Technology in Society 35 (2013) 79–92
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Challenging the bioeconomy: The dynamics of collective action in Argentina Florencia Arancibia* State University of New York at Stony Brook, United States
a r t i c l e i n f o
a b s t r a c t
Article history: Received 24 September 2012 Accepted 3 January 2013
This paper analyzes the local bottom-up dynamics of challenging the growth of a bioeconomy in Argentina. In the last decade, growing controversies and conﬂict have arisen in the region regarding the adoption of genetically modiﬁed crops and the growing use of glyphosate-based herbicides. Even if the industry and the World Health Organization claim that glyphosate is a product of low-toxicity, an increasing body of scientiﬁc research shows severe health problems for villagers and farmers. In Argentina, many peasants, neighbors, environmental activists, as well as rural physicians, scientists, agronomic engineers and lawyers have asked for a ban or strict limits on the use of glyphosate-based herbicides. Using a case study, I focus on collective action between 1996 and 2011 aimed at changing “science-based regulations” for the commercialization and use of agrochemicals. I demonstrate that by implementing diverse and innovative collective strategies as well as promoting the creation of new scientiﬁc data, affected populations can achieve some degree of inﬂuence on decisions regarding risk. Even if social and scientiﬁc disagreements over regulatory frameworks for biotechnology in Latin America have been acknowledged in the literature, regulatory science has rarely been thought of as a ﬁeld of social struggle where social movements can participate and promote change. This is an important contribution to the emerging ﬁeld of studies focused on political collective action and social movements within science and technology . Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Bioeconomy Regulatory science Social movements Argentina Biotechnology Latin America
1. Introduction During the last twenty years biotechnology has radically transformed agriculture . Genetic engineering made it possible to design seeds with commercially desirable traits – like higher tolerance to herbicides – in order to maximize economic output and efﬁciency. These developments were supported by a global master narrative  regarding the current role of biotechnology in society, and the new scenarios it opens for the future.
* Corresponding author. Ramsay 1916, CP: 1428, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tel.: þ54 1147016384/þ1 3470888480. E-mail addresses: ﬂ[email protected]
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hotmail.com. 0160-791X/$ – see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2013.01.008
The term bioeconomy was used for the ﬁrst time by the Biomass Research and Development Board in 2001 to describe a revolution, a technological return to a sustainable past through the implementation of a new model of economic development . Nowadays, the most widespread deﬁnition is the OECD’s: “the aggregate set of economic operations in a society that use the latent value incumbent in biological products and processes to capture new growth and welfare beneﬁts for citizens and nations” (OECD, 2009). Through time, the concept became a comprehensive interpretative framework for understanding and inﬂuencing the present and the future, while simultaneously re-writing the past ; it became a perspective on society and its relationship with Nature – what that relationship is, was and should be . Despite different deﬁnitions of bioeconomy, the common thread is that
F. Arancibia / Technology in Society 35 (2013) 79–92
technology is “the” solution for the major problems of mankind. In this way, the focus is displaced from social causes of problems to technological solutions: “Applied to primary production, health and industry, biotechnology offers technological solutions for many of the global health and resource-based problems facing the world” .1 Regardless the accuracy or falseness of such ideas, bioeconomy can be thought not only as a vision but also as a powerful political device . In fact, this narrative became the key-stone for the design of public policy aiming at promoting the development and growth of the biotech industry by different governmental institutions: “Obtaining the full beneﬁts of the bio-economy will require purposive goal-oriented policy (.) to put in place the structural conditions required to achieve success such as obtaining regional and international agreements” . Neoliberalism was the ideological ground of this political project [3,4].2 The idea of a “knowledge economy” aroused in this second moment, linking competitiveness and innovation . To maintain the competitiveness of OECD and EU countries in relation to emerging economies , the new model of growth is based on the commercialization of scientiﬁc and technological innovations. The bioeconomy is a concrete version of this “knowledge economy,” in which biotechnology, as well as natural and biological resources, play a crucial role . The political project of bioeconomy was envisioned from the beginning as a global project, to be embraced by peripheral countries as well: “The potential economic and environmental beneﬁts of biotechnology have created a growing strategic interest in the bioeconomy in both OECD and non-OECD countries (.). Not only the bioeconomy will be global, but the main markets for biotechnology in primary production (agriculture, forestry and ﬁshing) and industry could be in developing countries” . Even though the concept of bioeconomy is not mentioned frequently in Latin American state policy programs, different governments have embraced the project and the region became the main global provider of GM commodities. Governments promoted and promote the bioeconomy through a repertoire of interventions quite distinct from the industrial policies of the Fordist period, but equally important . Different national and international policies helped meet ﬁnancial and scientiﬁc needs of the biotechnological industry, as well as create a new normative and social conﬁguration. On the one hand, governmental institutions encouraged resource mobilization toward biotechnology (through supportive taxation systems, subsidies, etc.), and stimulated the interest of corporations and the scientiﬁc
1 This perspective was also adopted by the EU for the ﬁrst time in 2002, and in recent documents about the Knowledge Based Bioeconomy: “The recent scientiﬁc and technological progress has opened up a vast array of new possible applications and products in a wide range of ﬁelds, and will soon yield immense health, societal and economic rewards” (European Commission, 2010). 2 Even if it might seem contradictory to apply a concept like neoliberalism (promoting free market) to policies addressing the development of a speciﬁc industry, this is because neoliberalism has not always promoted a passive State: depending on the moment the State would “roll-back” (deregulation and privatization in the 1980s) or “roll-out”(the state as facilitator of market forces, leading to new coercive modes of governance in 1990s–2000s) .
community. On the other hand, governments and international organizations had to design new science based regulatory frameworks  for private commercialization and appropriation of biotechnological products. The right social environment for biotechnology had to be cultivated and maintained. In this context, agrarian production based on biotechnology became hegemonic while other possibilities were “dis-empowered” or demoted . Valonqueren and Baret  describe how “genetic engineering” displaced “agroecological engineering”3 as a technological solution to hunger and environmental degradation. From a “System of Innovation” approach, the two options are presented as competing “technological paradigms” (Russel, 1999) inﬂuencing agricultural research and innovation trajectories. The success of one over the other engendered speciﬁc technological changes within agriculture. Beyond arguing the accuracy or usefulness of using the concept of “paradigm” to analyze technological change,4 it is interesting to highlight some important processes implied by this perspective: the inﬂuence of diverse factors, path dependence, and lock-in. On the one hand, innovation is determined by different factors including the orientation of scientiﬁc policies, scientists’ cultural and working routines, and the lobbying efforts of ﬁrms, consumer groups, environmental groups, and others. On the other hand, “among several technologies that perform similar functions and compete for adoption by economic agents, one technology may become dominant, even though it may have an inferior long-run potential . This process is self-reinforcing and may lead to a technological lock-in situation in which the dominant technology excludes competing and possibly superior technologies (.) particularly when increasing returns occur” . These processes have been observed in such sectors as pest control and breeding strategies [6,63]. The birth and spread of the new agrarian model was not a harmonious or peaceful process. From the
3 Agroecology emerged from the convergence of ecology and agronomy. Agroecological engineering refers to the fact that agricultural systems can be engineered by applying agroecological principles, just as plants are “engineered” by transgenesis in genetic engineering. “The objective is to design productive agricultural systems that require as few agrochemicals and energy as possible, and rely on ecological interactions and synergisms between biological components to produce the mechanisms that will enable the systems to boost their own soil fertility, productivity, and crop protection” (Altieri, 1989). It is an umbrella concept for different agricultural practices and innovations such as biological control, cultivar mixtures, agroforestry systems, habitat management techniques, and natural systems agriculture aimed at perennial food-grain producing systems. 4 “The concepts of technological paradigms and technological trajectories have been suggested by Dosi  to allow research to go beyond the ‘demand pool’ and ‘demand push’ theories of technological change. While Dosi initially introduced his concepts in the ﬁeld of technological change within industrial structures, it has later been argued that they could be extended to agriculture . Dosi deﬁned a technological paradigm as a ‘model and a pattern of solution of selected technological problems, based on selected material technologies’. (.) This is a broad analogy with the Kuhnian deﬁnition of a scientiﬁc paradigm which determines the ﬁeld of inquiry, the problems, the procedures and the tasks . Application of these concepts in agriculture varies widely. Parayl (2002)  described the Green Revolution and the Gene Revolution as two technological trajectories. Biotechnology, including agricultural biotechnologies, was soon presented as a new technological paradigm ” [60, p. 971–2].
