Chemical Politics in the fields and beyond: Knowledge, Experts and the Chemicalization of Agriculture in Greece
Sotiris Alexakis and Stathis Arapostathis
The aim of the paper is to provide a historical reconstruction of the chemicalization of Greek agriculture in the interwar period. We focus on the co-production of knowledge communities, industrial interests and state policies in a period of political turmoil and severe ideological conflicts in the Greek political scene. The study argues that the absence of state fertilizer policy, provided the space to specific scientific networks of agronomists and chemists, mostly associated with the private chemical industry, to shape, promote and configure a specific policy as the dominant national policy. The latter established the use of high-ratio phosphorus fertilizers while concurrently established the dominance of the Hellenic Fertilizers Company in the Greek market. The paper shows that there were alternative technoscientific solutions that were introduced by politically weaker scientific networks. In the 1930s an emerging community of soil scientists questioned the dominant scientific theories and advised practices. The use of nitrogen fertilizers was promoted as a viable alternative based on a different understanding of the physical processes of the interaction of the soil with agrochemicals. This was an approach that would become epistemologically and politically powerful after WWII yet the study shows that it emerged and started nudging the dominant approach since the early 1930s. In order to understand the material politics of the dominance of phosphorous over nitrogen, the paper studies the circulation of knowledge and the role of networks of farmers in the data creation and the social legitimization of epistemic statements that functioned in favor of phosphate fertilization. Corporate and state archives along with scientific journals and popular press have been analyzed. The research is part of a larger research project that studies the role of technoscientific networks in the making of Greek Agriculture until the present day.