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Controversy over genetically modified crops in India: discursive strategies and social identities of farmers

TOMIKO YAMAGUCHI
Discourse Studies
Vol. 9, No. 1 (FEBRUARY 2007), pp. 87-107
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24049001
Page Count: 21
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Controversy over genetically modified crops in India: discursive strategies and social identities of farmers
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Abstract

The controversies over genetically modified crops (GM crops) in India involve what Gieryn (1999) refers to as 'boundary work' in the ongoing competition for credibility and trustworthiness among claimsmakers with opposing points of view. Discourse about GM crops involves extensive drawing of boundaries by actors including policymakers, technocrats, NGOs, scientists, industrialists, and farmers. The issues raised range from governmental processes to moral and ethical implications, from environmental consequences to integration into the global economy. Those involved in these discussions frequently invoke the idealized notions of farmers and farming in order to situate themselves within the boundary of a particular social category which may lend credibility to their claims. While Gieryn has focused primarily on scientists' attempts to construct a boundary between science and non-science in order to establish themselves as experts, strengthen the credibility of their claims and avoid political interference in their intellectual activities, this article focuses on a different way in which knowledgeable and influential actors lay claim to trustworthiness by drawing a different kind of social boundary around themselves. This article will especially focus on the ways in which the category of farmers is used in the GM crop controversies by actors who are in a position to influence public policies regarding GM crops (elite actors), especially in their efforts to justify their policy prescriptions. The thesis here is that GM crop controversies in India reflect elite actors' attempts to compete for a shared social identity with farmers, thus constructing a context for the particular public policy prescriptions they support. The thesis is supported by a lexical item frequency analysis of discussion related to genetically modified cotton in India which demonstrates that boundary work using social identity of farmers plays a significant role in shaping the discourse surrounding the adoption and governance of GM crops.

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