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beginning, the development and commercialization of biotechnological products became a contentious global issue . A redeﬁnition of land distribution, costs and rural proﬁts led to a quasi-monopoly in different production stages (seeds, machinery, and pesticides supply, as well as grind and commercialization) among a few big transnational corporations. This conﬂicted with the interests of many middle and small rural producers and caused clashes within and across borders. At the same time, rural populations and experts have pointed out severe health and environmental problems associated with the implementation of some of the new agrarian techniques (i.e. the exponential increase of agrochemicals use), effects which are overlooked in current regulations. Many times, those affected by the “bio-techniﬁcation” of agriculture had to organize collectively to have their concerns heard by policy makers. The grassroots social movements that formed, as well as an array of new scientiﬁc studies, called into question the foundations of the bioeconomy’s regulatory frameworks. Recent changes in the regulatory ﬁeld pose new challenges for opponents of the bioeconomy. Moore et al.  describe three recent, intertwined global trends: ﬁrst, regulation is increasingly taking place in international governance bodies, outside the inﬂuence of individual nation states; second, multinational corporations have become increasingly inﬂuential; and third, scientism has spread as basis for regulatory policy. Scientism depoliticizes the regulation of the new technologies: “in its neoliberal form, scientism tends to restrict democratic participation and weaken the options for governments to regulate new technologies in ways that protect citizens rather than corporations” [38, p. 18]. At the same time, it is important to notice that regulatory science is quite different from basic or applied science.5 Its potential for bias is more pronounced because the studies usually performed or sponsored by regulatory agencies or private actors6 and because there is a constant pressure to deliver results quickly .7 This presents a dilemma for social movements that want to inﬂuence the use and application of biotechnology in agriculture: they may choose to ask for a broader basis for regulatory policy or they may try to develop the needed expertise to participate in regulatory decision-making processes and/or build partnerships with scientists. In the ﬁrst case they might remain on the outside, while in the second case they can unintentionally contribute to scientism. In this paper I focus on a peripheral context, where I can analyze the local dynamics of challenges to the global spread of genetic engineering in agriculture. Using a case study, I focus on collective action between 1996 and 2011 aimed at changing the bioeconomy’s “science base regulations” for
5 Designed to support concrete governmental decisions, regulatory science is rarely innovative and may never be submitted to the discipline of peer review and publication [29, p. 76]. 6 “One of the most telling features of regulatory science is the relatively heavy involvement of government and industry in the process of producing and certifying knowledge” [29, p. 78]. 7 A decision to wait for more data means a decision not to act [29, p. 82].
agrochemical commercialization and use in Argentina. As a semi-peripheral country [13,31], leading regional exporter of GM soy, and a location where social movements and experts have questioned regulations supporting the bioeconomy, Argentina is a particularly appealing case to study. My main questions are: What are the possibilities for rural populations of peripheral regions to challenge current local and global regulations on the adoption of biotechnology in agriculture? What are the strategies and tools developed in order to engage in these struggles? What are the main obstacles and outcomes? My hypothesis is that in order to be successful and promote some change, rural populations must create and maintain grass root organizations able to mobilize more people; at the same time they have to develop some level of expertise and ﬁnd allied scientists able to produce alternative scientiﬁc studies to oppose hegemonic regulatory science. In order to answer to these questions and evaluate my hypothesis, I combine in-depths interviews with archival analysis. While different studies have analyzed the interrelation between market actors and state regulations within the expanding bioeconomy , almost no research has been conducted on the interrelation between these regulations and social movements. Even if social disputes and scientiﬁc disagreements over regulatory frameworks have been acknowledged, regulatory science has not been fully conceived as a ﬁeld of social struggle where social movements can participate and promote change. At the same time, the topic of governance of the bio-industries has generally been addressed in relation to economically central countries and rarely in relation to peripheral countries. As scientiﬁc controversies and social conﬂicts regarding the spread of the bioeconomy in Latin America intensify, it becomes crucial to understand the resistance organized by counter-hegemonic movements. 2. Literature review To address the issue of the dynamics of challenging the bioeconomy, I bring together two great traditions of thought: constructivist studies of science and technology (Bloor, 1978) , and studies of contentious politics [57,58]. Different conceptions about scientiﬁc knowledge coexist in sociology. Merton (1973) ﬁrst analyses were strongly positivistic: science was thought of as a self-regulated system, impersonal, universal and evolving according to rational and neutral principles. Lay people were considered “passive” receptors of this superior knowledge. Social and political elements would inﬂuence science only as “external” obstacles or incentives: a clear divorce between “science” and “society” was established. Kuhn (1962)  later challenged this perspective. Through the concept of paradigm, he linked together as an indivisible whole scientiﬁc communities and scientiﬁc theoretical contents, and argued that science does not progress in a linear and rational way. His main hypothesis was that knowledge undergoes periodic revolutions, also called “paradigm shifts,” during which the nature of scientiﬁc inquiry within a particular
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ﬁeld is abruptly transformed. What is called “truth” is in fact a legitimized paradigm, sustained and supported by an implicit consensus among a community of scientists.8 Inspired by Kuhn, a number of different programs were developed in order to study interrelations between science and society: “The Strong Program” , the “Social Construction of Technology” , “The Actor Network Theory” [5,33], and recently “The New Political Sociology of Science” . The aim of the last program is to highlight political dimensions of the relationship between science and society: why science works better for some groups than for others, “what knowledge gets produced, who participates in the making and gains access to that knowledge, and what kinds of knowledge are left undone” [26,65]. From these perspectives, scholars began studying bottom-up initiatives aimed at generating some change within the science and technology (S&T) ﬁeld. Social movements and collective action became a new object of study for sociology of S&T. In the literature, three types of cases were identiﬁed and studied: 1. Social movements of lay people trying to intervene from “outside” scientiﬁc institutions [16,19,55]; 2. Allied groups of scientists and lay people trying to intervene both from “inside” and “outside” institutions ; and 3. Scientists and experts trying to change the rules of knowledge production from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions [21,41,68]. Little research has been conducted speciﬁcally about the inﬂuence of social movements on biotechnological development paths. Most studies on biotechnology tried to understand how public policies shaped the development and application of biotechnology or how market actors inﬂuenced governments and scientiﬁc institutions in order to promote biotechnology. The rest of society has generally been viewed as a passive audience of lay people that could only have a very general positive/negative perception of biotechnology. Jasanoff  conducted an interesting comparative study in the US, UK and Germany about public policies on biotechnology in the last decades, in order to understand “why new developments in the life sciences were differently received in three national political systems, and what the implications of these stories are for the future democratic control of biotechnology” [30, p. 39]. The involvement of the “public” in biotechnology governance was limited to the cultural level of “framing,” as if the public could not or would not have any direct inﬂuence on concrete politics. Jasanoff mentions, but does not distinctly analyze, direct collective action and organized political attempts to introduce changes or resist public policies dealing with biotechnology. Further research is required in order to understand how social movements resist or promote the development, use and regulation of biotechnology.
