Keynote Speakers


Dr. Raj Patel
Research Professor
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin
Bio: Dr. Patel is one of the world’s foremost scholars studying the global food system and alternatives to it. His 2008 book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World System is one of the most influential accounts of global agricultural issues published in the last ten years. In addition to his significant contributions to both academic and activist writing on global agricultural issues, Dr. Patel has made significant contributions to food rights policy, including offering testimony on the global food crisis before the House Financial Services Committee in the USA and serving on the advisory board of Corporate Accountability International’s Value the Meal campaign. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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Dr. Jennifer Thomson
Emeritus Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of Cape Town
Bio: Trained originally as a microbiologist, Dr. Thomson’s career now focuses on the development of transgenic maize tolerant to drought and resistant to the African endemic maize streak virus. More recently, she has emerged as one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on this topic. Her monographs Genes for Africa: Genetically Modified Crops in the Developing World (2002), Seeds for the Future: The Impact of Genetically Modified Crops on the Environment (2006) and Food for Africa: the life and work of a scientist in GM crops (2013) are among the most-cited texts by proponents of using GM crops to alleviate poverty and hunger. Dr. Thomson has become increasingly prominent in policy work in this realm: She helped draft South Africa’s National Biotechnology Strategy and was appointed by the Minister of Science and Technology to the National Advisory Council on Innovation. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Emeritus Chair of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).


Dr. Haroon Akram-Lodhi
Professor and Chair of Department of International Development Studies
Trent University
Bio: Dr. Akram-Lodhi is one of Canada’s leading experts on global food issues and the role that technological innovation can play in helping to improve rural development around the world. His 2013 book Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question offered a comprehensive analysis of the political and economic factors that structure the global food system, and paid special attention to the controversial role GM crops might play in helping to alleviate poverty. He is currently working on another monograph entitled Feast or Famine? Are Small Farmers More Productive in Developing Countries (to be published with Fernwood Press in 2015), which specifically examines whether GM crops can be used to increase productivity in the Global South.

Dr. Peter Andrée
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Institute of Political Economy and Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Carleton University
Bio: Dr. Peter Andrée is one of Canada’s leading scholars in the area of biotechnology regulation and promotion. His monograph Genetically Modified Diplomacy: the global politics of Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment (2007) offered the first systematic treatment of Canada’s role in the global promotion of GM crops. More recently, his work on GM has dovetailed with his interests in community food security and food sovereignty.

Dr. Stanford Blade
Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences
University of Alberta
Bio: Dr. Stanford Blade has over twenty years experience working as a scientist, policy maker and facilitator of agricultural biotechnology. He is the former CEO of Alberta Innovates, which supports new technologies for the growing bioeconomy, including bio-refinement and the addition of nano-enabled materials. Dr. Blade also has experience in the Canadian public sector (having served for three years as the Executive Director of the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute) and the UN research consortium (having spent two years serving as Deputy Director General (Research) at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture).

Dr. Brian Dowd-Uribe
Assistant Professor, Department of International Studies
University of San Francisco
Bio: Dr. Dowd-Uribe’s Ph.D. dissertation research investigated the introduction of Genetically Modified cotton in Burkina Faso, which is now the largest GM crop introduction in Africa with more than 300 000 smallholder farmers currently cultivating. He has published widely on this important case study, including in top-tiered journals such as Journal of Peasant Studies, Geoforum and Progress in Development Studies.

Dr. Liz Fitting
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Dalhousie University
Bio: Dr. Liz Fitting’s research focuses on the contentious debate over the introduction of Genetically Modified maize in Latin America. Her widely cited book, The Struggle for Maize: Campesinos, Workers and Transgenic Corn in the Mexican Countryside, offers the most comprehensive account of the on-farm implications of GM maize in the nation to which it is native. Her more recent research explores similar issues in Columbia, which is emerging as one of the most important frontiers for the expansion of GM maize in Latin America.

Dr. Rachel Schurman
Professor, Department of Sociology and Institute for Global Studies
University of Minnesota, Sociology
Bio: Rachel Schurman is Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has published several articles, an edited collection (Engineering Trouble: Biotechnology and its Discontents), and a monograph on social resistance to GMOs. Her 2010 book, Fighting for the Future of Food: Activists Versus Agribusiness in the Struggle over Biotechnology (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), analyzed social activism against agricultural biotechnology, exploring how the contending “life worlds” of anti-biotech activists and the biotechnology industry shaped the development and deployment of GMOs at a global scale. She is currently working on a new book project entitled, “‘Science for the Poor’: Foundations, Firms, and the New Green Revolution for Africa” which focuses on the efforts being made by philanthropic, corporate, state and other actors to catalyze a new green revolution in Africa.

Ms. Judy Shaw
Judy Shaw & Associates
Bio: Judy Shaw has spent her career working for the agri-food industry in the areas of strategy development, sustainability & stewardship, and government, public, and regulatory affairs. Most recently, Ms. Shaw served first as Director of Government and Public Affairs and then Head of Corporate & Government Affairs at Syngenta Canada.

