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Abstract

In a context of economic and environmental crises in the 1970s US economy, biotechnology appeared to redefine the limits of capital and the planet by giving capital entry to a new molecular world. This process was fuelled by public and speculative funds in the US and Europe and accompanied by anxieties on the safety of these innovations around the world. These anxieties have been stabilised through international and national regulations of biosafety designed to safeguard biodiversity and human health from the potentially negative effects of genetically modified (GM) organisms. Thus, this thesis follows the social life of biosafety from its design in international and governmental institutions to the way in which it is translated and practiced in agricultural fields. Based on the case of GM cotton production in Colombia, the thesis questions the explicit functionality of biosafety as guardian of biodiversity considering some of its paradoxical effects: claiming to protect biological diversity while helping to commodify genetically uniform seeds; claiming to protect the environment from GM crops while protecting GM plants’ commercial qualities from environmental forces; and simultaneously helping to produce standard seeds and singular commodities. These paradoxical effects are conceptualised through the notion of commodification suggesting that biosafety regulations and practices are part of the network that supports the production of GM cotton seeds as commodities. This accounts for the vulnerability of the GM seeds’ market to the effective implementation of biosafety regulations and practices, and for the diverse forms of power that are deployed to minimise this vulnerability.

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