Journal article

Is the Feminist Ethics of Care framework a useful lens for GM crop risk appraisal in the global south?

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Publication Details

Author list: Whittingham Jennifer, Wynberg Rachel

Publisher: Elsevier: 24 months

Publication year: 2021

Journal: Technology in Society

Volume number: 64

ISSN: 0160-791X



The risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops is assumed to be a benign regulatory tool due to its perceived objectivity and freedom from the morals and values that pervade society. Yet, against the current backdrop of ecological, social and political volatility, issues that cannot be resolved using the existing framework in South Africa are consistently emerging. This paper calls for a reformation of regulatory procedures by exploring the potential of Feminist Care Ethics to illuminate an alternative approach to the assessment of GM crops. While fresh thinking is welcome into the entangled field of biotechnology governance, there remains little understanding of how to accommodate such approaches in the context of the Global South. Twenty three interviews with participants from governmental, non-governmental and academic bodies were carried out in order to explore the potential of a Feminist Ethic of Care as an alternative framework. By examining the current appraisal procedures and tracing their evolution, problems with the current system were illuminated. To assess the suitability of the care ethic framework and ensure reflexivity, a hybrid approach to thematic analysis was applied. Using themes derived from feminist literature such as relationships, context, power, narrative and emotion, new ‘ways of seeing’ risk emerged and illuminated salient issues that are habitually ignored by the current science-based risk approach to assessment. The current approach was found to be flawed, stemming from a neoliberal, productivist perception of our socio-ecological environment. Feminist perspectives instead ask us to broaden the framing of risk, to consider different knowledges, to re-imagine ourselves as social, rather than economic beings, to tap into the capacity of socio-ecological relations and to recognize and dismantle power structures. The research concludes that although the care ethics themes offer a new approach to GM crop regulation, meaningful change will not arise from simply adding these elements to the current system. Rather, a call must be made for a re-imagining, and redesigning, both institutionally and politically-economically.


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Last updated on 2020-25-11 at 10:58