The role of political myth in the international conflict over genetically modified foods and crops

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Series Details Vol.17, No.6, November-December 2007, p376-386
Publication Date November 2007
ISSN 0961-0405
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Abstract: Although the controversy over genetically modified (GM) foods and crops has generated some well known myths, such as frankenfoods, there has been little analysis of the political role played by these myths. Yet the significance of myth in the GM debate is considerable: indeed, by reflecting and reinforcing the political stances of the major protagonists, myths have themselves become important components in the conflict. With the aid of theoretical tools derived from Laclau, we examine the notion of political myth, and find that it has three levels: factual error, social meaning and political hegemony. We apply this theory to the GM controversy, distinguishing between substantive GM myths, such as frankenfoods, and procedural GM myths, such as the EU moratorium on GM products. We conclude that if such political myths become powerful enough, they could transform themselves into dominant hegemons - i.e. what Laclau calls social imaginaries - and begin to dictate GM policies across the globe.

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