Research Topic Title: Unearthing synthetic biology food futures and the changing ‘nature’ of production.
A global ethnography of stevia / ka’a he’ê.
What does it mean to make ‘natural’ products in a lab rather than source them from the ‘wild’ or grow them in farmers’ fields?
Genetic engineering innovations in synthetic biology and ‘cellular agriculture’ promote lab-grown plant products as offering a more sustainable and pure means of ‘natural’ production. However, the knowers, growers, gatherers, traders and users of such plants disagree.
My multi-sited ethnographic research takes as a lens the biosynthesis of one plant known as stevia as it transformed from ka’a he’ê, an Indigenous sacred herb, to a campesino cash crop, to cash molecule, to ‘cash DNA’, and finally as it enters the market as the first among a suite of biosynthetic ‘natural’ products. Following stevia across international supply chains, farms, Indigenous enclaves and global governance arenas, my research exposes the conflicts playing out on the front line of disruptive innovation in lab-grown food, and questions who benefits and what is at stake?
Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgeson (Sociology) & Professor Ian Cook (Geography)
Bond, M. R. & Scott, D. (2020) Digital biopiracy and the (dis)assembling of the Nagoya Protocol. Geofroum. Vol 117, pp. 24-32
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