8 The fact that each change of paradigm implies a revolution shows that rival paradigms are incommensurable: it is not possible to understand a new paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of the previous rival paradigm. If rival theories cannot be directly compared, then the choice between them is not exclusively based on rational-scientiﬁc principles, but on cultural, social, and political principles.
I will answer my research questions through the lens of the “political process” tradition within social movement studies [56,58] (Tilly, 1995). Opposing the “resource mobilization” approach , this perspective rejects a pluralist image of power according to which every member of the population is also a member of the polity. For Tilly, “polity members have routine, low-cost access to power holders and decision makers and they are able to pursue their interests through normal political strategies. Challengers outside the polity, by contrast, lack such access so that normal political strategies are ineffective. It is challengers outside the polity who must resort to collective action if their interests are to be represented and their voiced heard” [12, p. 128]. A social movement’s potential for success is dependent on its organization, potential for mobilization, and the adequacy of its strategy given the structural possibilities of the current political regime (“political opportunities”). However, collective contention is understood as a product of learned and historically grounded performances. Social movements do not invent new ways of acting each time, but choose among an existing repertoire9 of claims-making performances available at speciﬁc times and places. The idea is that changes in repertoires are embedded in changes in broader social, political and economic processes. Contentious performances change incrementally as a result of accumulating experience and external constraints. The concept of repertoire works as some sort of bridge between “agency” and “structure” as it tries to grasp the interactive and dynamic link between both. In my case, it helps me to understand the relationship between collective action targeting science-based regulations for the use of biotechnology in agriculture and the historic context in which they arise (the bioeconomy). I will study regulatory-science disputes as another ﬁeld of social contention. It is important to notice that positive outcomes obtained in this ﬁeld of struggle can – and generally are – re-converted in new resources by those who seek to resist or create changes in other dimensions of the political project of the bioeconomy. By analyzing processes of challenge to the science-base regulations of bioeconomy and observing different types social movements’ mobilization strategies I will contribute to the emerging ﬁeld of studies focused on political collective action within science and technology [24,25]. 3. Genetically modiﬁed soy in Argentina Soybean cultivation is highly concentrated geographically, with only four countries – the US, Brazil, Argentina and China – accounting for almost 90% of the world output . Since its approval in 1996, GM soy had increasing success in Argentina. By the end of the 1990s, a new agro-productive model had been implemented, with
9 A repertoire is deﬁned as “a limited set of routines that are learned, shared, and acted out through a relatively deliberate process of choice. Repertoires are learned cultural creations, but they do not descend from abstract philosophy or take shape as a result of political propaganda; they emerge from struggle” (Tilly, 1995: 26).
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important changes in the distribution of land, rural proﬁts and agronomic practices. While in 1997 the soy complex accounted for 12.2% of national exports, in 2007 it had grown to one fourth (24.4%)10 (Table 1). The production of GM Roundup Ready soy triggered the consumption of glyphosate-base Round Up11: while 30 million liters were used in the agricultural season in 1997, in 2008 180 million liters were required (Vazquez and Nota, 2010) (Fig. 1). By the time that GM soy was approved, glyphosate was already used for other purposes. Approved in 1977, it was revalidated in 1992 by the National Service of Sanitation and Food Quality (SENASA) as a product of “low toxicity, implying no risk.” The revalidation was based on the World Health Organization’s toxicological classiﬁcation: a toxicity class of III (on scale where IV is least dangerous).12 It is curious that even though the approval was based on a decision made by an international health institution, the National Ministry of Health was not involved at all in the process. For the last ten years, scientists from different countries have challenged the WHO position, claiming that the use of glyphosate in agriculture is associated with rural populations’ reproductive problems, miscarriages, major
10 Between 1997 and 2005 GM soy production increased by almost 20 million tons – in the form of whole beans, soy meal for animal feed, and soy oil – while the production of other cereals decreased. Traditional activities such as cattle rising and wheat, rice and cotton growing were increasingly replaced by GM RR soy: representing 10.6% of cereal production in 1980, it became 28.4% in 1990 and more than 50% in 2002. While in 1980, soy occupied 9.1% of the arable land, it became 25% in 1990, 44% in 2002 and more than 50% in 2009 [51,61]. 11 GM soy is genetically modiﬁed to tolerate the herbicide RoundupÒ, based on the chemical glyphosate. The transgenic modiﬁcation makes the seed resistant to glyphosate. As a broad-spectrum, non-selective weed killer, glyphosate inhibits an enzyme in plants that does not exist in human and animal cells, killing all plant life except the crop. In this way, seeds could be grown with no need of plowing. This meant high increase in proﬁts for GM soy producers. 12 “(.) The report further concludes that the low toxicity, low volatility, and low body absorption of glyphosate make its application by backpack sprayer safe when workers wear full protective clothing. A review of studies in laboratory animals and in vitro test systems supports the conclusion that glyphosate has very low toxicity when administered by the oral and dermal routes, does not induce sensitization, and shows no mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic activity. While the formulation Roundup is acutely toxic to humans when ingested intentionally or accidentally, dermal absorption is low, and no adverse effects are expected in properly protected workers.” . 13 Historically, epidemiology – the study of populations’ health – has found strong obstacles to determining causal relationships between environment and diseases. The clinical connections between both elements are open to different and opposing interpretations [43,54,64]. The main obstacle for epidemiology has to do with the fact that it is not possible to experiment on human populations. Epidemiological studies are then based on the extrapolation of results from experiments with other animal species or from clinical observation. In the latter case, it is almost impossible to determine and control the inﬁnite environmental variables (and their multiple associated effects) to which human beings are exposed. It is also possible that a population that was not exposed to the factor x that is being tested, was exposed to another factor z that had a similar effect. It is also complicated to compare between populations exposed to a certain environmental factor and “control” (not exposed) populations. Clinical observation is cheaper and easier but generally less trusted than controlled experiments with other species. This is why experimental results can become powerful means of leverage for challenging and changing regulatory frameworks on glyphosate use.
