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Re: <nettime> Monsanto PR [Holroyd, Byfield]
nettime's_digestive_system on Mon, 24 Aug 1998 17:05:48 +0200 (MET DST)


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Re: <nettime> Monsanto PR [Holroyd, Byfield]


Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:27:23 +0900 (JST)
From: Tom Holroyd <tomh {AT} taz.ccs.fau.edu>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Monsanto PR front in Europe

I don't know how that relates to net culture, but if it weren't for
thousands of years of selective breeding and manipulation by humans of the
crop plants and animals we consume, we'd all be dead from starvation. 
Yields per hectare of virtually all crops have been artificially
increased, in some cases ten-fold. 

In the last 100 years alone, average U.S. farm output has increased more
than eight-fold.  This growth occurred despite a drastic decline in farm
population (from 90% of the total population to 3%).
[http://csab.wustl.edu/papers/environment/ps129.htm]

The only complaints I've heard are against the companies that want to
patent the technology -- obviously nobody is complaining that the yields
have increased, only that farmers will have to pay more for the seeds.

With the population growing and people around the world already starving
while you eat more than you need, I'd say this is the wrong drum to be
banging on. 

On Sun, 23 Aug 1998, t byfield wrote:

><http://reports.guardian.co.uk/articles/1998/8/23/17759.html>
>
>The high profile campaign to persuade people that
>genetically-modified food is safe suffered a fresh
>setback last week with a decision by the
>Vegetarian Society not to endorse products
>containing such ingredients.

Dr. Tom Holroyd
Behavior Control Lab, Human Informatics Dept.            The basis of
National Institute of Bioscience and Human-Technology    stability is
1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki 305, Japan             instability.
The 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 10:40:32 -0400
From: t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Monsanto PR front in Europe

tomh {AT} taz.ccs.fau.edu (Mon 08/24/98 at 03:27 PM +0900):

> I don't know how that relates to net culture, but if it weren't for
> thousands of years of selective breeding and manipulation by humans of the
> crop plants and animals we consume, we'd all be dead from starvation. 
> Yields per hectare of virtually all crops have been artificially
> increased, in some cases ten-fold. 

Sending up signals about multinational hijinks, particularly when those
multinationals have a history of suppressing free speech and cooperating
with militarist regimes, is a staple of nettime. In any event, the point 
of that forward wasn't to vaunt some imagined state of nature that hasn't 
existed for centuries. More to the point is the fact that nettime's sub-
scriber base is largely European, and Monsanto's PR front will be an
"interesting" (as in the Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times")
confrontation with an EU that has both opposed genetic manipulation and
facilitated its implementation with economies of scale.

> In the last 100 years alone, average U.S. farm output has increased more
> than eight-fold.  This growth occurred despite a drastic decline in farm
> population (from 90% of the total population to 3%).
> [http://csab.wustl.edu/papers/environment/ps129.htm]

You left out: rampant increases of centralized power structures in agri-
culture and the decimation of rural culture (for better and for worse).
The flipside of that "growth" is the massive urbanization of populations
and concomitant rises in: state control, conditions conduce to pandemics
(of pathogens, of violence, of centralized starvation, etc.), and so on.
Total agricultural output and efficiency is hardly the whole story.

> The only complaints I've heard are against the companies that want to
> patent the technology -- obviously nobody is complaining that the yields
> have increased, only that farmers will have to pay more for the seeds.

Then you haven't heard about the rather heavy-handed tactics used in
marketing Bovine Somatrophin, e.g., successful efforts to illegalize 
statements on consumer-level dairy-product packaging that BST wasn't
used on any of the animals involved in the production of the goods.

In point of fact, a great many farmers are complaining, because the
use of BST introduces serious disparities into the relative ouput
of the various dairy farms that contribute to a cooperative, collect-
ive, or aggregation center. This is already a very delicate economy,
and given the fact the US already has enormous dairy surpluses, one
can only wonder why BST is needed here. One could argue that there
are parts of the world where it's desparately needed, but typically
these aren't parts of the world that can support a sustained regimen
of intramuscular injections under sanitary conditions, or the supply
infrastructure BST needs (it's very unstable). 

And then there are very legitimate questions of biodiversity--in
short, how propagation of genetically focused strains across entire
*continents* will affect the ability of staple crops worldwide to
survive unforeseen circumstances. This is an upstream-downstream
problem, too: genetic strains don't just go away each season or stay
where they were sown. Sure, this year's model might be good--for 
this year. But how about 100 or a 1000 years from now, when decades 
of strains engineered under X and Y assumptions have squeezed out 
"the competition."

> With the population growing and people around the world already starving
> while you eat more than you need, I'd say this is the wrong drum to be
> banging on. 

Monsanto's markets aren't starving people in Bangladesh or Somalia,
they are relatively affluent farmers in stable industrialized countries
where soil and climatic conditions, pest infestations, and relative
outputs can be systematically quantified in ways that allow Monsanto 
(and its ilk) to gauge the success of any given test strain. It isn't
in the business of feeding people, it's in the business of selling
"synergistically" addictive substances to farmers who can afford it--
for now. Let me ask you this: Do you see a lot of tomatoes enhanced
with antisense genetic manipulations for long shelf life being shipped
to Mali? Or price-fixed lysine and citric acid ending up on the streets
of Calcutta?  

None of this, BTW, is to say that genetic manipulation of staples for
humans or animals is ipso facto and only bad. Not at all. But marketing
dissimulation and hyperbole isn't the best register for reasoned debate
or policy-making about the world's gene pools.

Ted
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