Theses defended

What is a genetically modified seed? A study of the ontological politics of biotechnological innovation

Irina Castro

Public Defence date
September 7, 2022
Doctoral Programme
Governance, Knowledge and Innovation
João Arriscado Nunes , Rita Serra e Raúl Garcia-Barrios
In the last forty years, the existence and impact of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), especially plants, have been the subject of an intense global debate. Considering several controversies regarding them and remembering that GEOs are produced by a complex system of interactions that need to account for both its technical and theoretical possibilities with its political economy and institutional structures, inside and outside the laboratories and the fields, this doctoral research aims to explain what happened (still happens) within one of the most important actors for the existence of genetically engineered organisms, science. Why do we find scientists on both sides of the controversy? What models and ideas about science are in conflict? What factors lay at its roots? What are the consequences of this conflict for what we understand today as science? And considering the controversy, what is, after all, a genetically modified seed?

The search for answers to these questions will follow the path of studies on scientific dissent and laboratory studies in conjunction with the analysis of the process of subsumption of science under capitalism. This path was chosen for two reasons. On the one hand, to complement an already wide variety of critical approaches to the problem of GEOs, and on the other hand, as a strategy to understand the incommensurability of the controversy within the realm of science.

If I remained open to the possibilities of emancipation associated with GEOs during this course, my initial proposal would be defeated in the end. In this sense, rather than looking for possible uses for GEOs, we must look to the concrete utopias developing in the field of dissidence. Utopias that promise a responsible and fair science practice and therefore require the rejection of these beings.

Keywords: genetically engineered organisms; dissent studies of science and technology; subsumption of science under capitalism; concrete utopias