Dr. Grace Skogstad
Professor and Chair of Political Science Department
University of Toronto
Bio: Dr. Grace Skogstad’s interests include agricultural and trade policy, the role of international institutions in regulating food trade disputes, and the impact of economic globalization and political internationalization on the domestic politics and governance of agriculture and food. She has published numerous books and dozen of peer-reviewed papers on these topics. She has also written widely on the politics of agricultural policy-making in Canada, the transnational regulation of GMOs, and the potential role for biotechnology in Canadian foreign policy.

Dr. Melinda Smale
Professor of International Development, Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics
Michigan State University
Bio: Dr. Smale is currently a Professor of International Development at Michigan State University. She has extensive experience working on research and policy exploring the potential for Genetically Modified crops to enhance agricultural production in developing countries. For twenty years she worked as a researcher, based overseas, with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). As such, her experience straddles both the scholarly and policy worlds: her work on the economics of GM adoption is among the most cited in the literature. Over the course of her career Dr. Smale has managed numerous grants, published 80 peer-reviewed papers and more than one hundred working papers and policy briefs.

Dr. Stuart Smyth
Research Scientist, Department of Bioresources, Policy, Business and Economics, College of Agriculture and Bioresources
University of Saskatchewan
Bio: Dr. Smyth has been studying the regulation and promotion of Genetically Modified crops, both in Canada and abroad, for over ten years. He has co-published a number of important books in this area, including Socio-Economic Considerations in Biotechnology Regulations (2014), Innovation and Liability in Biotechnology (2010) and Governing Risk in the 21st Century: Lessons from the World of Biotechnology (2006). He is also an editor of the Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development (2014), which brings together more than fifty of the world’s foremost experts reflecting on key issues within this realm.

Dr. Glenn Stone
Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies
Washington University
Bio: Dr. Stone is one of the world’s foremost social scientists working on the global debate over GMOs. Trained as an anthropologist, Dr. Stone has published widely on issues of science, technology and agriculture, with a long-term focus on India where he has over thirty years of field experience. Dr. Stone’s 2007 publication “Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal in Current Anthropology” revolutionized social scientific evaluations of how poor farmers utilize GM crops by emphasizing the farmer capabilities and skills that can suffer as a result. His more recent work evaluates the commercialization of Golden Rice in India and the Philippines.

Junior Scholars Workshop

Laura Gutierrez Escobar
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bio: Laura Escobar is working on her Ph.D. investigating the implications of GMOs for small farmers in Colombia.

Dr. Kristal Jones
Research Associate, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre
University of Maryland.
Bio: Having received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 2014, Kristal spent a year working as a post-doctoral fellow at the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. Her research focuses on seed systems and farmer access in West Africa, with a particular focus on how new seed technologies are spread through farmer networks.

Dr. Amalia Leguizamon
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
Tulane University
Bio: Dr. Leguizamon received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the City University of New York in 2014 before beginning a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Tulane University. Her dissertation research investigates the politics of Genetically Modified soybean in Argentina, with an emphasis on how the country’s changing political landscape over the past three decades has facilitated the widespread adoption of GM crops, and the implications of this shift for the nation’s farmers.

Dr. Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong
Recent Graduate, Department of Geography
University of Western Ontario
Bio: Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong’s dissertation research investigated dynamics of food security, climate change and gender, particularly as they relate to the introduction of new agricultural technologies in northern Ghana. He completed the Ph.D. in 2014.


Dr. Matthew Schnurr

Associate Professor, Department of International Development
Dalhousie University
Bio: Dr. Schnurr is the lead organizer of this conference. Trained as an environmental geographer, Dr. Schnurr’s research investigates the potential for Genetically Modified crops to help alleviate poverty and hunger in Africa. He has conducted extensive fieldwork on this topic with farmers in both Uganda and South Africa. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Africa’s Gene Revolution: Genetically Modified Crops and the Future of African Agriculture.

Dr. Lincoln Addison

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Bio: Dr. Addison is a co-organizer of the conference. His research examines the political-economic and environmental consequences of changing agricultural systems in Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda. He is a member of the international advisory board for the Journal of Agrarian Change.

Michael Oman-Reagan

Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Bio: Michael Oman-Reagan is the online content and social media consultant for the conference. His doctoral research on the Anthropology of Space includes work on space science, interstellar travel, SETI, astrobiology, plants in space, and speculative fiction. He completed his M.A. in Anthropology at Hunter College, City University of New York. His M.A. thesis Occupying Cyberspace: Indonesian Cyberactivism and Occupy Wall Street was the first ethnography of the Indonesian Occupy movement.

Lucy Hinton

M.A. Student, International Development Studies
Dalhousie University
Bio: Lucy Hinton is the logistics coordinator for the conference, and the point person for any and all questions and concerns regarding travel, lodging or other arrangements. She is entering the second year of her MA in International Development Studies at Dalhousie, with research investigating the participation of Bhutanese-Nepali refugees in community gardens in Halifax. She can be reached at