In 2015, food and agriculture seldom left popular news headlines. Bee colonies continued to
inexplicably collapse across the United States and Europe, raising questions about pesticides, diseases, ecological stress, or a potent combination as the cause. International regulatory scientists concluded that Roundup (a pesticide widely used in combination with GM crops) is a ‘probable carcinogen’, instantly provoking industry actors into harsh rebuttal. Arguments erupted over whether organic foods are healthier than conventional foods, whether intensification of agriculture is needed to help ‘feed’ Africans, and if fats, sugars, and cholesterol in human diets trigger harm. Rates of obesity and nutrient deficiency were accelerating in Mexico, China, Egypt, Brazil, and many other regions, along with conflicting claims about their underlying causes and health consequences. As seen in these vignettes, numerous areas of science and technology transect food and agriculture. Looking beyond the news, we can identify the prevalent use of science and technology discourses by governments, companies, international institutions, scientists, and NGOs to support their knowledge claims. The Royal Society invokes demographic data projecting a population of 9 billion people by 2050 to justify neo-Malthusian ‘sustainable intensification’ (Royal Society 2009). Philanthropic donors represent GM crops as essential to meet the coming trials of climate change. Food scientists seek to ‘healthify’ processed foods through biofortified crops or nutraceuticals, a portmanteau of pharmacy and nutrition based on isolated nutrients. These knowledge claims often depict agri-food systems as enterprises progressing linearly and inexorably from primitive to industrialized forms. They rely on partitions of science from politics, and of technological solutions from socio-cultural contexts – practices long discredited within STS, yet persistent and prospering in many scientific and bureaucratic communities of practice. Looking more intently, we can discern pervasive, systematic inclusions and exclusions of actors and knowledge inside agri-food systems; the divides seem natural but emerge through the everyday, boundary-drawing decisions and practices of these systems (e.g., Gieryn 1999). For example, bureaucratic agencies favor quantitative risk assessments of food safety to the exclusion of experiential knowledge of people on farms and in processing factories. Pesticide companies ridicule the possibility of agroecological science regulating pests through ecological, not chemical, means. Above all, ecological and social diversity – and their associated knowledges – are tainted as ‘anachronistic’ and ‘inefficient’. Constructivist analysis, then, remains critical to revealing how modern agri-food systems are shored up – yet also challenged and altered – by science and technology. We first discuss how taking a coproduction idiom can help organize what is a remarkably disparate STS literature, and make visible the mutual constitution of agri-food systems and
technoscientific developments. We then review four loci of STS scholarship on food and
agriculture, accentuating how this work has become more diverse in its geography, topics, methods, and participants. We present two cases to illustrate how coproduction can provide novel insight: the intersections between agrobiodiversity, farmer knowledge, and plant breeding IP; and between pollinators, industrial food, and scientific knowledge. We conclude by arguing that visualizing coproduction can enable renewed agency and promote the re-conceptualization of food systems around diversity, not homogeneity.