Maywa Montenegro
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Assistant Professor
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Environmental Studies Department
  • Affiliations Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Center for Justice, Institute for Social Transformation
  • Phone
    831-459-4837 (Department Manager)
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, ISB 416
  • Mail Stop Environmental Studies
  • Mailing Address
    • MS-ENVS
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Agroecology and Agriculture, Biotechnology, Activism, Science Studies
  • Courses ENVS 130B: Justice and Sustainability in Agriculture, ENVS 210B: Environmental Studies in Practice, ENVS 290L: Graduate Research Seminar
  • Advisees, Grad Students, Researchers Karen Crespo Triveno

Summary of Expertise

Political ecology and agroecology, agricultural biotechnology (CRISPR-Cas9), STS, transitions to sustainable food systems, seeds and agrobiodiversity, food sovereignty, knowledge politics and epistemic diversity

Research Interests

In my research, I draw on political ecology, science and technology studies, and rural political economy in research on transitions to agroecological food systems. My past and present projects span the development of new biotechnologies such as CRISPR/Cas, the emergence of grassroot movement-scientist research partnerships, and politics of knowledge in and around the advancement of agroecology, food and seed sovereignty, and commoning alternatives to intellectual property.

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D., Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley

M.S., Science Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.A., Biology, Williams College


Honors, Awards and Grants

2022 - 2023   UCSC Hellman Fellowship - "Can CRISPR Bring Diversity Back into Food?" ($18,000)


2022 - 2023  UCSC Institute for Social Transformation Seed Grant - “Mapping the Contours of Technology Sovereignty with Agroecology and Food Sovereignty Movements.” ($2,500)


2021 – 2023  Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Agroecology & Water Resilience, Coventry University, UK


2018 – 2020 University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. University of California, Davis, CA


2017 – 2018  Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) Small Grant, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands ($2,000)


2016 – 2017  University of California Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management Block Grant, CA


2011 – 2016   National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. University of California, Berkeley, CA ($90,000)


2011 – 2014   Chancellor’s Graduate Student Diversity Fellowship. University of California, Berkeley, CA ($60,000)




2019  Final Shortlist for the Journal of Peasant Studies’ Bharadwaj-Wolf Award 2017-2018


2016  Outstanding Conference Organizer, Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (awarded by peers and SAEA leaders)


