Agricultural Science and Food Justice

Chaired by Brian Schultz, this panel in the Cape Cod Lounge of Sue Tafler, Margaret Reeves, Mike Hansen, and Shambu Prasad Chebrolu, discussed both the work that the original Science for the People organization accomplished in the field of agriculture, and how people’s organizations still operate today.


Sue Tafler, who was a high school teacher at the time of Science for the People, began the panel by describing Feed, Need, Greed, a high school curriculum designed by SftP to expose the factors of capitalist agricultural production and explore the relationship between population, food production/ownership of production, and class. Consisting of four units, the curriculum not only informed students about the processes of modern capitalist agriculture, but also included suggestions for change. It charged students with a responsibility to be aware and community-oriented in order to build a better world.

Up next was Margaret Reeves, who discussed an organization that she is involved with, the Pesticide Activist Network (PAN). As part of the PAN Grassroots Science Team (PAN-GRS), she and her team work towards building peoples science. One of their main goals is “democratized science,” which involves engaging community members with scientific agendas and policies. They work to “translate” science for laypeople, improve protections for workers, and campaign on the part of local organizations.


Mike Hansen presented next. He works at Consumers Union as a food safety expert. Genetically modified organisms are his area of focus. He has advocated internationally for more controls and clear labeling on GMO’s, and working together with peoples organizations around the world he has shifted opinions against genetic engineering and towards natural solutions.


Shambu Chebrolu was the last to present. His talk centered on the creation of what he called “knowledge commons.” In a world where agricultural knowledge is corporatized and then reproduced, a different form of knowledge must be produced. Knowledge commons are sites of shared knowledge and understanding, a product of a new green revolution. The new green revolution does not follow the old methods of pesticides, genetic engineering, or other capitalist agricultural techniques, but instead focuses on new techniques/organic inputs, spread through the knowledge commons, to increase crop yields.

One thought on “Agricultural Science and Food Justice

  1. Erika M

    Hi Doug,

    I attended this session too. I was impressed with all the speakers and was intrigued with Sue Tafler’s work on Feed, Need, Greed. I initially thought it was just going to present nutritional facts and that many of our foods out there are not correctly defined and there is a lot of grey area. I liked how there was more to it in exploring the relationship regarding class, population and food production. The book itself seemed like it would be easy to pick up and I like that it seems interactive by asking questions and requiring students to write their own personal answers in. I found Hansen’s presentation entertaining as well. He spreads his knowledge about genetically modified foods and GMO’s and has been an influence on clear labeling. There is not any safety testing on genetically modified crops and he is active in the Consumers Union to try to make a change.

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