Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Competing Food Sovereignties: Food Democracy and GMO-free Activism in Southern Oregon Public Deposited

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  • Food sovereignty is increasingly being conceptualized as a human rights issue. This is evidenced in the growth of local actors, communities, and nation-states that are working towards a food sovereignty agenda. Indicators of food sovereignty center on people having the right and ability to define their food polices. One of the most highly contested food policy issues worldwide is the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMO/GEs) in agricultural production. The dissertation focuses on the human right to food and food sovereignty through an ethnographic account of local food system activism in Southern Oregon. It assesses the present status of the human right to food within civic society and state/local governance by identifying the mechanisms of and hurdles to food sovereignty and food democracy in the era of corporate agrifood. Specifically, this dissertation examines local GMO-free activism and participatory food democracy in Southern Oregon that occurred between 2012 and 2017. Data collection was undertaken during 2016 and 2017. Standard ethnographic methods were utilized including semi-structured interviews and participant-observation. In addition, archival research was conducted on the GMO-free Jackson County campaign and Oregon legislation relating to the use of GMOs in agriculture and the preemptive seed law. The research results indicate that from its inception, the GMO/GE-free movement in Southern Oregon was in the process of negotiating multiple sovereignties at the local and state levels, including concerned citizens in the community, conventional and organic farmers and seed growers, GMO/GE farmers and the State of Oregon. The research identifies and documents the effects of socio-political power dynamics and tensions that exist between civil society and State of Oregon acts of food sovereignty, democracy and agrifood policy in rural Southern Oregon where priorities regarding the use of GMO crops are in conflict. In passing a GMO-free law, Jackson County Oregon has obtained some measure of food sovereignty, however, the State of Oregon’s seed preemptive law enacted in 2013 curtailed efforts for citizens of other counties in the state to enact a similar GMO-free law. By mapping and comparing successful and unsuccessful real-world negotiations of multiple and contested sovereignties, this study historicizes local food activism and provides evidence for the possible emergence of a third global (corporate) food regime.
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