Bees, butterflies, and bacteria: biotechnology and the politics of nonhuman friendship

Bingham, Nick (2006). Bees, butterflies, and bacteria: biotechnology and the politics of nonhuman friendship. Environment and Planning A, 38(3) pp. 483–498.



The author seeks to decentre some already familiar geographies of biotechnology. By asking, with respect to genetically modified (GM) crops, not ‘what is the new?', but ‘where is the new?', the intention is to redirect attention (at least briefly) away from the GM technique or genetically modified object and its supposed properties, to the world to which that technique or object is being added. This in turn allows the question concerning GM to be approached from new directions, for example, via the routes taken into the controversy by three specific organisms. Not fully taken into account in the calculations of the biotechnology industry, the honey bee, the Monarch butterfly, and the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis have all, in very different ways, made their presence felt as they literally and metaphorically encountered GM. In an attempt to do justice to these marginalised lifeforms, the forms of life of which they are part, and the biopolitical questions which they raise, the works of Jacques Derrida on friendship and animality, Jean-Luc Nancy on being with, and Bruno Latour on making things public, are brought into conversation. It is suggested that together what they offer is a way of thinking ourselves as collectively in the midst of things.

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