Genetically Modified (GM) Food

Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at
Sat Feb 27 15:06:49 PST 1999

Michael Perelman wrote:

> Jim Heartfield's take on genetically modified food is indistinguishable from
> Monsanto's response. I apologize, but I do not have the time to take his
> post apart point by point on his technical claims, except that I have not
> heard anybody suggest that the Terminator can spread to other plants.
> Let me suggest Mark Lappe's new book as a good source.
> One point: Monsanto's lawyers are going around threatening to sue printers
> and publishers who are distributing material that discusses science that
> disproves Monsanto's position. I can mention 3 cases: The Ecologist, Mark
> Lappe's book, and the television series on BgH.

I, too am pressed for time, but can recommend another relevant book with a somewhat broader scope -- *Owning the Future: Staking Claims on the Knowledge Frontier* by Seth Shulman, just out from Houghton Mifflin Co.

This is a broad-based look at the vast changes taking place in intellectual property law that's converting all manner of common property into private in a fashion so reckless it defies description. This broad perspective is especially useful in cutting through the particular forms of rationalization.

For example, in the field of software virtually the only ones in favor of granting patents are the patent lawyers. The whole notion of patent protections being necessary to promote progress is universally rejected as absurd by an industry that's losing thousands of programmer-years to pointless litigation and its side-effects. This perspective can then be applied to other fields where the monopoly capitalist owners excercise considerably more discipline over the range of expressed opinion.

Narrowing back down to the matter of GMOs, my objections are not at all to the underlying theory, but to the specific practice. Capitalism is unconcerned with the market externalities which are of utmost importance. In a truly scientific economic system, which took those externalities seriously, GMO technology could indeed be an enormous boon. But under existing capitalist conditions -- well, it could just make tobacco look safe as milk after all.

Naturally many hysterical misrepresentations will arise that are easily discredited or laughed at. But the absurdity of taking Godzilla as a documentary doesn't negate the reality of The Mile Island, Chernobyl, Hanford, thousands of "Atomic Veterans", etc., etc., etc. As with atomic energy, the problem with GMOs is not so much the technology as the political/economic context that will shape it.

What's especially dangerous is a system that runs on technofixes in place of justice. In the end, it will deliver neither.

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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