Superweed amaranth: metaphor and the power of a threatening discourse

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Springer Nature
This paper analyses the use of metaphor in discourses around the “superweed” Palmer amaranth. Most weed scientists associated with the US public agricultural extension system dismiss the term superweed. However, together with the media, they indirectly encourage aggressive control practices by actively diffusing the framing of herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth as an existential threat that should be eradicated at any cost. We use argumentative discourse analysis to better understand this process. We analyze a corpus consisting of reports, policy briefs, and press releases produced by state extension services, as well as articles from professional and popular magazines and newspapers quoting extension specialists and/or public sector weed scientists or agronomists. We show how the superweed discourse is powered by negative metaphors, and legitimizes aggressive steps to eradicate the weed. This discourse reinforces the farmers’ techno-optimism master frame, contributes to deskilling of farmers and sidelines ethical concerns.
© The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agriculture and Human Values, 2022, available online at: . Keywords: Amaranth; herbicide resistance; superweed; metaphor; critical discourse analysis.
Bétrisey, F., Boisvert, V. & Sumberg, J. Superweed amaranth: metaphor and the power of a threatening discourse. Agric Hum Values 39, 505–520 (2022).