Contesting Corporate Transgenic Crops in a Semi Peripheral Context: The Case of the Anti-GM movement in India

  • Devparna Roy University of Puget Sound
Keywords: anti-GM movement, India, anti-corporate, coalition politics


Market penetration by the hegemonic core state's agricultural biotechnology firms has been preceded and accompanied by a vigorous anti-genetically modified seeds (anti-GM) movement in semi-peripheral India. To understand the extent of anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism exhibited by the Indian state, it is useful to investigate the character of democratizing forces-such as the anti-GM movement-which interact with and shape the state. I use primary and secondary data sources to analyze the anti-GM movement in India and argue that the movement is anti-corporate without being anti-capitalist. Further, it is counter-hegemonic but not anti-systemic. These four traits reflect the strengths and weaknesses of exemplary coalition-building between right-wing nationalists, centrists, and left activists. The Indian anti-GM movement suffered an early failure when the Indian state commercialized Bt cotton seeds in 2002, following the entry of unauthorized Bt cotton seeds and lobbying by farmers' groups for legalization of Bt cotton seeds. However, an effective coalition between the right-wing, centrist, and left elements was built by about 2006. This was followed by a most significant victory for the anti-GM movement in February 2010, when the Indian state placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercialization of Bt brinjal seeds. A second, more qualified, victory was achieved by the anti-GM movement when the Indian state placed a hold on field trials of GM crops in July 2014. The anti-GM coalition has been successful in pressing ideologically different political parties to take steps against the multinational seed firms based in core states. Further, it has enabled the Indian state to move from a sub-imperialist to an anti-imperialist role regarding GM seeds. But until the anti-GM coalition in India resolves its inner contradictions and becomes resolutely anti-capitalist and anti-systemic, it will not be able to effectively challenge the anti-imperialist Indian state's pro-capitalist stance regarding GM seeds and industrial agriculture.


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How to Cite
Roy, D. (2015). Contesting Corporate Transgenic Crops in a Semi Peripheral Context: The Case of the Anti-GM movement in India. Journal of World-Systems Research, 21(1), 88-105.
States and Social Movements in the Modern World-System