congenital malformations and problems in neuro-cognitive development in embryos, and cancer13 Marc et al. (2004) of the National Center for Scientiﬁc Research (CNRS) biological station in Roscoff, France has demonstrated that Roundup affected a “control point” for DNA damage . The failure of cell cycle checkpoints is known to lead to genomic instability and the possible development of human cancers. Seralini (Richard et al. 2005) of the University of Caen in France, showed that placental human cells are highly sensitive to Roundup. His ﬁndings indicated that, within 18 h of exposure, Roundup kills a high proportion of placental cells at lower concentrations than what is used in agriculture. He argues that this could explain the increase of miscarriages among rural workers in the US. Roundup was found to disrupt aromatase, an enzyme responsible for estrogen synthesis . Benachour and Séralini  examined bioaccumulation and increased permeation of glyphosate through plasmatic membranes. Their ﬁndings indicated that glyphosate and its commercial formulas induce DNA fragmentation and cell death in umbilical, embryonic and placental human cells . Despite these ﬁndings, experts and international organizations supporting regulatory frameworks of bioeconomy have constantly denied links between the use of glyphosate and the denounced illnesses. In 2009, the WHO re-examined the toxicological classiﬁcation of glyphosate but did not consider any of the new data and conﬁrmed its previous classiﬁcation . Following suit, in 2011, SENASA also reconﬁrmed the same classiﬁcation of glyphosate. However, counter-hegemonic scientiﬁc arguments were not ignored in Argentina. In fact, they were considered pretty accurate in many rural communities that were actually experiencing the speciﬁed illnesses. Experts and lay people increasingly got involved in activism contesting ofﬁcial “truths” regarding the effects of glyphosate on human health, and developed new scientiﬁc proof in order to try to change national regulations. A new experiment carried out in a national university proved that glyphosate causes malformations in frog embryos, in doses much lower than those used in agricultural spraying . This became a turning point in the local and global controversy on GM crops. In the next section I describe this event as part of a broader national process of collective challenge to science base regulations of bioeconomy. 4. The struggles: from a small rural village to a scientiﬁc laboratory at the National University of Medicine In the following sections I describe diverse contentious events that took place in some of the main GM soy producing regions of Argentina since the approval of GM soy seed through 2011 (1996–2011). Different actors, different claims, different performances, and different targets were involved in the process of challenging science based regulations for agrochemical commercialization and use. I consider each contentious event in relation to others, as part of a broader dynamic of struggle. I try to understand which of the three main types of activism described by the available literature took place in this conﬂict: 1. Social
F. Arancibia / Technology in Society 35 (2013) 79–92
Table 1 Evolution of total exports and oilseed complex (soy, sunﬂower and others), 1997–2007, in millions of U$S and percentages . 1997
Total exports Oilseed complex Soy complex
26430.9 4730 3232.7
100 17.9 12.2
29938.8 8031.5 7194.5
100 26.8 24.0
34550.2 8459.8 7678.5
100 24.5 22.2
40013 9317.8 8317.5
100 23.3 20.8
46456.4 9953.1 8926.2
100 21.4 19.2
55780 14339 13602
100 25.7 24.4
movements of lay people trying to intervene from “outside” scientiﬁc institutions; 2. Allied groups of scientists and lay people trying to intervene both from “inside” and “outside” institutions; 3. Scientists and experts trying to change the rules of knowledge production from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions. Table 2 summarizes main ﬁndings that will be analyzed later. 4.1. Madres de Ituzaingó: making the invisible visible One of the ﬁrst attempts at challenging the sciencebased regulations for agrochemical commercialization and use in Argentina involved a group of mothers from a suburban neighborhood bordering soybean farms in the city of Cordoba, who came to be called the Mothers of Ituzaingó. They started to talk about illnesses associated with glyphosate at the beginning of the decade (2000s), while trying to change local regulations for its use in close proximity to their houses (Fig. 2). The mothers identiﬁed an unusual increase in local cancer rates and associated it with the rise in the use of agrochemicals. Their struggle started at the end of 2001 when one woman, Soﬁa, was puzzled by the fact that many women in the village began wearing headscarves and many children were using chinstraps. For almost four months, she went door to door with other mothers collecting data
on medical diagnoses, writing a list and drawing a map showing the location of each ill person. The mothers presented the list and the map to the Provincial Ministry of Health and requested ofﬁcial studies of soil, air and water. As more mothers started to join the group, they met regularly and organized demonstrations. After a local TV channel showed one of the many demonstrations in the streets of Ituzaingó, the Provincial Ministry of Health received the group of mothers and promised to conduct an interdisciplinary environmental study on 150 cases; the study was carried out immediately. However, according to the mothers, not all the cases were fully investigated by the ofﬁcial study. Helped by human rights lawyers and the Foundation for Environment Protection (FUNAM), the mothers presented their individual cases (38 penal complaints) to the legal federal court at the end of 2002, asking for a restriction of agrochemical spraying in residential areas in the Province. They also presented a petition to the local city authorities (Consejo Deliberante de la Municipalidad de Córdoba) to ban the spraying of agrochemicals close to their houses. A municipal ordinance was issued declaring a health emergency in their neighborhood and prohibiting spraying within 2500 m of Ituzaingó’s urban areas until the health emergency situation was suspended. In 2004, a Provincial Law (9164) for regulating the use of agrochemicals passed,
Fig. 1. Evolution of area of “Non Tillage” agriculture and type of herbicide implemented: atrazine, glyphosate, and “Non Tillage,” in millions of liters and millions of hectares 1996–2003 . Source: AAPRESID–CASAFE
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Table 2 Activism involved in the conﬂict on science based regulatory frameworks in Argentina: type of activism, actor, target, demand, level of action. Type of Activism
1. Social movements of lay people trying to intervene from “outside” scientiﬁc institutions. 2. Allied groups of scientists and lay people trying to intervene both from “inside” and “outside” institutions. 3. Scientists and experts trying to change the rules of knowledge production from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions.
Lay people (Madres de Ituzaingó) Lay people & Experts (GRR, UAC, CEPRONAT)
Limit the use of glyphosate in the province’s populated areas. Ban (or at list limit) the use of glyphosate across the country.
Experts (Carrasco and other scientists)
establishing a 500 m limit for the use of glyphosate-based agrochemicals. However, farmers did not obey the provincial law or the municipal ordinance. After the mothers complained, the government promised to establish 24-h police surveillance, but according to the mothers “the police have always been absent.” Having found no redress among local political authorities, the mothers decided to go further: ask for protection in the judicial system and address national political authorities. In order to prove the existence of these illnesses, they decided to conduct their own independent survey with the help of local physicians. This was the ﬁrst attempt to develop new counter-hegemonic scientiﬁc evidence through popular epidemiology, in which scientiﬁc data is produced by the victims of diseases . The report, published in 2005, demonstrated about 200 cases of cancer among 5000 inhabitants . The report ended with a declaration from the mothers: “Our low social status makes us endorse multiple factors of degradation and environmental pollution that directly affect our human rights. It is the same image in most villages surrounding soybean crops ﬁelds. (.) The best protective and supportive mechanisms for soybean complex are subtle dynamics of concealment and invisibility. Hence, our effort is to make the invisible visible. In the context of obscene proﬁts from record exports and evasion of taxes (‘retenciones’), we will show the tragic consequences of this model of hunger and death. (.) Spraying with glyphosate, endosulfan, paraquat and other poisons has become the constant threat of many Argentines. How does the State care for its citizens when the children are killed in cold blood in the villages across the country? Who controls these technological packages? Who controls biotechnology?” .
International Health Organizations & National Health Ministry and Scientiﬁc Regulatory System
Change glyphosate’s scientiﬁc classiﬁcation on which the legislation is based.
