Transgenic-free Territories in Costa Rica: Networks, place, and the politics of life

by Thomas W. Pearson

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By Thomas W. Pearson Several municipalities across Costa Rica have adopted “transgenic-free territory” ordinances, joining similar communities worldwide in declaring themselves free from genetically engineered organisms such as transgenic seeds. Through ethnography of antitransgenic activism, I describe the rise of transgenic-free territories to examine the relationship between transnational activist networks and place-based struggles. I suggest that activist networks and the transgenic-free territory designation respond to processes of globalization that have reorganized the material and discursive relations between capital and nature, and I show why such territories have gained significance as a defense of sovereignty, place, and even life itself. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2011.01350.x/abstract

Local officials in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, a town in Costa Rica, receive a wooden plaque from environmentalists that reads “Transgenic-Free Municipality.” Photograph by Thomas Pearson, December 2005
Local officials in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, a town in Costa Rica, receive a wooden plaque from environmentalists that reads “Transgenic-Free Municipality.” Photograph by Thomas Pearson, December 2005

Activists assemble in the central square of Paraíso, Cartago, in Costa Rica, for a demonstration to celebrate the town’s status as a “transgenic-free territory.” The banner toward the back features a transgenic chicken/tomato. The banner in front calls for a moratorium on the planting of transgenic seeds. Photograph by Thomas Pearson, March 2006
Activists assemble in the central square of Paraíso, Cartago, in Costa Rica, for a demonstration to celebrate the town’s status as a “transgenic-free territory.” The banner toward the back features a transgenic chicken/tomato. The banner in front calls for a moratorium on the planting of transgenic seeds. Photograph by Thomas Pearson, March 2006