Making invisible cattle: commodifying genomic knowledge in dairy cattle breeding

Annika Lonkila
University of Eastern Finland /Finnish Environment Institute

ISSUE
SECTION
Articles
PUBLISHED
Apr 24, 2017

KEYWORDS
livestock breeding, commodification, genomic technologies, cattle, market creation

ABSTRACT
Molecular genomics have revolutionized the dairy cattle breeding industry in recent years. Genomic technologies, seen as capable for solving challenges ranging from farm viability to animal health and sustainability, have restructured dairy breeding networks and markets globally and transformed relationships between humans, non-human animals, and technologies. Furthermore, they have created possibilities for increased commercialization and appropriation of breeding practices and the intensified objectification and machination of animals. In this paper I combine the theories of market creation and commodification to understand how the ‘genomic market’ was created in Finnish dairy cattle breeding and examine the repercussions of this development within dairy production more broadly. By drawing on textual and interview data by breeding companies and cattle owners, I explore how genomic knowledge becomes stabilized and objectified as a commodity. I also examine how cattle owners and cattle become requalified as actors within this market and how they co-produce and contest the process in significant ways. My results indicate that the commodification of genomic knowledge contributes to a powerful reinterpretation of Finnish dairy production and can have important moral and material repercussions for human and non-human animal lives within those networks.