Framing Africa in the Agricultural Biotechnology Debate
I’m currently working on a project analyzing the use of Africa in the agricultural biotechnology debate with a couple of students. We’re looking at how proponents and opponents of biotechnology refer to Africa (both in general, and with reference to specific countries) to advance their position. We’ve got some interesting data based on an analysis of reports, working papers, press releases, and speeches from people in various organizations. Our preliminary data focus on pro-agbiotech groups (the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Department of State, AfricaBio, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Monsanto).
We’re working on the paper now, but I wanted to share a cartogram created for us by Prof. Monica Stephens (who blogs at Floating Sheep) and her students. The cartogram weighs the number of mentions of the country across the data we collected for pro-biotech groups based on the number of mentions of that country. The larger the country in the cartogram, in other words, the more often that country was referenced by pro-biotech organizations. We used the broadest definition of coverage possible; a report only had to include a specific country name once to be classified as “covering” that country. Despite this generous definition, more than one-third of all documents analyzed referred only to “Africa” and did not discuss any specific country.
Of those documents that referenced specific countries, South Africa was the most commonly referenced, with Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Malawi rounding out the top five. A total of 31 countries were referenced though many of these (12) were referenced only one time. The cartogram below provides an interesting illustration of these dynamics.
I’ll share other snippets from the research as the paper develops!