Why Did “Operation Cremate Monsanto” Fail?

Science and Class in India's Great Terminator-Technology Hoax

Author: Ronald J. Herring


Though promoted by the Government of India, and endorsed by dominant international organizations concerned with agriculture, biotechnology has produced fierce resistance and divisions. “Operation Cremate Monsanto” combined nationalist appeals, opposition to multinational capital, and rejection of genetic engineering in one integrated critique. The movement failed; Monsanto's technology spread rapidly and widely in India. The movement illustrated a larger problematic of understanding interests under conditions of rapid and complex technological change. Science continually presents new challenges to the way interests are understood by citizens and political classes that control states; the sea change in redefinitions of interests — of both individuals and states — introduced by, for example, the atmospheric science of ozone holes and climate change is archetypal, as are the internationally contentious battles in trade and property of “genetically modified organisms.” Interests in biotechnology are screened by science, understandings of which are unevenly distributed. Asymmetries of knowledge and skill repertory necessary for participation in global networks of contestation create new class positions within India, and corresponding contradictions in social movements. Cultural capital matters fundamentally in differentiating classes and class interests; authenticity rents become available to some class positions but not others. Divisions matter because movements seeking environmental integrity and social justice may ultimately be weakened by egregious inaccuracies of framing, however effective the short-terms gains in dramaturgy may be.
Regions: South Asia
Countries: India

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December 2006
© 2004 ILO/Cassidy K.