Guest lecture: "Magic GM Beans: soybean, history, and development of first GM varieties in the Americas"
Soil, water, and savannas: entangled global environmental histories of soy farming
Over the last decades, the advancement of soybean monoculture in several savannah environments of Latin America and Africa has created socio-ecological disorders dynamics with a potential global outreach. This paper proposes an entangled historical analysis of the interplanetary family of savannahs centered upon the recent dynamics of soy farming. While generally unappreciated compared to forest formations – either for their vegetation type, their acidic soils, or the predominance of grasses over forests – savannahs constitute crucial hotspots of ecological diversity. Since the mid-twentieth century, crop hybridization techniques, genetic manipulation, and water drilling allowed rapid agricultural exploitation, along the lines of the Green Revolution model developed in the American Mid-West during the late nineteenth century. In particular, the successful case of the Brazilian Cerrado, where the production of valuable agricultural commodities such as soybeans significantly increased within a few decades, led to the conversion and capitalization of other savannah regions previously considered unapt for agriculture. This lecture addresses the relationship between savannahs, a process characterized by the consolidation of a monocultural planetary model, mainly driven by soy biotechnologies, and its successful export to other savannah realities. The reconstruction of the meaningful agricultural, scientific, and ecological entanglements will specifically focus on the centrality of soybean farming in promoting these agro-environmental practices.
Claiton Marcio da Silva is associate professor at the Federal University of the Southern Frontier (UFFS), Chapecó, Brazil.