The provincial Ministry of Health wanted physicians from a provincial hospital to test the results of the report. Despite the fact that the physicians sent by the Ministry considered the numbers in the report accurate, the Ministry of Health said that there was not enough evidence of causal association between the development of diseases and the use of agrochemicals. In 2004 the mothers traveled to the capital city, Buenos Aires, to address the National Ministries of Human Rights, Environment, and Health. There, they contacted national deputies to design and present to the National Congress a National Law to ban spraying in any area within 2500 m of urban areas surrounding farms across the country. In Buenos Aires the mothers were also able to contact and build solidarity networks with other organizations that got involved in their struggle targeting national authorities. To summarize, because the local regulations that the mothers wanted to change were based on regulatory science , the ﬁrst step in their struggle was to challenge it. In this way, the mothers had to get involved in expert issues and promoted the development of a popular epidemiology . According to my typology, this activism can be deﬁned as type 1 – social movements of lay people trying to intervene from “outside” scientiﬁc institutions (see Table 2). Their struggle was mainly played at the local level – their main goal was to prevent the spraying of glyphosate over and in the proximities of their houses – but their initiative had interesting consequences at the national level. Even if the mothers did not reach their local goal until many years later (helped by conﬂuent factors and the mobilization of other social movements and experts),14 building counterhegemonic epidemiological data in order to press political authorities turned to be an innovative and powerful contentious performance . Rural physicians and other social movements in different locations across the country emulated it later; and the data produced by all of them became a useful tool for inﬂuencing public opinion and promoting changes in provincial and national regulations on the use of glyphosate. 4.2. “Stop the Spraying” One of the groups that the mothers met in their trip to Buenos Aires was Grupo de Reﬂexion Rural (GRR). GRR was founded in the mid-nineties by intellectuals from different
Fig. 2. Madres de Ituzaingó.
I will come back to this in Section 5.
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disciplines (social sciences, agronomy, and economics) as a space to debate the impacts of global capitalism in the country. From ecological and critical perspectives, the group opposed the agricultural model based on the export of transgenic commodities as a new form of “dependency.” GRR supported the Madres de Ituzaingó’s national campaign against pesticide use in urban populations in 2005 and founded a campaign called Stop the Spraying. The campaign was supported by other social and environmental NGOs such as the Center for the Protection of Nature (CEPRONAT) of the city of Santa Fe, and several others of the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Entre Ríos as well as Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC).15 The aim of the Stop the Spraying campaign was to promote the organization of neighbors in soy-surrounded areas across the country in order to resist the new agro-productive system that, according to GRR, was causing severe health and social problems. It is interesting to notice that this campaign aimed not only at changing the science-based regulations on the use of agrochemicals but also at resisting the complete agricultural model of the bioeconomy. GRR criticized the idea that introducing biotechnology in agriculture would lead to further national development and growth. They said that their ﬁght was not for a simple ban in the use of agrochemicals, but for the foundation of a new agrarian model of production based on agro-ecological principles (Fig. 3). One of the ﬁrst steps of the national campaign was to build new counter-hegemonic scientiﬁc evidence. As the group of mothers has already done, GRR collected data regarding the associated illnesses in a collaborative effort between rural neighbors and experts; just as the mothers had done, GRR was constructing a popular epidemiology. But this time, the research covered many provinces (Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Córdoba) and included data from patients, medical records, as well as studies on soil and water. As a result, in January 2009 the book Fumigated Peoples was published. Its preface read: “Stop the Spraying was born as a gesture of solidarity in order to support the Madres de Ituzaingó (.). This work is based on reports provided by the inhabitants of some of the many localities exposed to speciﬁc problems directly or indirectly caused by the action of pesticides. (.)This presentation adds a collection of cases and evidence. Despite the many difﬁculties and resistance encountered, it expresses the enormous hope, not only of our people but of all the victims of toxic spraying, to be listen by those who are in charge of decisions (.) It seems difﬁcult to ﬁnd a more sensitive occasion to exercise justice and compassion than in those many cases of mothers who give birth to malformed babies. (.) This crime is repeated every day in Argentine provinces, and is a consequence of greed without limits. This presentation provides the opportunity to become aware and do something to stop the genocide. We are waiting.”  The book was presented in September 2009 at the second Fumigated Peoples meeting organized by UAC at San
Born after the 2001 national crisis, UAC is a self-deﬁned non-partisan and autonomous neighbor horizontal group for exchange, discussion, and action on different social struggles.
Lorenzo, Province of Santa Fe. The book did not follow an academic format, and was designed to be available in nonexpert bookshops so it could reach a massive public audience. Also, the empirical studies were used to support GRR’s legal demands that the National Supreme Court suspend the use and marketing of agrochemical products across the country. The petition also requested that certain national institutions be incriminated as the “drivers and/or supporters” of agribusiness: SENASA, the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and the Ministry of Agriculture. To summarize, the Stop the Spraying campaign changed the level of struggle in three different ways: 1. The political scope was wider (the claim was a radical change of the agrarian productive system, not only challenging regulatory frameworks); 2. The geographic reach was broader (different villages across the country were included); 3. Many experts got involved (for example, rural physicians). According to my typology, their activism can be deﬁned as type 2 – allied groups of scientists and lay people trying to intervene both from “inside” and “outside” institutions (see Table 2). In terms of outcomes, even if the campaign did not accomplish its main goal yet, it produced a lot of empirical counter-hegemonic data (the data supporting regulatory frameworks of bioeconomy), built a national advocacy network and helped legal actions carried on by GRR and later on by different actors across the country. The main accomplishment was to develop strong links between experts and local communities as well as among local communities spread across the country. This became an important tool for supporting and coordinating the mobilization of small and isolated rural communities. 4.3. The experiment on embryos In April 2009, the front page of an Argentine popular newspaper published new experimental ﬁndings by Dr. Andrés Carrasco proving that glyphosate causes malformations in embryos. Interviewed by the newspaper, the embryologist from the National Commission of Science and Technology (CONICET) and head of the Molecular Embryology Lab at University of Buenos Aires provided technical details, and said that further studies should be conducted immediately to analyze other damages caused by glyphosate while precautionary regulations should ban or at least strongly limit its use in populated areas surrounding soy ﬁelds. In the interview, he publicly complained about the complacency of the global scientiﬁc system with private corporations: “Science is urged by powerful economic interests, and not by the quest for truth and the welfare of the people” . The same results were published by an international journal of toxicology  one year later (Fig. 4). Even if Carrasco’s ﬁndings were not the ﬁrst experimental results on detrimental effects of glyphosate on public health,16 previous experiments published in
16 As I said in Section 3, other scientists had conducted experimental studies proving negative effects of glyphosate on public health before [8,36,48]. Carrasco added new data regarding effects of glyphosate on embryos development.