2016   Nomination, National Association of Science Writers (NASW), Science in Society Award


2016   Nomination, Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) Award




Selected Publications

 Peer-reviewed Articles

  1. Fajardo-Ortiz, D., S. Hornbostel, M. Montenegro de Wit, and A. Shattuck. 2022. “Funding CRISPR: Understanding the Role of Government and Philanthropic Institutions in Supporting Academic Research within the CRISPR Innovation System.” Quantitative Science Studies, March, 1–21. doi:10.1162/qss_a_00187.
  2. Montenegro de Wit, M., and A. Iles. 2021. “Woke Science and the 4th Industrial Revolution: Inside the Making of UNFSS Knowledge.” Development, October. doi:10.1057/s41301-021-00314-z.
  3. Montenegro de Wit, M., M. Canfield, A. Iles, M. Anderson, N. McKeon, S. Guttal, B. Gemmill-Herren, J. Duncan, J. D. van der Ploeg, and S. Prato. 2021. “Editorial: Resetting Power in Global Food Governance: The UN Food Systems Summit.” Development 64 (3–4): 153–61. doi:10.1057/s41301-021-00316-x
  4. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2021. “Can Agroecology and CRISPR Mix? The Politics of Complementarity and Moving toward Technology Sovereignty.” Agriculture and Human Values, December. doi:10.1007/s10460-021-10284-0. (open access)
  5. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2020. What Grows from a Pandemic? Toward an Abolitionist Agroecology. The Journal of Peasant Studies. (open access)
  6. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2020. Democratizing CRISPR? Stories, practices, and politics of science and governance on the agricultural gene editing frontier. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 8(1), p.9. DOI:
  7. Montenegro de Wit, M.,† A. Roman-Alcalá,† S. Chrisman, and A. Liebman. 2020. The agrarian origins of authoritarian rural populism in the United States: What can we learn from 20th century struggles in California and the Midwest? Journal of Rural Studies, († co first authors).
  8. Montenegro de Wit, M., L. Carlisle, L., M.S. DeLonge, M. S., A. Iles, A. Calo, C. Getz, J. Ory, K. Munden-Dixon, Ryan Galt, Brett Melone, Reggie Knox, and Daniel Press. 2019. Transitioning to sustainable agriculture requires growing and sustaining an ecologically skilled workforce. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, November 1. († co first authors). (open access)
  9. Carlisle, L., M. Montenegro de Wit, M.S. DeLonge, A. Calo, C. Getz, J. Ory, K. Munden-Dixon, R. Galt, B. Melone, R. Knox, A. Iles, D. Press. 2019. Securing the future of US agriculture: the case for investing in new entry sustainable farmers. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 7(1). (open access)
  10. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2019. Gene Driving the Farm: Who decides, who owns, and who benefits? Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 43(9):1054-1074 (PDF)
  11. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2019. Beating the Bounds: How Does ‘Open Source’ Become a Commons for Seed? The Journal of Peasant Studies. 46(1) 44-79. (PDF)
  12. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2017. Stealing Into the Wild: Conservation Science, Plant Breeding, and the Makings of New Seed Enclosures. The Journal of Peasant Studies 44(1): 169-212. (PDF)
  13. Garbach, K., J.C. Milder, F.A.J. DeClerck, M. Montenegro de Wit, L. Driscoll, and B. Gemmill-Herren. 2017. Closing Yield and Nature Gaps: Multi-Functionality in Five Systems of Agro-Intensification. International Journal of Agricultural Science 15(1): 11–28. (PDF)
  14. Montenegro de Wit, M. and A. Iles. 2016. Toward Thick Legitimacy: Creating a Web of Legitimacy for Agroecology. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 4: 000115. (open access)
  15. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2016. Banking on Wild Relatives. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 16(1): 6-14. (PDF)
  16. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2016. Are We Losing Diversity? Navigating Ecological, Political, and Epistemic Dimensions of Agrobiodiversity Conservation. Agriculture and Human Values 33(3): 625-640. (PDF)
  17. Iles, A. and M. Montenegro de Wit. 2014. Sovereignty at What Scale? An Inquiry into Multiple Dimensions of Food Sovereignty. Globalizations 12(4): 481-497. (PDF)
  18. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2014. A Lighthouse for Urban Agriculture: University, Community, and Redefining Expertise in the Food System. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 14(1): 9-22. (PDF)
  19. Bacon, C., C. Getz, S. Kraus, M. Montenegro de Wit, and K. Holland. 2012. The Social Dimensions of Sustainability and Change in Diversified Farming Systems. Ecology and Society 17(4): art.41. (PDF)


Special Issues (co-edited)

Resetting Power in Global Food Governance. 2021. Development.

Scale, Diversity, and Inclusion in Agroecology, Organic Farming, and Regenerative Agriculture. 2021 - present. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

Agrobiodiversity Nourishes Us/La Agrobiodiversidad Nos Nutre: Action Research for Agroecological Transformations. 2021 - present. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

Gene Editing the Food System. 2018 - present. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.


