Bruce Sterling on Mon, 7 May 2001 05:37:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: Transgenic Weeds Help Hackers Poach Corn Computing Cycles

Date: Sun, 06 May 2001 09:00:55 -0700
To: <>
Subject: Transgenic Weeds Help Hackers Poach Corn Computing Cycles

March 4, 2051

Transgenic Weeds Help Hackers Poach Corn Computing Cycles

DECATUR, IL--Edible resources giant Archer Daniels Midland today launched
a legal and public relations campaign designed to discourage poachers from
using new breeds of transgenic weeds to siphon off computer cycles
generated by fields planted with SmartCorn, an engineered corn variety
equipped with DNA-based computational and networking powers.  "We want to
make clear that there is zero tolerance for 'weedhacking,'" declared ADM
CTO Alice Montie. "In partnership with Monsanto, the inventor of
SmartCorn, we are launching this campaign to educate the public, and to
make sure that hackers know that every weed they nurture takes food out of
the mouths of hungry children."

 SmartCorn, developed four years ago by Monsanto and University of
Nebraska researchers, is one of a number of popular engineered "dual use"
crops planted throughout the Midwest.  Like ADM's own Piezowheat,
SmartCorn enables growers to harvest a new economy crop while also growing
an old economy staple.  "Our business, and that of our partner-growers, is
enjoying a renaissance thanks to crops like SmartCorn," explains ADM's
Montie.  "In the three years since we've started system-wide deployment of
SmartCorn, we've become the number one supplier of computer cycles to
world markets. We're not just the 'Supermarket to the World,' we're also
its Supercomputer."

 ADM's new campaign targets the practice of "weedhacking," the use of
transgenic weeds with computational capacities like those of SmartCorn to
hijack or manipulate fields of the number-crunching crop.  
Headline-grabbing weedhacking hjinks over the past year, including the
introduction of widespread errors into calculations of inventories for
Walmart stores and the creation of 'crop circles' through directed growth
of corn-parasitic weeds, have depressed the market value of both Nebraska
and Iowa Corn Cycles.  "These hackers have got to face the consequences of
their actions," exclaims Montie.  "This isn't just harmless fun.  One DOS
attack on a hundred-acre field goes right to our bottom line.  When we
lose that profit, we have to raise the prices of the underlying crops.  
At some point, higher prices mean that fewer kids can eat."

 Research carried out at the Universities of Nebraska and Iowa on the
weeds favored by hackers, including transgenic versions of Milkweed,
Sandbur, Hemp Dogbane, and Leafy Spurge, indicate that each developed as a
result of 'gene flow' from SmartCorn itself.  "The hackers are getting a
bit of a bum rap," notes Iowa Professor Milton Trea.  "The weeds inherited
their computational and networking functions from the Corn.  The SmartCorn
genes are acting sort of like rogue genes, inserting themselves easily
into other genomes.  You can't blame the 'weedhackers' for that."

 Members of the weedhacking community point to research like Trea's to
rebut ADM's claims.  "Most people in the community are just engaged in
research into the way these weeds function and how they behave in the
environment," explains one poster in a popular weedhacking forum.  
"Weedhacking does nothing to interfere with ADM's business.  This campaign
is aimed at squashing open, public understanding of these weeds and how
they work and communicate.  ADM and Monsanto are responsible for these
weeds, but they don't own them.  The weeds are free, and we should be free
to study them."

 Reached through remailer, Gee Me Crack Corn, a self-described
"weedcracker" claiming responsibility for more than 800 DOS attacks and
the popular "death's head" crop circle, remains defiant:  "My cracks are
legendary. Every crack that makes the news gets more people thinking about
what's going on.  ADM and Monsanto are letting understudied genes loose in
the environment.  Now that's a crime."


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