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Hegemony, Commodification, and the State: Mexico's Shifting Discourse on Agricultural Germplasm

Gómez, Francisco Martínez, & Robert Torres (2001):
Hegemony, Commodification, and the State: Mexico's Shifting Discourse on Agricultural Germplasm
Agriculture and Human Values 18, pp. 285-294


This article employs a neo-Marxist theoretical framework to examine the debate on the commodification of crop genetic resources in Mexico. The focus is on Mexico's movement away from a 'farmers' rights' framework and towards the passage of the Mexican federal law on plant varieties.

Under the farmers' rights framework, crop genetic resources were seen as a 'common good', whereas under the new law they are seen as a commodity. To understand this transformation, the recent history of the discourse in Mexico is analysed, with emphasis on the ideological elements of the debate. The authors conclude that there has arisen an international hegemonic bloc which works through the international bodies of free trade, transcending the boundaries of any single state entity. This hegemonic bloc has influenced the change in Mexico. Farmers' rights are viewed as contradictory to the commodity rational that underlies classical intellectual property rights to plant genetic resources; thus the authors are not overly optimistic regarding the potential for the realization of these rights. They question what will happen if the commodity rational wins through in Mexico, as the country has a tremendously rich agricultural biodiversity, currently preserved in the hands of farmers. Mexico's varieties, so vital to global biodiversity, may be lost to the dominance of the commercially improved breeds, the authors warn.
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