Reference Volumes, Book Reviews, and Book Chapters


  1. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2020. Beating the Bounds: Inside the struggle to make open-source seed. In The Great Awakening: New Modes of Life Amidst Capitalist Ruins, eds. A. Grear and D. Bollier. Punctum Press. (open access download)
  1. Kinezuka, A., R. Patel, and M. Montenegro de Wit. 2020. Chapter 7: Trade. Part I: The Corporate Stock in Trade (Patel and Montenegro de Wit); Part II: Food Sovereignty in Japan and Beyond (Kinezuka and Montenegro de Wit). In Bite Back: People Taking on Corporate Food and Winning, eds. K. De Master and S. Jarayaman, 175-202. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
  1. Montenegro de Wit, M. 2017. Review of Fertile Ground: Scaling Agroecology From the Ground Up, Steve Brescia, ed. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. (Peer-reviewed; view online)
  1. Iles, A. and M. Montenegro de Wit. 2017. Sovereignty at What Scale? An Inquiry into Multiple Dimensions of Food Sovereignty. In The Politics of Food Sovereignty: Concept, Practice and Social Movements, eds. A. Shattuck, C. Schiavoni, and Z. VanGelder, Chapter 5. New York, NY: Routledge. (Peer-reviewed)
  1. Iles, A., G. Graddy-Lovelace, M. Montenegro de Wit, and R. Galt. 2016. Agricultural Systems: Co-Producing Knowledge and Food. In the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 4th edition, eds. U. Felt, R. Fouché, C. Miller, and L. Smith-Doerr, Chapter 33, 943-972. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Peer-reviewed; PDF)
  1. Garbach, K., J.C. Milder, M. Montenegro de Wit, D.S. Karp, F.A.J. DeClerck, 2014. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Agroecosystems. In Encyclopedia of Agriculture Systems. Elsevier Science. (Peer-reviewed; PDF)
  1. Argumedo, A. with M. Montenegro de Wit and R. Patel. 2012. Defending Seed and Food Sovereignty in the Andes. In Seed Freedom: A Global Citizens’ Report. Navdanya. (PDF)
  1. Banta, L.M. and M. Montenegro de Wit. 2008. Agrobacterium and Plant Biotechnology. In Agrobacterium: from Biology to Biotechnology, edited by T. Tzfira and V. Citovsky, 73-147. New York: Springer. (Peer-reviewed)


Policy Briefs and Reports

  1. The Politics of Knowledge: Understanding the Evidence for Agroecology, Regenerative Approaches, and Indigenous Foodways,” Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2021. (co-authored contribution by Agroecology Research-Action Collective).
  2. Montenegro, M. † & Graddy-Lovelace†, G. Policy Recommendations for 8th ITPGRFA Governing Body Meeting. American University († co first authors).
  3. Louafi, S., I. Westphal, M. Montenegro, D. Manzella, G. Otieno, S. Steigerwald, and J. Kloppenburg. 2018. “Open Source for Seeds and Genetic Sequence Data: Practical experience and future strategies,” CIRAD Policy Brief, No. 49, December. (PDF)


Selected Popular Articles (from ~60)

 ·    Aniket Aga and Maywa Montenegro. 2021. “How Biotech Crops Can Crash – and Still Never Fail.” Scientific American, December 27.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2020. “How a new biotech rule will foster distrust with the public and impede progress in science.”  The Conversation, June 1.

Montenegro, Maywa, Annie Shattuck, and Josh Sbicca. 2019. “Green New Deal or not, rural America needs a just transition in agriculture.” The Conversation, July 3.

Montenegro, Maywa and Alastair Iles. 2016. What Would It Take to Mainstream Alternative Agriculture? Ensia Magazine, July 25.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2016. CRISPR is Coming to Agriculture. Ensia Magazine, January 28.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2016. How CRISPR Works. Ensia Magazine, January 28.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2015. The Complex Nature of GMOs Calls for a New Conversation. Ensia Magazine, October 7. (Republished by PRI, Quartz, Business Insider)

Montenegro, Maywa. 2015. Agroecology Can Help Fix Our Broken Food System: Here’s HowEnsia Magazine, June 17.

Thrupp, Ann, Maywa Montenegro, and Alastair Iles. 2015. Agroecology & Justice in Food Systems Are Critical to Empower People to Feed Themselves. Huffington Post Blog, May 29.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2015. Reimagining the Seed: From Private Property to Shared Heritage. Food First Blog, May 6.

Montenegro, Maywa and Alastair Iles. 2015. Getting Past Scientized Scrutiny: Too Often, Reporting on Food and Agriculture Treats Science as a Singular Source of Truth. The Earth Island Journal, April 29.

Montenegro, Maywa. 2013. Urban Agroecology: A Lighthouse of Sustainability. The Earth Island Journal, August 1.