Prince Charles gets nervous, neo-Luddite meme gathering steam

Justin Mason jm at jmason.org
Tue Apr 29 14:31:32 PDT 2003


Robert S. Thau said:
> Justin Mason writes:
>  > Take GMOs, for example.  Who's pushing GMOs?  Monsanto et al.  What are
>  > they pushing?  "terminator" genes that let them make more cash by blocking
>  > replanting and "protecting their IP"; immunity to their own pesticides, so
>  > they get to sell buckets of pesticide along with their seeds; etc.
> 
> Call me crazy, but I actually think that some of these things are
> getting a bad rap.  Pesticide-resistant plants serve a real need (so
> long as the pesticide gets washed off!).  And even "terminator" genes
> can be justified as a way of preventing interbreeding of GMO plants
> with wild relatives, which genuinely does risk producing
> "superweeds".  

FWIW, I agree with you on that.  Some of the things that could be
done with GMOs is just incredibly cool.  (I'm not sure the above
quite qualify, but I get your overall point ;)

But the unbridled greed that dominates the tactics of the companies
developing the GMO products, means that I'd rather not have to
be in a position where I have to trust those companies.

My POV is that we, as progressive scientific folk who want to see new tech
used for Cool Stuff in the future, should be opposed to the big biotech
companies' stance; since if anything, they'll either (a) patent the lot
and keep us out or (b) will do something disastrous which results in new
tech being banned or reviled in many parts of the world.

BTW, for a first-person perspective -- take a look at this comment
on a BoingBoing forum (set up after Dawkins made an absurdly-simplistic
pro-GMO announcement):

http://www.quicktopic.com/19/H/jZadNbnp2cs/p25.17#QTmsg21

Summary: Argentinian molbio says Monsanto-led agriculture has thorougly
destroyed the Argentinian agri economy.  So in Argentina (b) has already
happened.

In fact, it's such good bits I'm going to post it here...

  Lilian Joensen, biol. PhD  21
  04-29-2003 10:31 AM ET (US)
  Edited by author 04-29-2003 11:16 AM

  I'm a molecular biologist. My research area is Chagas' disease. I
  work in Argentina so I deal a lot with rural poverty, and have been
  traveling across the country quite a lot.

  I'm a member of the "Grupo de Reflexion Rural" (Rural Reflection Group,
  which has been dealing with the causes of the economical catastrophe
  in Argentina.

  I think everybody has heard of Argentine beef as being the best in the
  world. Argentina`s dairy production, as well as honing production was
  of the best kind. Hebicides and fertilizers were not used until not so
  long ago. Argentina produced food enough for the people in the country
  and for export too. I was brought up in the belief that Argentina's
  soil was of the kind where any seed you planted could grow. And it
  was true until some years ago, when the biotch corporations took over
  Argentinas agronomic politics. During the 90' Argentina has gone over
  to GMO production and over 14000000 hectars of the land are now gone
  to RRsoja. Open field GMO experiments can be found all over, performed
  legally or ilegally by the biotech companies.

  Peasants and thousands and thousands of smaller producers have been
  expelled from their land to engross the marginal city populations,
  with the consequences that the whole world has been able to see in
  TV this last months. Poeple starving to death in a country where huge
  land extensions are a desert of RRsoja.

  Bushes and native forests are being devastated in order to grow
  Monsanto's RRsoya. Argentina has lost the phytogenetic patrimony which
  has been given to the biotech companies. Peasants and people in the
  rural areas are constantly denouncing abortion and death in animals,
  as well as human intoxication, due to the use of herbicides that has
  increased many times (gliphosate, 2,4D, etc). This increase in herbiced
  use is due to the emergent resistance in weed. This resistence should
  have been foreseen by evolutionary biologists, when thinking of adding
  the RR gene. Studying a bit about directional selection should have
  been of help to prevent these logical effects of RRsoy and Bt maize. I
  understand that Wall Street employees defend GMOs. It is logical
  from their point of view and their ignorance of biological facts. But
  biologists should be cleverer. It is about a bit knowledge and common
  sence. Even if Argentina wants to go back to their own production of
  food variety, People don`t have the seeds anymore. And the animals
  that have been selected for Argentina's people economical reality,
  have now become almost extint due to the biotch and tech hysteria
  that has governed our agronomy and animal production during the past
  decade. Producers have contracted so many debts due to a pro-biotech
  agronomical model which does not correlate to people's economy. They
  have either lost their land or they are about to loose it, if they do
  not go over to RRsoy production, forced by an economical system that
  decides for them what they have to grow in their land.

