The Open UniversitySkip to content

Coexistence or contradiction? GM crops versus alternative agricultures in Europe

Levidow, Les and Boschert, Karin (2008). Coexistence or contradiction? GM crops versus alternative agricultures in Europe. Geoforum, 39(1) pp. 174–190.

Full text available as:
PDF (Not Set) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (588kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Agricultural biotechnology (agbiotech) has intersected with a wider debate about 'sustainable agriculture', especially in Europe. Agbiotech was initially promoted as an alternative which would avoid or remedy past problems of intensive agriculture, but such claims were soon challenged. Agbiotech has extended the dominant agri-industrial paradigm, while critics have counterposed alternatives corresponding to an agrarian-based rural development paradigm. Amid controversy over environmental and health risks in the late 1990s, an extra issue emerged ? the prospect that genetically modified (GM) material would become inadvertently mixed with non-GM crops. In response the European Commission developed a policy framework for 'coexistence' between GM, conventional and organic crops. This policy has aimed to ensure that farmers can freely choose among different production systems, which would develop side by side, yet specific proposals for coexistence rules favour some choices over others. Such rules have been contested according to different policy agendas, each promoting their model of future agriculture. Moreover, a Europe-wide network of regional authorities has promoted 'GM-free zones' as a territorial brand for green, localised, high-quality agri-food production, whose diverse qualities depend upon symbolic, immaterial characteristics. This alternative has been counterposed to the agri-industrial production of global commodities – symbolised by the European Union, especially its product authorisation procedure for the internal market. 'Coexistence' policy was intended to mediate policy conflicts over GM crops, yet it has become another arena for contending agricultural systems, which may not so readily co-exist in practice. Wherever an agrarian-based rural development paradigm gains local support, its alternative agricultures are in contradiction rather than coexistence with GM crops.

Item Type: Journal Item
ISSN: 0016-7185
Keywords: agricultural biotechnology; genetically modified (GM) crops; admixture; segregation; coexistence; sustainable agriculture; agricultural paradigms; European Union; European Commission
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies > Development
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: Innovation, Knowledge & Development research centre (IKD)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 10275
Depositing User: Les Levidow
Date Deposited: 02 Jan 2008
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2019 09:40
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU