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Saving the gene pool: genebanks and the political economy of crop germplasm conservation

Marques Mano Ivo Peres, S; (2017) Saving the gene pool: genebanks and the political economy of crop germplasm conservation. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In the 1970s, concerns about the erosion of genetic diversity of crops led to the establishment of genebanks, repositories for the conservation of plant genetic material, which raise interesting questions about the ways in which biobanking constructs and shapes bioeconomies. Past theorizations have shown that biobanks are part of new bioeconomies that complicate distinctions between social and economic values, and play essential role by managing the different values and priorities In this thesis, I extend this approach to the conservation and use of crop germplasm. Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture circulate internationally in what I term the ‘germplasm economy’: a complex arrangement that is notable for including a novel multilateral system of mutual facilitated access and benefit sharing. Thus, here I analyse the practices and organisation of genebanks, as a means to explore their role in that economy. Based on an interpretive, discourse analysis of documents and 22 semi-structured, qualitative interviews (with actors involved in gene banking policy and practice in Europe), I argue that genebanks construct the shared pool of plant germplasm by constructing ‘genetic resources’ from germplasm, therefore creating a gene pool that is technically and politically available for sharing in accordance with national and international germplasm policy. In so doing, they manage the different value(s) associated with germplasm in ways that enable and justify the international germplasm economy. Hence, this work corroborates the perspective that biobanks of biological material manage and create the economies that they are part of. Yet, in addition, it suggests that genebanks themselves can be considered resources, and that this understanding is important in constructing the germplasm economy as one predicated on sharing Therefore, it suggests that analyses of biomaterial economies should take into consideration both studies of the bioeconomy and of the political economy of technoscience.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Saving the gene pool: genebanks and the political economy of crop germplasm conservation
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: STS, genebanking, bioeconomy, genetic resources
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1547662
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