Prof. Alessandra Arcuri & Dr. Yogi Hale Hendlin
Interdisciplinary Paper Publication

The Chemical Anthropocene

Prof. Alessandra Arcuri (ESL) and Dr. Yogi Hale Hendlin (ESPhil) were brought together by the Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity Initiative and combined their expertise in June by means of a successful workshop on glyphosate, the most applied and controversial pesticide in the world. This collaboration has continued and now led to the publication of a multidisciplinary paper; "The Chemical Anthropocene: Glyphosate as a Case Study of Pesticide Exposures".

"This article examines the most applied agricultural chemical globally and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) herbicide RoundUp® (Benbrook, 2016)—glyphosate—as a case study to examine the overly narrow approach of current legal frameworks for pesticides evaluation and permissibility. Glyphosate, as with other chemicals, has encountered hurdles both corporate and institutional hindering rigorous testing and proportional regulation according to its risks. In chemical safety assessments, synergistic risks as well as consideration for non-human organisms and ecologies rarely form part of the legal and scientific frameworks analysing the safety or harm of chemicals like glyphosate. This decontextualisation of chemicals from their full effects on vulnerable populations and secondary interactions with other reactive elements in the environment generates a ‘politics of separation’ that detrimentally constrains the aperture of institutional requirements for chemicals such as glyphosate to be regarded as potentially dangerous (Arcuri, 2018). We also argue that technocratic institutions authorising herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals—when narrowly framed as they are today—can be seen as fora for promoting ‘strategic ignorance’ (Mallard & McGoey, 2018), through the articulation of certain epistemologies of power. Certain sites that enable contestation, such as courts, we show, become venues for either subverting or generating scientific precaution and environmental justice claims by those most affected by questionable chemicals."

Read the full article

More information


Charles M Benbrook, ‘Trends in Glyphosate Herbicide Use in the United States and Globally’ (2016) 28 Environmental Sciences Europe 3.

Alessandra Arcuri, ‘Glyphosate’ in Jessie Hohmann and Daniel Joyce (eds), International Law’s Objects (OUP 2018).

Grégoire Mallard and Linsey McGoey, ‘Strategic Ignorance and Global Governance: An Ecumenical Approach to Epistemologies of Global Power’ (2018) 69 The British Journal of Sociology 884.