WashU affiliated authors: Rebecca Dudley, Dept. of Anthropology
Introduction: In Cultivating Knowledge, Andrew Flachs examines cotton farming in southeastern India from a political-ecological perspective to assess the effects of global technological and economic pressures in cotton production on farmers’ agricultural knowledge. Specifically, he considers aspects of farming, such as seed selection and farming-as-performance, within social, political, and economic institutions. Focusing on two groups of cotton farmers in Telangana, India, one which cultivates genetically modified (GM) cotton (also referred to as Bt cotton, reflecting its genetic donor, Bacterium thuringiensis) and one which farms organically, Flachs provides a comparison between their responses to global agricultural trends. The former group relies on seed and farm input sellers to make decisions about what to plant and how to cultivate, while the latter are supported and constrained by non-governmental development organizations (development NGOs) on which they depend to maintain funding and which require them to use certain agricultural practices while demonstrating such practices in a public and educational manner. This ‘performative’ agriculture becomes a viable path for rural well being, Flachs asserts, because the NGOs in turn underwrite agricultural risk for farmers. Flachs argues that it is not the characteristics of the seed that primarily affects farmers’ agricultural knowledge, as agribusiness and development discourse might suggest, but rather social, economic, and political pressures that motivate and drive farmers’ decisions on seed selection.
Citation: Dudley, R. Andrew Flachs. Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in South India. Hum Ecol 48, 515–517 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-020-00175-z