Brown Stuff

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Sun Aug 15 08:27:37 PDT 1999

>>Jim heartfield wrote:
>>>Well, that's pretty copper-bottomed, then.

Jim, this study can withstand the heat you are putting on it.

Killing Marxism here, you seem to have forgotten than under capitalist relations of production, humanity is dominated by the very technical capabilities that its own scientific conquests make possible.

I would agree with you that biotechnology opens up great possibilities, e.g., an ecologically sound reduction of the use of fertilizer if plants can be gm to produce their own nitrogen or reduction in the use insecticides if resistance can be 'built in.' This would not only be cost saving but ecologically sound.

And indeed it is best to remember that as most mutations reduce the fitness rate of their carriers, there has been strong selection to reduce the mutation rate. JMS estimates that its actual value is 10 to the negative power of 10 per base, per replication, which is probably as low as it can be without an excessive cost in slower replication. The optimization of the evolution rate of the species may indeed require a higher mutation rate.

The diversity of species that we inherit as a result of natural selection is thus quite limited, and we are now poised to discover the possibilities of biodiversity that are enabled by the modularity of the genetic code.

Yet let us remember that the demand for means of production (genetically modified ones included) is determined by profit or cost saving possibility for the individual firm, not social need. Firms *must* assimilate means of production that enable cost savings as a result of the technical advance that has been embodied therein; no long sighted consideration of the consequences of this technology is possible under capitalist relations of production. In this case, the untoward consequence of the evolution of pests which Monsanto was not prepared to combat with new gm variants was realized sooner than was anticipated.

But we cannot subject the use of biotech to rational use unless the technical and scientific conditions of production have been subjected to the control of freely associated producers. Marxism is not a critque of technological advance as such but of the biases and unplanned consequences it must necessarily have under capitalist relations of production in which humanity is dominated by its own product. A living marxism would not laud the development of biotech as such but underline that its great human possibilities can only be realized once the expropriaters have been expropriated.

Yours, Rakesh

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