not only influence how data regarding GM crops is shared but also reify the objective reality of GM seeds as a technology that might exist outside the idiosyncracies of a farmer’s field.  In this essay, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among GM cotton planting farmers in Telangana, India to deconstruct the process by which scientific facts are created, leveraged, and then divorced from their subjective contexts in agricultural research.  In paying closer attention to the ways that the science of agricultural development has limited possibilities of farmer experience and transformed GM seeds into autonomous beings, this paper attempts to take up Latour’s call for a compositionist investigation of a common world slowly assembled by its constituent actors.