  Argentina has started to import milk, since over 15000 dairy production
  units have been forced to close and go to RRsoy. Argentina is importing
  lentils from Canada, since it is not producing it anymore, though it
  has been part of the avarage argentine daily cost.

  Is it to be a luddit, wanting to eat what you like and what you were
  grown up with' Is it to be a luddit wanting to defend your own culture
  and independence?

  I`m sorry, but I'm very angry. I love this country and I love the
  poeple. It breaks my heart when I travel around the countryside and
  see how the landscape has been devastated and empoverished. Only soya
  everywhere can be seen. No more huts with people in them. No more
  gauchos and smaller towns. Only an agriculture without agriculturers.

  Is that what is so good about GMOs? GMOs is simple a tool for some
  few transnational companies to rein the agricultural politics in
  their own benefit, of course with the internal support of corrupted
  politicians and scientists. Scientists who instead of doing research
  for the benefit of increasing human knowledge, they research in how
  to add genes to commercial plants in order to make more profit for
  the companies that support financially their research.

  I'm sorry that Richard Dawkins supports these way of doing science. I
  really have enjoyed reading the 'Selfish Gene', 'The blind watchmaker',
  'The extended phenotype' and other of his books. I fear that the
  way molecular biology fundamentalism has taken over science around
  the world, the kind of basic research that let Richard Dawkins get
  information about different survival stategies in nature, will be
  lost with time. I fear this will happen, since it seems like there
  only will be money to support the kind of science that is in the big
  biotech companies interest. And GMO research is, for sure, the place
  where these companies put all their effort, doesn`t matter how bad
  the effects on ,f.ex., Argentina has proved to be.

  Argentina should be an example of how bad it can go with the GMO
  politics. I know about Argentina's corruptive capacity. But who pays
  the bribes that support corruption in our country, so that this country
  can be used as a huge experimental in vivo lab. Argentina's experiment
  has proved to be a failure. Anyway, scientists go on discussing if
  GMOs are good or bad in itself.

  Please, be serious and care a bit about the people who cannot defend
  themselves. Agriculture is not only about making money and paying
  external debt in under developed countries. It is about culture and
  peoples right to the land and about food souveraignity and security. And
  GMOs work strongly against these fundamental human rights.

  This is about human rights. Please, undestantd this. It is very
  important for this country to recover its dignity and right to
  produce food for their people. The food that is in peace with their
  own cultural heritage.

  This is not about being a luddit, please. I am a molecular biologist
  and I think of transforming DNA as a powerful and useful tool when
  it works. I enjoy using it also in the lab, under very controlled
  conditions, when it does not complicate my experimental work. But any
  molecular biologist knows that in too many cases, DNA modifications
  are not controlable and DNA associates with other molecular chums
  and does what it wants. I love DNA for that. But people have rights,
  and GMOs are working against their right to make their own food.

  Argentina needs to recover the land from the biotech companies
  allies. (From Monsanto, Gargill, Dupont, Aventis, Novartis, INTA's
  fundamentalist scientists, etc, etc). Argentinean people need to
  recover their production for their own benefit.

  And Argentina`s scientists should be supported to perform the research
  that benefits their own poeples interests, not Monsanto's and Cargill's
  and other transnational companies, that today can use Argentina's
  land for huge field trials, for tomorrow go away and leave a sterile
  deserted country. People in the future might ask, what has happened
  to this once so rich land. Well, evolution has gone by. But a sort of
  evolution that has been manipulated by business minded scientists. Maybe
  they will survive, but selective presure is working very hardly on
  the poorest of this country.

  Biotech scienteists are might be the extended phenotype to help
  glyphosate resistence and Bt genes survive through evolution. I think
  Dr. Dawkins could support this idea and enrich it quite a lot with
  his wits and lovely way of tellig evolution to people. I'm only sorry
  that he does not understand the facts behind GMO politics. Biotech
  scientists are only humans and they might not know what they do to their
  own kind. Do they really believe they are helping human kind? I truly
  doubt it, since the consequences are so obvious by now in Argentina,
  that I can understand some scientists blindness.

  Sorry, but try to understand. This is about life and death of people
  and we should all care.

--j.


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