James Klepek

Dr. James Klepek

Visiting Assistant Professor

Department of Environmental Studies




Professional Interests

I am a geographer who studies political economy, environmental politics and social movements in Latin America. My research focuses on political struggles over the regulation of genetically modified (GM) maize in Guatemala. I am particularly interested in understanding how environmental and indigenous organizations, weakened by state repression during a 36-year civil war, are contesting narratives on the safety and benefits of GM crops. My doctoral research found that Guatemalan social organizations have so far prevented commercialization by publicizing alternative “expert” knowledges emphasizing the environmental risks of biotech maize to biodiversity as well as the potential socio-economic impacts of seed patenting and agro-industrialization on rural livelihoods.

As a postdoctoral fellow, I examined social movement efforts in Guatemala and Central America to articulate concrete alternatives to GM agriculture based on the notion of food sovereignty, which centers on revalorizing small-scale, ecological farming practices like seed saving and organic production. Food sovereignty campaigns also entail pressuring state reform to address conditions that constrain small-scale food producers including historical land inequality, free trade policies and the contemporary expansion of large-scale sugar and palm oil plantations for biofuels.



Ph.D. (2011) Geography and Development, University of ArizonaFarmer interview

M.A. (2004) Latin American Studies, University of Arizona

B.A. (2002) Political Science and Spanish, Marietta College


Classes taught:

ENV 305K Environmental Politics in Latin America

ENV 130 The Geosphere with Lab

ENV 205G Geography of Globalization

ENV 305P Environmental Justice

ENV 205M Geography of Latin America



Klepek, J. (2012) Against the grain: knowledge alliances and resistance to agricultural biotechnology in Guatemala. Canadian Journal of Development Studies. 33(3), 310-325.

Klepek, J. (2012) Selling Guatemala’s Next Green Revolution: Agricultural Modernization and the Politics of GM Maize Regulation. The International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. 10(2), 117-134.

Klepek, J. (2011) Guatemala’s New Men of Corn. In Oglesby, E. and Grandin, G. (eds), The Guatemala Reader. Durham and London: Duke University Pres. pp. 569-575.