Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
An estimated 8.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been used worldwide since the 1970s (Benbrook 2016). It has become the lynchpin of the technological revolution of zero-till for large-scale farming first in the US and Canada and now also in Europe. Farmers' love for clean homogeneous fields is a systemic imperative linked to the fundamental search for increased labour productivity and yield. The zero till system does not compose, however, with the agency and intentionality of non-human actors: plants called weeds, fungi, soil particles and even the molecule glyphosate itself. This paper examines biophysical overrides that are continually responding to, but never resolving, the root problem in ways that mask and /or deepen old problems and establish new risks. Biological simplification and standardization are pivotal to the pursuit of scale but they also create conditions that other species can take advantage of. Not only is plant physiology known to change under stress, but changes in the genome have also been identified. Plants adapt and learn, how are farmers adapting to them? When cultivating their fields, farmers mobilize more than abstract moral principles as they interact with other forms of life. Their responsibility builds on response. What makes them (un)able to respond — be "response-able" — in daily practice, not only to the consumers who ingest and absorb the food they grow together with the traces of the chemicals they apply, but to the myriads of beings, that intra-act to make the soil eco-system?