Exceptional soybeans : genetically modified soybeans in Argentina and international environmental governance
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On the margins of the first and developing worlds, Argentines have made many bids to enter into the small cohort of international power-players with varying degrees of success. This report takes a step back from rumors and suspicions surrounding Argentina to instead draw attention to the economic growth and international political clout gained through state and private industry support of agricultural biotechnology. Perhaps more important than revenue generated through exports of a lucrative crop, this transformative technology, namely in the form of genetically modified (GM) soybeans, has given Argentine political and industry elites the means to establish credibility in the international community. In turn, this has aided the Argentine state in negotiating the contours of its sovereignty on its own terms. GM soybeans have indeed become a stalwart of Argentine economic growth and a means to gain respect from the international community. There is still controversy, however, surrounding regulation of GM soybean production and the uncertain effects on those whose livelihoods depend on its continued adoption. Given that the jury is still out on the long-term effects of agricultural biotechnology production on soil quality, health and human safety, and rural job opportunities, the domestic effect of Argentine exceptionalism deployed for international purposes is troublingly unclear. An exploration of Argentine exceptionalism in relation to a shifting, yet always hybrid political economy and some of the contradictions via two case studies is a first step toward discovering how transitions to agricultural biotechnology affect the lives and livelihoods of Argentines at home.