In late December 2015, amidst plummeting oil prices, highly politicized food shortages, and an all-around tense political climate in Venezuela, an unexpected event took place in the country’s National Assembly just days before a major shift in its political leadership. A new seed law was passed, with provisions including bans on genetically modified seeds and the patenting of life forms, recognition of both formal and informal seed systems, and protections for the seeds of the country’s peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities. The processes behind the Law’s passage were long, messy, dynamic and contentious, with unanticipated twists and turns, betrayals and alliances. This article shares an ‘intimate perspective’ into these processes, as described by those directly involved in them, and as seen through the combined analytical lenses of a historical, relational and interactive approach to food sovereignty construction. This includes an exploration of the shifting of roles across state-society lines; the interaction of threats and opportunities as catalysts for collective action; and incremental shifts in power as social movements engage strategically in different types of spaces, including inside, outside, through and between formal structures of the state. Such an approach complicates simplified narratives around state co-optation of movements on the one hand or idealized depictions of state-society synergy on the other, revealing the many shades of grey involved. The aim is to contribute new insights into the complexities of state-society relations in the construction of food sovereignty, and into bottom-up policy-making processes more generally.

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Journal The Journal of Peasant Studies
A.M. Felicien (Anna), McGee Schiavoni, C, Ochoa, E., Saturno, S., Omaña, E., Requena, A., & Camacaro, W. (2018). Exploring the ‘grey areas’ of state-society interaction in food sovereignty construction: the battle for Venezuela’s seed law. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 1–26. doi:10.1080/03066150.2018.1525363