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Fig. 3. Grupo de Reﬂexión Rural. “Stop the Spraying.”
scientiﬁc journals in English or French were pretty inaccessible for lay populations in rural Argentina. In contrast, Carrasco tried to make his ﬁndings easily accessible to as many people as possible. The fact that the experiment was conducted by an Argentine physician from a national university, and that it was published in Spanish in an oral interview for a massive national newspaper made a difference.17 Despite the fact that Carrasco was not a member of the groups organizing the Stop the Spraying campaign, his actions were in some ways complementary with it. The ﬁrst public response to the results came from government ofﬁcials. In a TV show, the Minister of Science and Technology of Argentina underestimated the embryologist’s claims and argued that his results should not be considered more than a private communication of preliminary data on a work in progress instead of proven scientiﬁc evidence of a study commissioned by CONICET.18 He questioned the scientiﬁc validity of the results, due to the fact that they were ﬁrst published in a massive newspaper instead of a scientiﬁc journal. He also defended the use of glyphosate-based herbicides and highlighted that the Ministry of Agriculture approved its use a long time ago “based on worldwide experiences” (Barañao in Huergo ). It is interesting to see that this criticism is being uttered on a TV show. The importance of media as an arena
17 Talking to the press , Carrasco justiﬁed his decision of having published the results in a mass newspaper: “The scientiﬁc world knows that the validation of work is not given by publication in an international journal. Often published papers are later proven to be wrong. On the other hand, many times some works do not get published because journal editorial boards do not like the topic of the research, either for scientiﬁc or economic interests. (In Argentina) there are no reliable institutional channels that could have received such type of research ﬁndings that are against powerful interests. Then, the personal decision was to make them public through other means, since there is no reason of State or corporate economic interests that could justify silence when it comes to public health. I mean, when you have new scientiﬁc data which exclusively interest a small circle of people, you can take the time you need to adjust the smallest details (.). But when you prove a hypothesis that has a tremendous impact on public health, you feel compelled to communicate it urgently and massively. (.) If the research has implications beyond the academic world, and affects society, the moral dilemma is whether to keep it until every detail is ready and your narcissism is satisﬁed, or to turn on the alert. I decided to give the alert. (.) What institutions should do, instead of attacking me, is to learn and start working to remedy what is happening with the people’s health.” 18 Carrasco is a researcher from CONICET; what the Minister is trying to say is that it does not mean that CONICET endorsed the research ﬁndings.
for debate for all parties involved in the regulatory science controversy is clear. And this proves that when social movements of lay people step into these types of expert debates, they force a de-facto democratization of the decision-making processes (regardless of the success they obtain in their claims of change). Right after the Minister’s TV appearance, more than 600 intellectuals and scientists, as well as international NGOs and Indigenous movements produced a manifest supporting Carrasco and demanding a real detachment of science from lucrative interests and international corporations. The manifest, called Voices of Alarm was published online: “We, the undersigned scientists, academics, intellectuals, and artists, declare our opposition to all mercantile and pragmatic interference in the autonomy of the scientiﬁc and university system by economic interests (.) Scientists and academics want their voices to be heard so that the risk of irreparable damage and great social suffering may be avoided or mitigated. Politicians, public ofﬁcials, reporters, and mediators hired by large corporations, speak of “sustainable development” when they refer to the transgenic soybeans system or “responsible” mining, as if these were elements of a positive transformation of society. This hegemonic discourse is legitimized strategically by academics and scientists paid by transnational corporations, working in a public system that is being divested of independent knowledge. (.) When the results of a study on the effects of a widespread agrochemical used in Argentina are being published and challenged, we support a university-scientiﬁc system autonomous from large corporate economic interests, guided by freedom, and based on ethical principles and responsibility with society and its most vulnerable social sectors.” . The same day, the National Peasant Movement Via Campesina Indígena issued a statement in which they declared: “In recent weeks, proponents of agribusiness mounted a campaign in defense of pesticides and to discredit any dissenting voice. (.) The fear of the entire agribusiness complex (.) is the prohibition of the agrochemical star (glyphosate) together with the loss of millionaire businesses. From peasants’ farms we note with outrage the joint actions of companies and the media in defense of glyphosate (.)” (2009). Three days after the results of the experiment were published, the Environmental Lawyers Association ﬁled an appeal before the Supreme Court requesting the suspension of commercialization, sale and application of glyphosate in the entire country based on the new experiment as
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Fig. 4. First page of national newspaper on Carrasco’s experiment.
well as previous national scientiﬁc studies. They also asked the government to determine the health impact of agrochemicals within 180 days. They placed responsibility on the national executive government, as well as the provincial governments of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Santa Fe; they also pointed to Monsanto. The appeal was based on the precautionary principle stipulated by Article 4 of National Environmental Law (“the absence of scientiﬁc proof or information should not be used as a reason for postponing effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”) and article 14 of the National Constitution.19 In May 2009 the Committee on Ethics in Science and Technology (CEPT) recommended that the Ministry of S&T creates an interdisciplinary commission to assess the risks of glyphosate. A new Commission on Agrochemicals of the Ministry of Health (Comisión Nacional de Investigación sobre Agroquímicos del Ministerio de Salud) was created. In November 2009, this commission together with the Ministry of S&T created a Scientiﬁc Interdisciplinary Council within CONICET in order to review and evaluate available international and national scientiﬁc evidence on the effects of glyphosate on health and the environment. A report was published in July 2009. Many of the scientiﬁc studies quoted
19 Article 14 of the National Constitution: “All inhabitants enjoy the right to a healthful, balanced environment ﬁt for human development, so that productive activities satisfy current needs without compromising those of future generations, and have the duty to preserve the environment. (.) It falls to the Nation to dictate laws containing a minimum budget [necessary] for protecting the environment, and to the Provinces [to dictate] those laws necessary to complement the National laws, without such laws altering local jurisdictional [authority]. (.).”
