Jostein Jakobsen: Book Review: Andrew Flachs’ Cultivating Knowledge
Published in Agrarian Questions, The Journal of Agrarian Change, 2022.
Few questions have been more contentious to scholars, activists and broader publics concerned with agrarian issues than the rise of biotechnology—genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular. Among the striking cases of GM ‘wars’ of global fame we find GM cotton in India—known as Bt cotton. Promising to improve yields while lowering pesticide usage, Bt cotton was framed as a ‘solution’ to the country’s widespread agrarian distress. Alongside this, a less publicised solution was the introduction of organic cotton. To understand the GM debate, sustained attention must be paid to how farmers actually integrate these crop varieties in their lives. To do so, the anthropologist Andrew Flachs’ book Cultivating Knowledge suggests we focus intensely at the fundamental of farming: the seed.