GEOG_130 (6/4)

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University of California - Berkeley
GEOG 130
Nicole C.List

GEOG 130 (6/4) Producing Obesity ● Deepening understanding of how obesity is produced ○ Patel: consumers are constrained by ‘choices’ and access to healthy food. Those who are more affluent have more access to healthy food ○ Guthman: challenges energy-balance model (vs. Patel) ■ Calories consumed hasn’t increased ■ Different races and classes eat about the same number of calories. How the genes are expressed changes how it is viewed ● But genetics don’t suffice! ○ Argues that we need to think about the body as a site where biological and social constantly remake each other - lifestyle of industrialized countries (cars, white-collar jobs) is much different than non-industrialized countries (farming, physical labour, walking, biking) ○ Epigenetics: not about mutations but about environmental effects on gene expression (toxins) ■ Evidence of decreased physical activity is inconclusive (gym, dieting) Agrarian Question (Wood, Kloppenburg) ● The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism (Wood) ○ Capitalism started in the countryside; peasants before capitalism ■ Peasants maintained means of production (land) ● Self-sufficient ● Farming for subsistence goods ■ Produced goods for subsistence and others (clothes for sale in market) ■ Landlords/office-holders extracted surplus from peasants mainly in the form of tax/rent ■ Capitalism produced late in human history, NOT natural ● Not extension of barter/exchange but change in human relations w/ nature and production of necessities ● Similar to Marx ■ What changed? ● Pressures to “improve” the land ○ Cultivating land for market ○ Pressure to produce more ○ New technology changing farming techniques (alternating crops, holding land fallow ● Primitive Accumulation ○ Marxist argue as origin of capitalism (jump-started it) ○ Farmers were dispossessed of their means of production through rent/enclosure acts ■ Prices kept increasing/forced to increase productivity so that farmers could not make enough money to keep lease = forced out into the city and taken over by someone that could buy up or afford ○ Privatization of land ■ Common lands/forests/hunting-lands fenced ■ “Improvement” = technology = made more money by enclosing large tracts of land and hiring workers instead of small groups of workers ○ Agrarian Questions in Private Accumulation ■ How does this apply to family farming? ● Outside of capitalism, not dispossessed although still sell their goods in the market ■ Does agriculture pose obstacles to capitalist social relations? ● Mann & Dickinson (1978) write of various obstacles to capitalist penetration in agriculture production ○ Cannot change production time ○ Family farms self-exploit, outside of traditional labour, work longer, use technology to boost production ■ Public sector explore projects outside of private sector, doesn’t need to work w/ them, regulate ○ Capitalism is persistent! Frequently knocks down ● New technology/machinery quickly integrate into industry; science itself initially had little to do with the technological transformations of the industrial revolution ● Yet capitalism breaks obstacles; “scientific inventions become business” ○ Falling rate in organic composition of capital → moved to inputs ○ Displacement of productive activities off farm into industrial sectors ■ Need to buy seeds/tools (not owned by farmers) ■ De facto expropriation of means of production ■ Conversion of farmer into “properties labourer” notwithstanding who owns the farm itself ● Capitalism relies on property-less workers who sell their labour- power for wages ● Market dependence-markets had existed for a long time but now workers increasingly sell labour-power and capitalists sell commodities ● “Technological Treadmill” ○ Highly competitive at the farm level: profitability determined by per unit costs of production ○ Technological advances reduce per unit costs for early adopters (get most out of new technology → force neighbours to also adopt & make more money → by the time join in new tech, not make much more) ■ “Innovators” rents vanish as the technology spreads ● Organic composition of capital ● Primitive accumulation ○ Marx: separation of labourers from means of production ○ Agrarian → industrial ● Commodification of seed ○ Extension of the commodity form to new spheres ■ Accumulation of value through production for exchange ○ Seeds are self-reproducing ■ Both product of farming and a means of production ■ Farmers can produce them for use as well as for exchange ● How to commodify the seed? ○ Biologically: interrupt the seed’s natural self-reproduction ■ Hybridization: seeds whose next generation isn’t worth planting = not plant ■ Engineered sterility: seeds whose next generation won’t produce a crop (terminator gene) ○ Socially: make seed varieties private property such that replanting them can be made illegal ■ Plant Patent Act (1930) covered asecually reproducing plants only ■ Plant Variety Protection Act of 1969 ■ Chakrabarty Case (Supreme Court) 1980 ■ Hibberd Case *US Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences) 1985 ○ Institutions and the Division of Labour in Agricultural Research ■ Who does/pay for research? ■ What kind of research done by private/public sector? ● Public Agricultural Research ■ How division of labour changed over time? ● Public seed improvement by Simple Mass Selection ○ Collection of germplasm from around the world & across the country ○ Free distribution to farmers across the US ○ Select from most successful & replant each year (adapted) ○ Varieties emerge/survive from local conditions ○ Free of charge to individual farmers ○ Discouraged private investment in seed improvement ○ Competed directly in the marketplace, lowering prices for needly ○ Quality control ● Public seed improvement by USDA/LGU/SAES science ○ Trials of imported plants ○ Development of improved varieties in research facilities ○ Further free distribution to farmers ○ Helped keep niches filled w/ commercially viable crops across the country ● Public seed improvement by hybridization ○ 1900 rediscovery of Mendelian genetics: laws governing inheritance of traits across gens ○ In Theory, permitted controlled breeding of plants for specific traits ○ In practice, 25+ yrs to realize the ambition ● Before ○ Open-pollinated ○ Save good seeds for next year ● Public seed improvement by hybridization ○ Varieties are the result of selecting for a definite train over many generations (stature, yield, colour) ○ Inbreeding can depress yields and/or increase susceptibility to disease/pests (lack of genetic variation, but can also breed for susceptibility) ○ Inbreeding, ‘double-cross’ method produces “hybrid vigour” → resulting seeds are ‘economically sterile’ and their high performance is limited to a single generation = must go back and buy every year (primitive accumulation, dispossessed from inputs to produce crops/modes of production) ○ Process is too complex for farmers to perform in the field = new division of labour ■ Public sector develops the improved lines for hybrid crossing (mass selection) ■ Private sector uses them to produce commercial seed for sale (experiments) Fertilizers and Environmental Degradation (Townshend, Howarth, Foster) ● Understanding of Metabolic Rift and past/cur
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