International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

GMO-free America? Mendocino County and the Impact of Local Level Resistance to the Agricultural Biotechnology Paradigm

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 19, issue 3 (2012), pages 445-464

Author: Gabriela Pechlaner
Affiliation: Department of Social, Cultural and Media Studies, University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, Canada

ISSN: 0798-1759


In the United States, a supportive regulatory environment for new agricultural biotechnologies is promoting the technology throughout the agricultural system. Sub-national resistance to the technology is burgeoning, however. Specifically, local-level GMO bans are emerging in direct opposition to the national pro-biotechnology development drive. In this article, I investigate the struggles over county-level GMO bans in California, focusing on the first successful ban in Mendocino, one of California’s wine counties. Drawing on McCann’s (2004) legal mobilization and Bourdieu’s (1987) legal ‘fields’ to conceptualize law as both shaping and being shaped by legal contests, I investigate the extent to which such sub-national tactics are effective in challenging the supportive regulatory environment for agricultural biotechnologies. At its basis, this analysis is concerned with the legacy of such struggles, and their potential for broader social change. This article will further use the case of Mendocino County to reflect on the under-theorized intersection between social movement and legal scholarship.

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