Translating biosecurity world-making : thinking with Mycoplasma bovis in Aotearoa : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, Manawatū, Aotearoa

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2023-12-12
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Massey University
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Aotearoa has one of the strictest biosecurity networks in the world and, at the same time, enacts one of the world’s most export-driven agricultural economies. It was into these dual assemblages that Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) first emerged, in July 2017, causing the (then) Biosecurity Minister to declare that M. bovis was Aotearoa’s ‘single biggest biosecurity event’. Consistent with this problematisation, and in a world-first manoeuvre, the government and farming industry bodies decided to try to eradicate the bacteria. This thesis tells the story of that eradication attempt and of M. bovis’ own attempt to fight back. This more-than-human research follows the network translation attempts of five key actors involved with M. bovis’ world-making. These are the eradicators themselves, the scientists enrolled in the programme, the farmers who were impacted by M. bovis (and by the eradicators), the cows who hosted the bacteria and M. bovis, the smallest living organism known to self-replicate. Together these network actors have enacted realities that are significant for the future of farming and biosecurity in Aotearoa. At the time of writing, the eradicators have almost succeeded in protecting and stabilising farming by Othering M. bovis from the network. In doing so, however, the eradicators have reterritorialised a pasture-based farming assemblage that is inherently fragile. Farming’s continual need for complex biological mobilities itself creates the need for ongoing biosecurity practices. Yet, as this thesis will show, these on-farm biosecurity practices are fundamentally incompatible with farming ontologies. There is a precarious misalignment between these two assemblages, each of which are vital for Aotearoa’s economic security. As to M. bovis’ bacterial world-making, this seems to be irrelevant to the human actors, despite their collective interest in non-human health. As a spokesperson for this M. bovis assemblage, I have tried to expose a series of ontological worlds. In doing so, my aim is to create a conceptual space for reimagining farming and biosecurity in Aotearoa.
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More-than-human geography, biosecurity, rural sociology, farming
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