Genetically Modified Diplomacy: The Global Politics of Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment.


324 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1268-9
DDC 343'.0786606





Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


Peter Andrée of Carleton University has produced an exhaustive, accurate, and perceptive book on the history of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their development, commercialization, and introduction into the global environment. The account culminates in one of the few (qualified) triumphs of global health and environmental regulation, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, finalized in 2000. The protocol is celebrated for incorporating the precautionary principle in an international treaty.


The story is a gripping one, involving principles, compromise, social power, and diplomatic negotiation in the interplay of the political interests involved: the biotech industry, importing countries, the Third World, scientific experts, and international environmental activists.


The theoretical framework of Genetically Modified Diplomacy is one constructed from such thinkers as Gramsci and Foucault. There is a constant attempt to apply their precepts to the diplomatic process and to validate the theoretical approach taken in the book. Here, the book would have been better, and possibly shorter, if it had relied on the insights of these thinkers, rather than trying to cast it within a theoretical framework. One consequence is that the public and negotiating positions of the players are made to seem more homogeneous than they really were, in order to show that one movement or another was “hegemonic.” Another consequence is that the theoretical analysis is sometimes conducted at the expense of the factual details of what actually happened. Thus there is no comprehensive description of Canada’s shoddy and opaque system for the regulation of GMOs, which is not, for all we know, based on risk assessment techniques, as Andrée claims. It is also frustrating that there is no reproduction of the Biosafety Protocol, which would have enabled the reader to gauge the pertinence of Andrée’s analysis.


AndrĂ©e, Peter., “Genetically Modified Diplomacy: The Global Politics of Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,