Wonderful Potencies: Deep Structure and the Problem of Monopoly in Agricultural Biotechnology
Engineering Trouble: Genetic Engineering and Its Discontents, Kelso and Schurman, eds., University of California Press, 2003
70 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2012
Date Written: 2003
This chapter examines the historical development of the agricultural biotechnology complex and the strategies employed by major firms in their attempt to build an agro-industrial complex centered on biotechnology and the life sciences. The first section investigates the transformation of agricultural breeding efforts under the influence of modern genetics and molecular biology, focusing on how the highly reductionist view of life that came to dominate breeding and genetic improvement efforts following World War II has been accompanied by an accelerated shift in the locus of innovation from the public land-grant universities to provide biotechnology companies, large life-science multinationals and, more recently, small boutique genomics firms. The next section focuses on the key legal developments that have allowed both for the transformation of “novel” life forms and genetic sequences into new forms of property and for the reconfiguration of relationships between public and private science. The third section then looks at the organizational strategy employed by Monsanto and other first-movers to create a vertically-integrated structure capable of capturing the economic value associated with these new forms of property through the acquisition of key germplasm resources, seed delivery systems, and horizontal and vertical licensing arrangements. Finally, the concluding section addresses some of the legal, political, and economic challenges associated with the emerging architecture of the agricultural biotechnology complex and suggests some of the reasons why the question of regulation and governance in the sector is so challenging.
Keywords: agriculture, biotechnology, genetic engineering, patents, antitrust
JEL Classification: K21, L12, L13, L40, L41, Q13, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation