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CES Dissertation Workshop

Risk on the Negotiation Table: Contaminants, Global Commodity Trade, and Experts after Empire


April 19, 2019
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Goldman Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
April 19, 2019
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Goldman Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

**Please note: The Dissertation Workshop is a graduate educational seminar and is open only to graduate students and their advisors.**



About

In the spring of 1960, hundreds of thousands of poults died from an unknown cause on farms in southeast England. The British veterinary services eventually identified a potent cancer-causing substance in the peanut feed as cause of death. British nutritionists promoted peanut supplements to treat malnutrition in African children, and colonial and postcolonial schemes propagated peanut cultivation for agricultural and economic development in West and East Africa. The discovery of this substance, aflatoxin, jeopardized these plans. However, the scientists in the United Kingdom and at international organizations did not abandon the peanut. Instead, they devised calculations of risk that justified the continued usage of peanuts in malnutrition programs as well as the discontinued import of potentially contaminated peanuts into Europe. This chapter analyzes how expert committees at the European Economic Community, the United Nations, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade developed these methods for aflatoxin from 1961 to 1980. Initially, these risk-based approaches were developed by European experts to enable trade across the common market that the Treaty of Rome established in 1957. On the international level, risk calculus, this chapter argues, was decisively shaped by the attempt to sidestep challenges to global disparities of wealth and health, while shoring up a postcolonial trade structure that was dominated by the United Kingdom and other European countries. This chapter shows how expert bodies and their epistemic practices played a crucial role in the interdependent process of European integration and decolonization. This chapter is drawn from a larger project on the history of food contaminants that analyzes how scientists from different European countries shaped not only North-South trade but also nutrition, cancer control, and agricultural development programs and how these forms of global governance were challenged from 1960 to the 1990s.

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