Skip to main content
Doctoral thesis, 2013

From Betterment to Bt maize

Jacobson, Klara

Abstract

Agriculture has received renewed attention in poverty reduction efforts in Africa in recent years, and there are hopes that GM crops could have an important role in helping increase smallholder yields and reduce poverty. Drawing on critical discourse analysis (CDA) and livelihoods perspectives, this thesis examines the ideas governing the Massive Food Production Programme (MFPP), an agricultural development programme aiming to reduce poverty by raising agricultural production in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, and its local effects when implemented in smallholder communities. In particular, the effects of introduction of Bt maize, genetically modified to be resistant to some potentially damaging insects in the region, were studied. The results reveal that the programme was not equipped to support the improvement of smallholders' livelihoods through agriculture. A core reason was the failure to break with a historically dominant unidirectional view of agricultural development, which was reinforced by a contemporary dominant neoliberal view of development as progress through growth. The programme thereby disregarded the effects of long-term marginalisation on smallholders' ability to engage in farming, and the associated need for substantial advisory, infrastructure and credit support to increase agricultural productivity. Local strategies for dealing with the effects of poverty were also unacknowledged; and practices and inputs originally developed for large-scale, capital-intensive farming were introduced without adaptation to smallholder conditions. The programme also failed to recognise the local heterogeneity of poverty, resulting in a bias towards comparatively better-off smallholders. The Bt maize variety introduced, like hybrid maize varieties introduced during pre-democracy interventions, was not adapted to smallholders' farming environments. It was input-demanding and sensitive to environmental dynamics, and it was promoted for planting in monoculture. Bans on saving and recycling seed resulting from patents, plant breeders' rights and new regulations to ensure the biosafety of GM crops were largely incompatible with smallholders' practices and further undermined strategies for dealing with resource shortage. It is suggested that cheaper, open-pollinated maize varieties, which can be recycled and are more tolerant to low-input conditions, could be better suited to smallholders' needs and practices.

Keywords

agriculture; Bt maize; discourse; development; smallholder; livelihoods; GM crop; GMO; South Africa

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2013, number: 2013:28
ISBN: 978-91-576-7795-2
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Jacobson, Klara (Fischer, Klara)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Plant Biotechnology
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Agricultural Science

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/41429