Populism Curtailed? Globalization and the Debate over Genetically Modified Organisms in the European Union

In: Populism
Shane Markowitz Central European University

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While the role of globalization in constituting the rise of populist movements has been increasingly recognized, the ways in which globalization can, in fact, curtail populism is also worthy of analytical attention. This is exemplified in the EU debate over plant biotechnology where a couple of exceptions to the largely anticorporate populist mobilization against transgenic crops include the political positioning of EU farmers in favor of GM soybean imports and the posturing of environmental groups and beekeepers against the labeling of GM contaminated honey. Interrogating these cases, the paper attributes mobilization/policy outcomes to the ways in which global food-consumption patterns, supermarket branding initiatives, and regulatory decisions intermingled with the sociomaterial dynamics of particular locales to constitute decision-making landscapes that made populist policies (un)fathomable. In engaging with the globalism-populism nexus in this manner, the paper imparts lessons on how globalization and the populist outcomes associated with it can be honed and reoriented.

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