Biotechnologies reshape our relation to “nature”. All sorts of living organisms are engineered and marketed, it is now almost trivial even to remark it. Yet, I am still struck when I meet the most banal form of genetically modified organisms. As the linked page shows, it is not just about a model-organism: the JAX laboratory highlights the “key features” of the commodity, informs you of its availability, provides technical support, all with a price tag. With sales in July?

The economic logic is so much intertwined with the biological material that I feel that the story of the commodification of living organisms, well studied in the history of biology (eg, here or here), might find a place in the history of economics as well.

5 thoughts on “Shopping

  1. There is a good discussion of these kinds of issues in the 2006 book Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs, and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism by Catherine Waldby and Robert Mitchell. Their take is Jamison-Marxist, but intelligent.
    They conclude “It is clear that the old gift-commodity distinction is quite unable to encompass the complexities of these hybrid and often microeconomic arrangements [like those associated with stem cell banks and gene patents]. It seems to us that these are the sites where future contestations and negotiations over the biopolitical economy of human tissues will take place.” (188)

  2. I don’t know if this is related: is the connection biology and economics in this regard problematic for the received physics foundation of modern economics. Or do I mix up different notions of biology here.

  3. It seems to me that where a renewed interest in hist of bio could change the received view of the physics foundation of modern economics is the importance given to *place* in biology: lab-settings vs in the wild; “farm labs”, cages and white coats vs the jungle and portative devices. All these different places where studies were performed shaped biology, and eventually its relationships with economics. In physics economics, this dimension has been less studied I guess.
    Judy Klein’s very detailed works on the transfers from mechanical engineering to economics are a good step in this direction.

  4. I don’t know much about the history of economics, but clementlevallios comment has me wondering about the correlation between location of biological research and funding. I wonder if there’s anything out there on it…

  5. Donescience,

    You might find many case studies, but to my knowledge there is no wide scale work on the topic. Do not hesisate to contact me if you want precise references.

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