The Ethics of Collecting in International Agricultural Biodiversity Preservation Projects
MIT's Literature Separtment hosts Courtney Fullilove, Assistant Professor of History, Wesleyan University, who will discuss "The Ethics of Collecting in International Agricultural Biodiversity Preservation Projects."
Climate change and the globalization of the food supply have renewed concern about food security and justified projects for the preservation of global agro-biodiversity. The Svalbard Seed Vault and numerous national and international gene banks aim to collect the world’s seeds for immediate and future research, and as a safeguard against manmade and natural disaster. Is collecting ethical? How do these projects engage the communities from which they collect? In a vocabulary increasingly shared by international development theory, history of science, and environmental studies, “local knowledge” describes perceptions, practices, and ideas apparently particular to a given community. How has this category been applied to biodiversity preservation projects in the late 20th and 21st centuries? What is its relationship to traditional and indigenous knowledge? Are these usable concepts? What are their implications for the ways we understand and organize global biodiversity? My examples will be drawn from my fieldwork on agro-biodiversity collecting expeditions in the former USSR.