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The glyphosate assemblage: herbicides, uneven development, and chemical geographies of ubiquity


Werner, Marion; Berndt, Christian; Mansfield, Becky (2021). The glyphosate assemblage: herbicides, uneven development, and chemical geographies of ubiquity. Annals of the American Association of Geographers:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

The ubiquity of chemicals demands new ways of thinking about human–nature assemblages. This article develops a dialogue between agrarian political economy, critical commodity chains research, and chemical geographies through a case study of the world’s most widely used agrochemical: glyphosate, commonly known as Monsanto’s Roundup. In the 1980s, glyphosate triumphed as a benign biocide that promised both safety and effectiveness. This construct made possible a capitalist agricultural assemblage characterized by chemical pervasiveness, first as a chemical replacement for mechanical tillage and since the 1990s as the chemical input for genetically modified seed packages. The ubiquity that characterizes the glyphosate assemblage is also a geography of uneven development comprising shifting firm networks, policies, and trade. Central to this assemblage since 2000, yet largely ignored, is the outsized expansion of second- and third-tier generic pesticide producers, especially in China, for whom glyphosate is part of a network entry and upgrading development strategy. Today, the glyphosate assemblage faces unprecedented challenges from weed resistance and health controversies. Whether and how the herbicide assemblage restabilizes will be determined by the complex environmental and developmental challenges of chemical agriculture and pervasive chemicals broadly, which highlights the need for a transdisciplinary dialogue that cuts across these domains.

Abstract

The ubiquity of chemicals demands new ways of thinking about human–nature assemblages. This article develops a dialogue between agrarian political economy, critical commodity chains research, and chemical geographies through a case study of the world’s most widely used agrochemical: glyphosate, commonly known as Monsanto’s Roundup. In the 1980s, glyphosate triumphed as a benign biocide that promised both safety and effectiveness. This construct made possible a capitalist agricultural assemblage characterized by chemical pervasiveness, first as a chemical replacement for mechanical tillage and since the 1990s as the chemical input for genetically modified seed packages. The ubiquity that characterizes the glyphosate assemblage is also a geography of uneven development comprising shifting firm networks, policies, and trade. Central to this assemblage since 2000, yet largely ignored, is the outsized expansion of second- and third-tier generic pesticide producers, especially in China, for whom glyphosate is part of a network entry and upgrading development strategy. Today, the glyphosate assemblage faces unprecedented challenges from weed resistance and health controversies. Whether and how the herbicide assemblage restabilizes will be determined by the complex environmental and developmental challenges of chemical agriculture and pervasive chemicals broadly, which highlights the need for a transdisciplinary dialogue that cuts across these domains.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Geography, Planning and Development
Physical Sciences > Earth-Surface Processes
Uncontrolled Keywords:Earth-Surface Processes, Geography, Planning and Development
Language:English
Date:6 May 2021
Deposited On:26 May 2021 10:36
Last Modified:27 May 2021 20:00
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:2469-4460
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2021.1898322
Project Information:
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID200880
  • : Project TitleMARK-AGE - European Study to Establish Biomarkers of Human Ageing

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