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The Great Genetic Mono-muddle
YES, indeed, here we have it: not content with nuclear waste accumulating in temporary
storage with no long term solution, soil erosion, pesticide pollution, the combustion
engine, deforestation, a world food system that can produce enough for all to eat their
fill but which leaves many starving and the world's land resources in tatters: now
we have the latest bright idea of modern civilisation, the latest in a long line of
disasters - the great genetic mono-muddle.
The Emperor's New Clothes
Of course everyone would love all the possible benefits espoused by the league of
large-foreheaded scientists, multi- corporate money-makers and power-greedy politicians
who make up the biotech industry. But, with their track record, do we bloody trust them?
We believe they'll make a gravy-boat load of cash from this latest fix-all technology:
but at what cost? They tell us that all is under control, but is their balancing of the
possible risks against the profit really the way we have to go about organising society?
Many scientists, independent organisations and campaigners suggest that much of the
basis for this new technology is flawed and may be dangerous.
- Cross-pollination from genetically modified plants to wild relatives
could wreak havoc on ecosystems. Obviously, it could produce super-weeds
which wipe out any extra food production - but of course there'll be a whole new
generation of expensive pesticides to take care of them...
- Diseases may cross from one species to another, leaving us and other
species with a whole range of new illnesses. BSE was a warning...
- And engineered genes may cross from a useful species into its diseases,
- Even when an engineered gene works as designed
, it may have quite unexpected side-effects. Researchers call these
"pleiotropic effects" - which translates into English as "multiple effect
effects" and means "life is more complicated than you imagined".
- Genetic engineering isn't for fun now. it's for profit. The European
Life Patents Directive allows corporations to own biological processes. That means a few
corporations get to control the entire process, and define the products in their own
interest. Economic logic implies replacing thousands of individual, adapted strains of
potato, say, with a few dozen at most. Standardisation for profit wipes out
- The standardisation of crops - or even the standardisation of
human genes - will almost certainly leave us and other species vulnerable
to new environmental challenges and diseases.
All these things could lead to an unstable and volatile environment. We can't
be sure they'll happen. But we'd be a lot happier if there was a "control
Earth" to compare with the one they're doing the experiment on.
The Genetic Millennium
This mono-culture mentality which is propelling us into the genetic millennium is
poorly thought out and goes completely against many contemporary ideas on sustainable
agriculture - or plain sustainable life. But still it goes on.
Genetic crops have been grown commercially since the early 1990s. The first may appear
in Britain in 1999. Over 300 test sites in the UK are currently planted with
genetically modified plants. If these tests are "successful" - that is, if the
modified plants survive and if no ill-effects show up in the next few months - full-scale
planting may go ahead.
Whatever the physical risks, these plants are the biggest marketing scam in
history. There's no point in planting Monsanto's "RoundUp-ready" crops
unless you buy - surr-prise! - Monsanto's RoundUp pesticide. You have to sign a
contract, promising not to save any seeds for next year. If things go Monsanto's way, the "Terminator
Gene" will take care of that: you buy Monsanto's seeds, use Monsanto's
pesticide - and the grain you grow is sterile. So next year you buy Monsanto?
Most people are worried about genetics. But the decisions are being made while most of
us have only a vague idea what they're all about. We must stop the genetic mono-muddle
before it gets the better of us.
Toxic Planet will be a week-long multi- dimensional art info
experience of sight and sound and tastes, to enliven the senses and empower the heart (and
hands). The location will be announced on 2 October.
Join us in making it happen. More info soon...