MUSTS Colloquium with Pierre Delvenne on Embedded Promissory Futures

Wednesday, November 30 2016, 15:30-17:00, in the Attic (Grote Gracht 80-82, Maastricht)

Embedded promissory futures: a socio-historical analysis of Argentina’s bioeconomy of GM soy

Abstract: The concept of the “bioeconomy” emphasizes the importance of the creation, appropriation and distribution of value generated by the incorporation of new forms of biological resources and organisms into the global capitalist system of production, trade and finance. The bioeconomy is relatively new in Argentina as a concept and a political project. This presentation will aim at understanding the bioeconomy’s situated emergence and at anticipating its future as a national political project. I will examine four decades of co-produced transformations at the political and technoscientific levels. In particular, I will address the “bioeconomy” of genetically modified (GM) soy in Argentina, the world’s third leading producer and exporter of GM crops. GM soy production is a central source of extraction of economic value, which has provided the economic oxygen to the country since it declared a partial default on its national debt in 2001. As of 2014, soy sector exports represented 28 percent of total Argentine exports and accounted for USD 20 billion in foreign income.

The presentation is based on fieldwork carried out between 2010 and 2016, as well as secondary sources (press articles, regulatory and legal documents). Fieldwork included 62 semi-structured interviews carried out with individuals in Buenos Aires and Rosario who are involved in the GM soy complex or who have had a say in the public discussion around it (including members of academia, public administration, seed and agrochemical companies, agricultural production, regulation, distribution sectors, financial investors, managers of sowing pools, and related civil society organizations). I will argue that the bioeconomy is at the center of intense imaginative activities to re-think agriculture as-we-knew-it, and to re-name it as “agro-industry”. These developments are evidence of an attempt to reject the idea of agriculture as the reactionary stronghold of a backward bourgeoisie and instead embrace agriculture as generative of an industrial avant-garde that promises political-economic transcendence.


Short bio: Pierre Delvenne holds a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences. He is Research Associate of the Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS) and the Co-Director of the SPIRAL Research Centre at the University of Liège, Belgium, where he coordinates the Research Unit in Science, Technology and Society.