Regulation by impasse: Pesticide registration, capital and the state in Costa Rica

María Soledad Castro-vargas, Marion Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Costa Rica's prodigious use of pesticides, as well as the burgeoning plantation sector that these agrochemicals support, exacerbates the tensions between extraction and preservation at the heart of the country's development model. We explore these tensions through a study of the country's pesticide registry, the regulatory process to approve active ingredients and formulations for use. After nearly two decades of reform efforts, the registry is widely recognized to be non-functioning: most of the country's pesticides exist in administrative limbo and relatively few new compounds have been approved. Based on extensive interviews and in-depth policy analysis, we construct four phases of reform and use a strategic-relational approach to the state to analyze this process. We conceptualize the registry's gridlock as a form of governance that we term regulation by impasse, an arrangement reproduced through disputes within and between the cognizant ministries, juridical bodies and other regulating authorities, in relation to the shifting strategies and contexts of political economic and wider social forces. We argue that hegemony is tenuously maintained through the registry dispute itself, while revealing the deeply frayed condition of the Costa Rican development model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251484862211167
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Publication statusIn preparation - 2022

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