New book chapter: Exploring alternative food futures through critical design


Antonsen, T. and J.M. McGowan (2021) Exploring alternative food futures through critical design in Hanna Schübel and Ivo Wallimann-Helmer (eds.) Justice and food security in a changing climate, EurSafe 2021 – DOI 10.3920/978-90-8686-915-2_25, © Wageningen Academic Publishers 2021

In this paper, we are experimenting with how design fiction might be used to speculate alternatives, foster debate and engage publics in current debates on emerging biotechnologies and future food. The debate concerning the governance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production has always been conflicted. With the emerging genome editing techniques, such as the CRISPR/cas-systems, GMOs are again topics of intense socio-political debate. What is more, decision-making about the use and release of biotechnologies is dominated by scientific and economic knowledge and rarely considers the cultural significance of the human/nature relations being envisioned through different technologies.

Underlying the arguments and attitudes of both proponents and opponents of the regulation of genome editing as GMOs, we find not only scientific disagreement, but also a diverse range of future visions, narratives of science, food and nature, and views of the role of ethics and values in the debate. Within the context of a larger research project on these ethical and communicative aspects of the controversies around genome editing, we collaborate with designers to craft speculative interventions that prompt reflection on how human/nature relations are being reconfigured through agricultural biotechnologies. A particular aim for these interventions is to present alternative conceptions, narratives and visions for how these relations can unfold. The paper presents the preliminary finding of this practice-based research approach to the debate concerning the role of genome editing in the pursuit of sustainable food futures in particular. Our primary focus on methodology and the sharing of work-in-progress invites discussion on the potentials (and limitations) of creative practice compared to ‘traditional’ social science and humanities approaches.

Photo: AdobeStock_118475388/AE.Panuwat Studio