Anarchy in the UK? GM Crops, Political Authority and the Rioting of God


  • Peter Manley Scott University of Manchester



GM crops, Arendt, liberal society, eschatology


In 2004, the UK government approved the commercial growing of GM maize. This article considers the legitimacy of that decision by exploring for Britain the roots of political experience in liberal society and Christian community. Through an analysis of the different popular responses to genetically based medical therapies and GM foods, the unclear status of nature in liberal thought is highlighted. From there, an account is given of roots of Christian political experience by reference to the resurrection of Christ and the rioting of the Spirit. Drawing on Arendt (1958/1998), the roots of Christian political experience are sourced to actions that are both social and ecological. The legitimacy of the decision to permit the growing of GM maize is then tested against the political authority in Christianity, and is found wanting.

Author Biography

Peter Manley Scott, University of Manchester

Lecturer in Christian Social Thought & Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, The University of Manchester, Humanities, Lime Grove, Manchester M13 9PL, UK


Alison, James 1993 Knowing Jesus (London: SPCK).

Arendt, Hannah 1958/1998 The Human Condition (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2nd edn).

Borgmann, Albert 1984 Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Deane-Drummond, Celia, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Robin Grove-White 2003 ‘Genetically Modified Theology: The Religious Dimensions of Public Concerns about Biocultural Technology’, in Celia Deane-Drummond and Bronislaw Szerszynski (eds.), Re-ordering Nature: Theology, Society and the New Genetics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark): 17-38.

Eagleton, Terry 1970 The Body as Language (London: Sheed & Ward).

Friends of the Earth 2004 ‘Briefing Note: GM fodder maize’, March 2004, available at , accessed 7 July 2004.

Hardy, Daniel 1996 God’s Ways With the World (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).

Hauerwas, Stanley, and Joel Shuman 1997 ‘Cloning the Human Body’, in Ronald Cole-Turner (ed.), Human Cloning: Religious Responses (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press): 58-67.

Hodgson, Peter 1994 Winds of the Spirit (London: SCM Press).

Isasi-Diaz, Ada Maria 1998 ‘Solidarity’, in Thistlethwaite and Engel (eds.) 1998: 30-39.

Johnson, Elizabeth A. 1993 Women, Earth and Creator Spirit (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press).

Johnson, William Stacy 2003 ‘Reading the Scriptures Faithfully in a Postmodern Age’, in Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays (eds.), The Art of Reading Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans): 109-24.

Marx, Karl 1990 Capital, Vol. I (London: Penguin Books).

Moltmann, J. 1990 The Way of Jesus Christ (London: SCM Press).

O’Donovan, Oliver 1996 The Desire of the Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Pepper, David 1993 Eco-socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice (London: Routledge).

Scott, Peter 1994 Theology, Ideology and Liberation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

A Political Theology of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

‘We Have Never Been Gods: Transcendence, Contingency and the Affirmation of Hybridity’, Ecotheology 9.2: 199-220.

Song, Robert 1997 Christianity and Liberal Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Human Genetics: Fabricating the Future (London: Darton, Longman & Todd).

Soper, Kate 2004 ‘Rethinking the “Good Life”: The Consumer as Citizen’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 15.3: 111-16.

Szerszynski, Bronislaw 2005 ‘Beating the Unbound: Political Theatre in the Laboratory without Walls’, in Gabriella Giannachi and Nigel Stewart (eds.), Performing Nature: Explorations in Ecology and the Arts (Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang).

Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks, and Mary Potter Engel (eds.) 1998 Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books).

Westhelle, Vítor 1998 ‘Creation Motifs in the Search for a Vital Space’, in Thistlethwaite and Engel (eds.): 146-58.

Williams, Rowan 1986 ‘Trinity and Revelation’, Modern Theology 2.3: 195-212.

Wright, Tony 2003 British Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Wynne, B. (ed.) 2002 Public Perceptions of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Europe (PABE) Final Report 2002, available at .

Zvesper, John 1993 Nature and Liberty (London: Routledge).



How to Cite

Scott, P. M. (2006). Anarchy in the UK? GM Crops, Political Authority and the Rioting of God . Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 11(1), 32–56.