Dienstag, 10. Mai 2016, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Transforming seed banks:

normative trends in conserving, saving and hunting plant origins

Hörsaal 3F, Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


A seed bank is an organization used to store and preserve plant seeds, in particular varieties that are rare, have fallen out of commercial use, and/or may have unique desirable genetic characteristics. This definition shows normative conflicts that need philosophical analysis. Should we suspect international seed banks to collect biodiversity for the sake of breeding uniformity? One part of the answer leads back to the war zones of early 20th century imperial politics, another part refers to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) following the earth summit in Rio 1992. In the light of unsustainable land use, the CBD emphasized the increasing need for ex-situ conservation methods. In general, seed collections and banks intrinsically belong to agriculture. In the 20th century, seed banks are less and less farmer-led or community based rather than governmental institutions related to both genetics programs and – somehow on the contrary - programs to protect cultural heritage. One of the aims is to show recent benchmarks for pushing agriculture further towards homogenization and standardization of its main products, i.e. cultivated plants, by simultaneously – and somehow contradictory – referring to their natural potentials. This implies a look at the present restructuring of the involved knowledge forms and knowledge orders, how they relate to the material objects (seeds) concerned and how the objects themselves are reshaped in the light of technological change. The arguments presented add to the perspective of material politics of infrastructure employed in Science and Technology Studies/STS. Finally, they introduce the new perspective of material politics of time that matters for all kinds having the potential to grow.


Nicole C. Karafyllis is a philosopher and biologist. Since 2010, she holds the Chair for Philosophy of Science and Technology at Technische Universität Braunschweig. Following her habilitation on the phenomenology of growth at Stuttgart University (2006), she became Visiting Professor for Applied Philosophy of Science at Vienna University (2007) and then taught 2008-2010 as full professor of philosophy at the international United Arab Emirates University in Abu Dhabi (UAE). At TU Braunschweig, she is member of the university’s ethics committee. Her areas of specialization are philosophy of biology (esp. philosophy of plants) and technology, phenomenology, ethics of nature and the environment, history of philosophy, theory of biography, and intercultural philosophy.

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FWF Projekt New Directions in Plant Ethics


Michael Bruckner
New Directions in Plant Ethics
Institut für Philosophie