Hawai‘i : GMO Ground Zero - Seeds of Occupation, Seeds of Possibility

Genetic modification Agriculture Hawaii
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As the primary site for development of all herbicide-tolerant corn seed and with more experimental field trials of genetically engineered crops than anywhere else in the world, Hawai‘i is placed at the epicenter of the agrochemical-seed-biotechnology industry’s global chains of production. It is also a node of powerful resistance along that chain. This thesis contributes a previously absent critical analysis of Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF’s occupation of Hawai’i. It details the political, social, historical, and geographical arrangements that give rise to the situation, with focus especially on matters of capital, expropriation of the commons, imperialism, and capitalist state functioning. It reveals what is presented as natural and inevitable to be merely contingent and explores the battle over the logic of the possible. While this thesis focuses on the specific case of the agrochemical-seed-biotechnology industry’s occupation of Hawai‘i and its resistance, it holds more general lessons for critical scholarship and activism. In the broadest sense, it shows in the empirical case study of Hawai‘i how capital operates over land and people, simultaneously dismantling neoliberal common sense that this is all that is possible. In its investigation of how the existing order is reproduced and challenged, it provides a detailed account of ideological and material forces that serve to depoliticize and foreclose alternative arrangements. Finally, it shows how resistance to injustice is itself limited by collective imagination of the possible and why recoding the possible is a most critical terrain of struggle today. This project is informed primarily by participation in activist mobilization on the island of Kaua‘i in 2013 for Bill 2491, local regulation of the agrochemical industry’s pesticide use. It is a project of activist scholarship, with its primary methodology being ethnographic immersion in the struggle from which I write. Two tenets of this research orientation are of special significance. First, the research I offer is a part of, and inseparable from, political and ethical commitments to democracy, egalitarianism, ecological regeneration, and justice. Second, it is from within rather than outside the situation in Hawai‘i that I develop insights into its complexities and contradictions and contribute uniquely to both knowledge production and social change.

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