Seeds of Contestation: Genetically Modified Crops and the Politics of Agricultural Modernization in Ghana

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What actors, expertise, and models of development are advanced by the ‘new Green Revolution in Africa’? This dissertation addresses this question through a blend of discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork during a period of agricultural transition in Northern Ghana. What struggles over authority, knowledge, identity, and property define this contemporary political economy of agricultural modernization in Ghana? I argue that legal, techno-scientific expertise and agribusiness work together to advance a model of agricultural development based on new forms of capital, governance structures, and technology. This model of agricultural development is mobilized and legitimated through discourses of emergency, salvation, entrepreneurship, and humanitarianism. In this new Green Revolution in Africa, regions like Northern Ghana are seen by development planners as ‘backwards,’ with growing ‘yield gaps’ that undermine food security. What is needed, from this perspective, is capital investment, entrepreneurship, and access to yield-enhancing technologies, such as ‘pro-poor biotechnology.’ Deficiency frames, the combined use of hype and science, and donations become critical mechanisms to facilitate—or resist—the entry of contested agricultural technologies and models of agricultural development. At the center of these discursive strategies is the figure of the farmer, who is seen as an agent and object of salvation by proponents and opponents alike. I complement discourse analysis with ethnography to show that these grand plans to transform farming from a way of life to a business are constantly challenged by the existing complexity of Africans’ multiple, coexisting roles, risk reduction practices, and notions of entrepreneurship.