A Case of Contested Ecological Modernisation: The Governance of Genetically Modified Crops in Brazil Academic Article uri icon


  • Ecological modernisation is a normative theory that explains why society's institutions and practices change in response to environmental consequences of industrial economies. It is also a term used to describe broader processes of change in environmental governance. In this paper, we use the second concept to explore the development of Brazil's governance of genetically modified (GM) or transgenic crops. We discuss three major shifts in GM-crop governance and regulatory institutions during the past decade. We focus on how nongovernmental organisations, local governments, and farmers challenged the federal government's biotechnology regulatory institution. The analysis of Brazil's GM debate offers important insights into the process of ecological modernisation in the global South. The case represents a key example of how ecological modernisation may proceed in countries facing neoliberalism and export-oriented economic policies paralleled by increasing democratisation. In Brazil, these seemingly contradictory forces have led to innovative, market-based paths of institutional change in environmental governance. Our study also offers an instructive example of how ecological modernisation processes in the global South intersect with broader dynamics of globalisation to shape potentially diverse environmental policy outcomes.

author list (cited authors)

  • Jepson, W. E., Brannstrom, C., & de Souza, R. S.

citation count

  • 14

publication date

  • April 2005