Biomass and agriculture : sustainability, markets and by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

By Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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12 The idea that biological materials contain important and commercially valuable genetic information has quickly entered the public domain, finding expression in the development of tropes such as “genes-asinformation” and “genetic software” that are now employed routinely in many newspapers, popular magazines, and science journals. Conscious that these informational metaphors are often employed quite loosely, I begin by critically assessing something of the history of their use in the biological realm, examining how, if at all, such terms might still be usefully employed.

This demanded that I also investigate how, and by whom, new global regulatory policies relating to the commodification of genetic resources have been devised. In undertaking this analysis, I gave special consideration to the role that cultural processes have played in the construction of global regulations, as these have often been misunderstood or neglected. Although often characterized as embodying universally shared beliefs or values, global regulations prove, in many instances, to have been produced out of particular, culturally specific systems of knowledge.

50 Linnaeus’s sexual system of classification was later discredited and abandoned—but not before its use had become widespread. For while it may not have been entirely rational it was certainly accessible, and as such played an important role in the democratization of botany. xml 5/22/04 6:47 PM Page 29 THE COLLECTION OF NATURE AND THE NATURE OF COLLECTING 29 despite its vagaries and cultural biases. Harvard historian Lisbet Koerner has explained how Linnaeus promoted his system to students of natural history: “Linnaeus bragged that because the sexual system depended on a few, easily observable features .

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