were produced by the same ﬁrm that sells glyphosate based agrochemicals. Regarding the effects of glyphosate on human health the report says: “Epidemiological studies show some pesticides (including glyphosate) were associated to miscarriages and loss of fertility among working women exposed to them, as well as male partners. There is no scientiﬁc data in Argentina. (.) It has been mentioned the increase in birth defects and abnormal development associated to the use of glyphosate in fumigators’ and rural worker children. (.) Different environmental factors can intervene in the process of endocrine disruption. It is difﬁcult to establish a causal relationship between exposition to chemical substances and illness or alterations of human health, when the causal factor under study is a mixture of substances and when controls have some level of contamination. No studies have been conducted on this issue in Argentina” [14, p. 94–5]. Carrasco’s experimental results regarding the effects of glyphosate on birth defects and abnormal developments (published by an international journal of toxicology: ) were not included in the report. Other independent studies regarding DNA damage and glyphosate in Argentina conducted by argentine CONICET scientists and physicians, published in international scientiﬁc journals [52,53], were not included in the analysis. The report ends with: “There is not enough data on the effects of glyphosate on human health in Argentina. It would be important to promote the development of pertinent studies” [14, p. 132]. In spite of this, there is no reference to the precautionary principle stipulated by Article 4 of the National Environmental Law 25675: “the absence of scientiﬁc proof or information should not be used as a reason for postponing effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” In August 2010 physicians from the rural villages in GM soy-producing provinces held a meeting at the School of Medical Sciences in the province of Cordoba. It was the ﬁrst time that a national university hosted an ofﬁcial conference on such topic as agrochemicals and public health. Molecular biologists, geneticists, epidemiologists, endocrinologists, and other experts like Carrasco presented empirical data on this issue. A report released after the meeting was introduced by a political declaration signed by the participants: “For 10 years rural populations of soy-production areas have been claiming to political authorities, the judiciary system and public opinion that their health is threatened by agrochemical spraying. (.) In order to create a space for analysis and academic reﬂection on the state of fumigated villages, listen and help the members of health teams at rural hospitals that have been denouncing and facing this problem, the School of Medicine at the National University of Córdoba called this 1st national meeting of physicians and experts” . This meeting was the founding moment of a social movement exclusively composed by experts. The University Network for Public Health and Environment-Physicians of Fumigated Villages became a formal network of physicians and experts that worked together toward a shared goal: “to link, coordinate and enhance scientiﬁc research, health care, epidemiological analysis and the promotion and defense of the right to collective health, performed by different teams working in 10 different provinces of Argentina” (University Network for Public Health and Environment-Physicians of Fumigated Villages’s webpage). With more than twenty
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professionals actively involved, the movement created a webpage to communicate national and international scientiﬁc news on issues related to the use of agrochemicals as well as publish collective statements on concrete national policies regarding agrarian biotechnology. They published the report of their ﬁrst meeting as a book and organized a Second Meeting the year after at the National University of Rosario, in another GM soy producer region. In May 2010, the forest engineer Claudio Lowy supported by the National Ecological Action Network, the Union of Civil Assemblies, Red Alternativas a los Plaguicidas en América Latina (RAPAL) and the Association of Environmental Lawyers, among others, sent a request to the Ombudsman’s ofﬁce with 10,000 signatures asking intervention to change the toxicological methodology for the classiﬁcation of agrochemicals. For the ﬁrst time, the struggle questioned what apparently only experts in toxicology could question: the scientiﬁc methodology used to determine the risk of chemicals use on human health. For the ﬁrst time, social movements and NGOs directly targeted the local and global organizations producing the regulatory science for the bioeconomy: the World Health Organization and SENASA. The methodology used by the WHO (and adopted by SENASA) to classify the toxicity of chemicals is known as 50% acute oral or dermal lethal dose (LD50). This only takes into account lethal damage, determined by giving rats a single dose or multiple doses over a relatively short time. The acute oral LD50 is the amount of substance that, if ingested one time, causes death in 50% of test animals. This dose is expressed as mg/kg of the test animal’s weight. The requirement to the Ombudsman was for the methodology to consider not only the lethal damage but the whole set of toxicological health damage (sub-acute lethal, long-term lethal, acute sub-lethal, chronic sub-lethal) that can be caused by the products. Finally, the Ombudsman agreed with the request and formally solicited a change in the toxicological methodology to the National Ministry of Agriculture. As the Ministry did not take any concrete action, the Environmental Association Lawyers ﬁled a new lawsuit in 2011 against the executive government. The lawsuit demanded an urgent change in the toxicological classiﬁcation of agrochemicals as well as the declaration of a national state of health emergency, based on the scientiﬁc data of the report published by the University Network for Public Health and Environment-Physicians of Fumigated Villages. The activism carried on by this array of different experts can be deﬁned as type 3: scientists and experts trying to intervene in knowledge production from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions (see Table 2). For the ﬁrst time regulatory scientiﬁc institutions became direct targets of contestation. They demanded that these institutions include counterhegemonic clinical and experimental studies conducted in the country as valid evidence for understanding and ﬁxing problems in the scientiﬁc bases of current agrochemical regulations. The ﬁnal goals of the different groups involved in this type of activism have not been reached yet. However, their actions have achieved many positive results. First, new counter-hegemonic experimental evidence was produced in support of the clinical studies previously conducted by rural physicians. Carrasco’s experiment was used as scientiﬁc proof in lawsuits to limit and regulate the use of agrochemicals in different locations. Second, the agrochemical
controversy acquired new public visibility after the results of the experiment were published in a massive newspaper. More people were interested in decision-making processes regarding current agrochemical regulations. In other words, new demands for government transparency and accountability for decision making processes arose. The creation of a new interdisciplinary committee of local experts to revise available scientiﬁc data on the effects of glyphosate in human health and the environment (Committee of Ethics in Science and Technology) meant an acknowledgment of potential ﬂaws in the toxicological classiﬁcation deﬁned by the WHO. Even if the report issued by the national committee did not contradict hegemonic data, it did mean a ﬁrst step in the localization of scientiﬁc–regulatory decisions. Decisions that, so far, had been directly imported from abroad (from the World Health Organization) had to be revised and legitimized by local experts and scientiﬁc institutions. This type of activism has granted greater responsibility to the national scientiﬁc–regulatory system in decisions regarding public health risks. 4.4. Some outcomes of an open-ended process Challenging regulatory frameworks for the use of agrochemicals in Argentina was an intricate process and is still open ended. Still, almost ten years after the ﬁrst claims, it is possible to analyze some of the main outcomes. First, the outcomes should be contextualized in the political process of the country. In March 2008, the Argentine government established by decree Resolution 125 (Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas Públicas 2008)  which increased tax on soy exports (“retenciones”), from 33% to 44%, and applied a series of adjustable tax retentions that would vary according to the international price of soy. It did not take long for soy producers to respond. A few days later, four entities representing different sectors of soy production launched an agrarian lockout20 demanding the elimination of the Resolution 125. Most of the media spoke out against the Resolution 125 and the government. After the Minister of Economy resigned, the President was forced to send the government’s tax proposal for revision to the Congress and eventually, it was rejected. Taxes on agricultural exports returned to previous levels but the conﬂict of interests between the Government and soy producers on the redistribution of proﬁts from soy exports did not come to a halt. The conﬂict between soy producers and the government became an effective “political opportunity”  for those who wanted to challenge regulatory frameworks. For example, the newspaper that published Carrasco’s experiment results was known to have a pro-government tendency. It is possible that the chances of publishing the results in the front page of this newspaper were higher in this political moment. This could be understood as a “threat sign” from the government to soy producers: public opinion could be easily turned against soy producers, inﬂuenced by the negative effects of agrochemicals.21
20 They blocked the principal transportation routes for food, creating a serious national problem because of resulting food shortages. 21 This information was provided in an interview with a key informant.
