The State, Civil Society, and the Canadian Agricultural Biotechnology Industry

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There are complex ways in which agricultural production, biotechnology, and the interventions by the state and civil society are interconnected. Advanced capitalism is characterized by a general (albeit temporally and spatially uneven) tendency towards technological change in its various forms. In contemporary times, biotechnology is one such form. As with all forms of technology, its emergence is a contradictory process. As an industrial phenomenon, biotechnology may be seen as an opportunity for individual segments of the capitalist class for accumulation of exchange value as well as a capitalist growth strategy at the sectoral level. Its emergence is indicative of an instantiated counter-struggle on the part of specific capitals against impinging price competition in the agricultural industry and, at a macro-scale, of the intensifying decline in the rate of profit in advanced industrial economies. The emergence and utilization of biotechnology both as a means of production and as a means of increasing (monopolistic) profit is part of a wider process of market-oriented reforms in the agrarian sector occurring at national and international scales. However, interventions on the part of the state which generally tends to play an enabling role, and of civil society whose aim is to at least partly resist the expansion of the market for biotechnology, have not ceased, so the outcomes of market-based restructuring in general and the use and consequences of biotechnology in particular are anything but automatic. The argument is illustrated with empirical evidence from the development, adoption, and production of agricultural biotechnology in Canada.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-109
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Geography(United Kingdom)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • agriculture
  • biotechnology
  • civil society
  • innovation
  • state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Philosophy


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