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Miracle Herbs, Health Food or Biotechnology Pharmaceuticals? Science, Market and the Efficacy Politics of Lingzhi
Lingzhi (Ganoderma Lucidum),Health Food Control Act,Material Culture,Efficacy Politics,Multi-level Marketing Industry,
|Publication Year :||2016|
Traditional medicine has long been a research focus of natural scientists. Social scientists now are also involved in the in the Current trends in Science, technology and society (STS) now also lead social scientists into the field of pharmaceuticals research. In the 21st century, Taiwan government lists the transformation of traditional medicine as an industrial priority of the nation with a renewed emphasis on the development of bio-technology industry and the commodification of traditional medicine. Natural scientists believe that Lingzhi (Ganoderma Lucidum,) as one example of commodified medicine, is a potent treatment and therefore a competitive product in the international pharmaceutical market and that it will become an exemplar of Taiwan’s success in the bio-technology industry. For social scientists, the case of Lingzhi illustrates how traditional medicine encountered with modern state, capitalism and technoscience.
This thesis analyzes the commodification process of Lingzhi in Taiwan by adopting the biographical approach to things and the theory of efficacy politics. Lingzhi is a re-invention of the Chinese medicine tradition, and defined as “health food” (or “dietary supplements”) by the influence of international trade, the science and technology studies, and the state’s regulation of food and drug. Entrepreneurs and natural scientists once convinced the government to develop the LIngzhi industry as a national industry and Taiwan a “Lingzhi Kingdom.” The project failed and the government ceased the funding on Lingzhi research, but the entrepreneurs continued it and became the most important promoter of Lingzhi science studies in Taiwan.
In 1999, the Taiwan government implemented the “Health Food Control Act”(HFCA) to respond to the health food controversy in 1990s. Under the HFCA, to qualify any product as “certificated health food,” health food companies must first present required scientific evidence. A conflict between the legislative authority and the administrative authority resulted in this act “especially for health food” and independent from the food and drug regulation, which is unprecedented in countries like China, the United State, and Japan, where health food (or dietary supplement) is regulated under the food category. Their disagreement further led to an unreasonable situation that the administration overstepped its legal authority when implementing the HFCA: the administrative authority loosened up on the rules of the HFCA with its subsidiary rules, the “Enforcement Rules of Health Food Control Act.” In this sense, the administrative authority seems more like an endorser of the companies’ health food product but less a regulator as it should be. This HFCA promoted a new type of science, the “Certificate Science,” which Scientists do to assist the industries to obtain the state’s endorsement for the efficacy of their health food products.
The health food certificates obtained by Lingzhi companies made Lingzhi products be transformed from common health food into certified health food. However, the companies found that the government certificates couldn’t bring them anticipated profits, so they took the certificates as a shield against the government intervention and promoted the miraculous efficacy of Lingzhi products by face-to-face, record-free soliciting on the edge of the law. In this thesis, my case study reveals that a local Lingzhi multi-level marketing company (MLM company) cited multiple references to construct credibility for the efficacy claim of Lingzhi products so as to market the Lingzhi products as life-saving biotech drugs. The MLM sellers identified themselves as life-saving moral actors. The scientists who are friendly to the industry believe that Lingzhi has evolved from a myth into science. However, this thesis suggests that science and myth are not opposites, and the efficacy is always full of political controversy.
|Appears in Collections:||社會學系|
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