Soy Frontier Expansions: Regional Arenas of Agro-Food Globalization in the Long Twentieth Century
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Extraction, Sovereignty and Resources in the Long Great Acceleration: Writing Global Economic and Environmental Histories, 1800-2000
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The proposed paper investigates agro-food globalization in the ?long twentieth century? in several regions across the globe through the lens of soy. Since soybeans and their byproducts, oil and cake, currently rank at the top of world agricultural trade by value, they are key commodities of the agro-food regime with massive societal and natural repercussions. Soy?s global dominance results from successive expansions of commodity frontiers in different world regions during the ?long twentieth century? (c. 1870-2010). Soy frontier expansions will be regarded from complementary perspectives: from the viewpoint of political economy and ecology, they serve as ?socio-ecological fixes? that ? though more or less contested ? stabilize capitalist accumulation and public regulation through exploitation of additional sources of labour and nature. From an actor-network perspective, soy?s agency as a versatile crop rich in fat and protein both enables and limits its commodification as industrial raw material, animal feed and human food. Thus, soy was not only passively transformed into a global commodity but also played an active ? albeit paradoxical ? role as both protagonist and antagonist of the agro-food regime. Through comparison of three regional cases, the similarities and differences of soy frontier expansions under successive agro-food regimes will be highlighted: the extensive expansion in Northeast China under the British-centered regime, the intensive expansion in the US Midwest and South under the US-centered regime and the flexible expansion in Central Brazil under the WTO-centered regime. The cases reveal how market-, policy- and technology-driven expansions of soy frontiers affected regional society and nature, ranging from capital accumulation by (trans )national agrobusinesses and commercial landowners to displacement of indigenous communities and degradation of near-natural biomes.
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