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In December 2009, for the ﬁrst time, a provincial justice in Cordoba (the province where the conﬂict started) banned the spraying of glyphosate in the vicinity of populated areas in Ituzaingó (500 m, 1500 m for aerial spraying), establishing it as a criminal offense of willful pollution to the environment and to public health. The Prosecutor, Carlos Matheu, considered spraying in urban areas as a “criminal offense” based on the National Hazardous Waste Law, punished by Article 55 with 5–10 years of prison. In March 2010, following the decision made by the Cordoba justice, a court in the province of Santa Fe upheld a decision blocking farmers from spraying agrochemicals near the populated area of San Jorge (800 m; 1500 m for aerial spraying). The judge asked the government of Santa Fe and the National University of Litoral to prove that agrochemicals are not harmful for human health within the next six months. For the ﬁrst time, the responsibility of providing the proof was inverted.22 It was also the ﬁrst time that the precautionary principle stipulated by Article 4 of the National Environmental Law 25.675 and the article 14 of the National Constitution were used to ban spraying close to populated areas. In June 2010 a court in the province of Chaco banned the use of agrochemicals (among them, glyphosate) in the vicinity of a neighborhood in La Leonesa and Las Palmas (1000 m, 2000 m for aerial spraying). The decision took into account the precautionary principle and ordered that the producers submit an environmental impact study.23 Most social movements, NGOs, and organized groups of experts involved in the struggle, considered these rulings as important and positive steps in their struggle.24 The legal decisions prevented not only aerial spraying, but also ground spraying in many locations. However, it is important to note that successful outcomes were obtained only at the local level. The agrochemical regulations and limits were only valid for the speciﬁc locations named in the rulings: villages or neighborhoods, not even an entire province. Of course, each ruling became a powerful legal precedent for further complaints and a tool for other local struggles in the same provinces. But it is up to local populations to ﬁght for that and initiate their own legal procedure. At the national level, fewer goals were accomplished. On the one hand, the national government created a special interdisciplinary committee of experts (Committee of Ethics in Science and Technology) to release a public report reviewing available scientiﬁc evidence on health effects of glyphosate and justifying current regulations. Even if the results of the report were not positive for the activists, the fact that it was signed by local experts representing national scientiﬁc institutions implied a re-acquisition of
22 Instead of requiring the neighbors (victims) prove the harm, instead it was the government’s job to show that the products were safe. 23 Spraying in nearby waterways and schools No. 17 and No. 68 was also banned. The ruling required an environmental impact study within 90 days, and asked the Ministry of Production for a “detailed report” of pesticides and agrochemical air and ground applications, transportation, and storage. It also required the Provincial Water Administration (APA) to account for the analyses already made in the area. 24 However, some of them (like GRR) were not satisﬁed. The believe that delimiting free zones for glyphosate spraying fragments the general interest in the struggle, and undermines the ﬁght for a real and systemic change of the agro-productive model.
responsibility by the national scientiﬁc system. This would be a ﬁrst step to counter the tendency toward the internationalization of regulatory decisions . On the other hand, despite the recommendation from the National Ombudsman, there has yet to be a change in the toxicological classiﬁcation of glyphosate used by SENASA that would acknowledge the many health effects (apart from the “acute lethal” effects). SENASA keeps using the World Health Organization’s toxicological classiﬁcation based on the 50% acute oral or dermal lethal dose. Finally, despite the existence of different law projects, there is still no national law regulating the use of agrochemicals in the entire country. 5. Regulatory science and collective action in the bioeconomy This case study focused on the dynamics of bottom-up initiatives to change the science-based regulatory frameworks of the bioeconomy. We can see how complex struggles become in that boundary zone between basic science and policy – regulatory science – where all the different parties mentioned above can interact and clash, and where every issue always has to be tackled on two fronts at once (lay/expert, facts/rights, science/law, etc.). My research questions dealt with the possibilities for rural populations of peripheral regions to participate in the regulation of biotechnology in agriculture. Current sciencebased regulations present social movements with a dilemma: they must choose between either promoting broader basis for regulatory policy (opening a social, political and/or cultural debate), or entering a complex ﬁeld of contention, in which expertise is a requirement to have a legitimized voice . The literature presented three different ways in which social movements can get involved in science and technology issues: social movements of lay people trying to intervene from “outside” scientiﬁc institutions, allied groups of scientists and lay people trying to intervene both from “inside” and “outside” institutions, scientists and experts trying to change the rules of knowledge production from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions. By reconstructing the trajectory of different challenges to current regulatory frameworks by social movements in Argentina, I found that not one but all three types of collective action were in play. The Argentine case showed that sometimes a single type of collective action might not be enough. Rather, the interplay among the three of them is a prerequisite for any change. Around Argentina, the intertwined types of actions converged in a mutually empowering dynamic. Rural populations had to get together and create grassroots organizations able to mobilize other people in order to express their claims and exercise some sort of leverage on government institutions: Madres de Ituzaingó were the ﬁrst, followed by many local groups of Stop the Spraying and Union of Popular Assemblies. These organizations had to be quite strong in order to survive long periods of time, as legislative processes tend to be relatively slow. But organization was not enough. Going back to the dilemma presented by Moore et al. ; accepting the scientism of regulatory policy was the only option for social movements to be heard. Hence, new ways of acting had to be developed as traditional repertoires
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of actions (like demonstrations, road blockage, and rallies) were not enough. They had to legitimize their claims scientiﬁcally before blocking any street or organizing any rally. From the beginning, they engaged in popular epidemiology  to create their own epidemiological data, and build partnerships with local physicians. At the same time, experts from Argentina and abroad took independent initiatives in order to express from “inside” scientiﬁc institutions their own disagreement with the scientiﬁc basis of current bioeconomy regulations. They created new research lines and projects as well as published new results challenging existing studies that determine the World Health Organization’s toxicological classiﬁcation of agrochemicals. Many of them also participated in national and international collective networks of professionals, coordinating their actions with grassroots social movements in different ways: engaging in popular epidemiology; working toward the spread of scientiﬁc results (like publishing new ﬁndings in the media or creating a webpage to communicate with non-expert audiences); helping environmental lawyers include scientiﬁc data in lawsuits; and giving public speeches in demonstrations and conferences across the country. Some of them even became active members of grassroots social movements, founding what the literature identiﬁed as allied groups of scientists and lay people (type 2). Many local groups of Stop the Spraying and Union of Popular Assemblies, are currently comprised of both lay people and experts. In fact, the action of experts alone might have had little impact without the local mobilization of grassroots social movements pressing the government authorities. Even if the struggles were successful mainly at the local level, the positive outcomes resulted from the complex coordination of local, national and global collective efforts of lay people and experts. Many things had to be lined up in order to produce local changes in regulations: a ﬁnding done with an experimental-animal model and some epidemiological or clinical evidence; both testimony from experts and the affected lay people; people mobilized in the streets, experts mobilized in global professional settings; and legal procedures in the provincial and national Courts. Different targets had to be addressed at the same time: public/politicians were one relevant audience, but also professionals (doctors), expert regulators as well as basic scientists at multiple locales. How differences between peripheral and central regions would affect strategies of struggle and the outcomes of bottom-up challenges to the regulatory frameworks of the bioeconomy remains to be studied. In spite of these
25 Most initiatives in semi-peripheral or peripheral countries have to deal with the fact that their national economies are strongly dependent on the production and export of GM commodities. In Argentina, exporting GM soy became one of the most important economic activities of the country (constituting almost ¼ of total national exports). This means that any limit on the production of GM crops might lead to a critical decrease in the level of national economic growth and a decrease of public funds (a huge proportion of which comes from the taxes on GM soy exports). This strongly diminishes the possibilities for national regulatory institutions like SENASA to promote stronger regulations in the use of agrochemicals and production of GM crops. This may not apply in the context of developing countries, with more diversiﬁed economic systems. However, other obstacles might be found there.
differences, my case study provides interesting insights into the general features of dynamics of resistance to the bioeconomy.25 To sum up, I identiﬁed new performances in the struggle for changing current regulatory frameworks for agricultural biotechnology. According to Tilly (1986), changes in repertoires happen incrementally and are a result of accumulating experience and changes in broader social, political, and economic processes. The global spread of the bioeconomy and the associated scientism of regulatory policies imply important transformations that pave the way for the emergence of new repertoires of collective action. Comparative case studies – including central and peripheral countries – would allow a better understanding of these processes. In a time when people across the globe are increasingly exposed to biotechnology’s uncertain effects, it is critical to understand the obstacles and possibilities for participating in regulatory decisions regarding risk.
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