Article from ROAPE Volume 33 Number 109
Can the Poor Help GM Crops? Makhathini Flats, S Africa

Can the Poor Help GM Crops? Technology, Representation and Cotton in the Makhathini Flats, South Africa
Vol.33 No.109 (Sept 2006), pp497-513
The adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) cotton in South Africa's Makhathini Flats in 1998 was heralded as a case in which agricultural biotechnology could benefit smallholder farmers, and a model for the rest of the continent to follow. Using historical, political economic and ethnographic data, we find the initial enthusiasm around GM technology to be misguided. We argue that Makhathini's structured institutional framework privileges adopters of GM technologies through access to credit and markets. The adoption of GM cotton is symptomatic not of farmers' endorsement of GM technology, but a sign of the profound lack of choice facing them in the region.