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Industrializing nature, knowledge, and labour: the political economy of bioprospecting in Madagascar

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2012
JournalGeoforum
Journal number5
Volume43
Number of pages11
Pages580-590
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article provides a new way of analyzing and defining contemporary bioprospecting under emerging frameworks of neoliberal conservation. I document how bioprospecting has changed over time on the island-nation of Madagascar due to shifts in environmental governance. The most significant change includes efforts to speed up and industrialize the production of new drugs derived from nature. This has been accomplished through the switching over to rational collection strategies that employ new geo-referencing technologies, global networks of herbarium archives, and high-technology rapid screening methods. Results show that nature is re-constituted, traditional knowledge is rendered inefficient, and labour is mechanized within sites of production. This study demonstrates how changes in bioprospecting alter the way Malagasy scientists and local resource users participate in the practice and diminish their decision making power over natural resources. These developments, in turn, cause some Malagasy scientists, researchers and administrators to question their participation in bioprospecting projects and reveal that current natural resource policies of extraction, commercialization and benefit-sharing face many challenges.