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Vol 9 No 2 (2022)

Seeing Green: Plants, Pests, Pathogens, People and Pharmaceuticalisation in Thai Mandarin Orchards

February 3, 2021
April 14, 2022


Medical professionals’ and policymakers’ fear of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has largely been directed toward antibiotic use in medicine and animal agriculture. In Thailand, however, the use of antibiotics in citrus orchards has raised some concern over their ‘appropriateness’ and there have been calls for reduction—if not complete cessation—of their usage. We explore the emergence of antibiotic use for citrus greening disease (CGD) as part of shifting assemblages of plants, pests, pathogens, and people, as well as of varying climates, technologies, and farming practices. We suggest that rather than being a threat coming from outside orchards, CGD pathogenicity repeatedly emerges from within, and in Thailand appears to have increased alongside, the intensification of agricultural practices. We document how, when antibiotics emerged in the mid-20th century, their ‘pharmaceutical efficacy’ was insufficient to trigger their widespread adoption. Rather, the pharmaceuticalisation of orchards continues to be entangled with the expansion and intensification of mandarin agriculture, and also with the affordability of antibiotics, dissemination of relevant knowledge, and availability of equipment for their injection. Current proposals to reduce antibiotic use risk not taking sufficiently seriously the importance of their role in sustaining intensive orchard practices—and profits.