Food, Farms and Solidarity: French Farmers Challenge Industrial Agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops by Chaia Heller


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The Confédération Paysanne, one of France’s largest farmers’ unions, has successfully fought against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but unlike other allied movements, theirs has been led by producers rather than consumers. In Food, Farms, and Solidarity, Chaia Heller analyzes the group’s complex strategies and campaigns, including a call for a Europe-wide ban on GM crops and hormone-treated beef, and a protest staged at a McDonald’s. Her study of the Confédération Paysanne shows the challenges small farms face in a postindustrial agricultural world. Heller also reveals how the language the union uses to argue against GMOs encompasses more than the risks they pose; emphasizing solidarity has allowed farmers to focus on food as a cultural practice and align themselves with other workers. Heller’s examination of the Confédération Paysanne’s commitment to a vision of alter-globalization, the idea of substantive alternatives to neoliberal globalization, demonstrates how ecological and social justice can be restored in the world.


1. Introduction: Creating a New Rationality of Agriculture in a Postindustrial World  1

 Part I. Toward a New Rationality of Agriculture  2. The New Paysan Movements: French Industrialized Agriculture and the Rise of the Postindustrial Paysan  393. The Confédération Paysanne: Philosophy, Structure, and Constituency  69

Part II. The Confédération Paysanne’s Early Anti-GMO Campaign, from Risk to Globalization  4. Union Activism and Programs: Early Campaigns and Paysan Agriculture  895. We Have Always Been Modern: Toward a Progressive Anti-GMO Campaign  1126. The Trial of the GMOs: Deploying Discourses from Risk to Globalization  137

Part III. How France Grew Its Own Antiglobalization Movement  7. Caravans, GMOs, and McDo: The Campaign Continues  1638. Operation Roquefort, Part I: Traveling to Washington, DC  1989. Operation Roquefort, Part II: The Battle of Seattle  22110. Postindustrial Paysans in a Post-Seattle World: New Movements, New Possibilities  24811. Conclusion: French Lessons; What’s to Be Learned  291