Open Access

Animal Genomics and Ambivalence: A Sociology of Animal Bodies in Agricultural Biotechnology

Genomics, Society and Policy20073:99

https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-5354-3-2-99

Published: 15 August 2007

Abstract

How may emergent biotechnologies impact upon our relations with other animals? To what extent are any changes indicative of new relations between society and nature? This paper critically explores which sociological tools can contribute to an understanding of the technologisation of animal bodies. By drawing upon interview data with animal scientists I argue that such technologies are being partly shaped by broader changes in agriculture. The complexity of genomics trajectories in animal science is partly fashioned through the deligitimisation of the productivist paradigm but continue to sit in tension around particular conceptions of sustainability in farm animal production.

In spite of this deligitimisation process genomics is now being framed in the context of a new productivism (termed the livestock revolution) bound up in projected global changes in animal consumption during the first half of the 21st century. This potentially jars against both social trends that seek to re-enchant animal life and sustainability discourses which include social and environmental contexts. Nevertheless the possibility of a new productivism is supported by various interconnected trends including the emergence of a discourse of the 'bioeconomy' and a liberal regulatory apparatus for farm animal breeding technologies. Ultimately an understanding of the possibility of emerging new bio-capitalisations on animal life should be set in a broader context of competing agricultural paradigms as well as ongoing tensions over 'naturalness' in human/animal relations.