G-M-O Schmee-M-O

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I told y’all in my maiden post that I am a bad environmentalist, particularly with regard to a certain amount of insouciance about genetic engineering, including the genetic engineering of food organisms. News flash, people: it’s just another technology. We have been modifying our environment for millenia, and if global warming is any guide, GMOs are hardly the most drastic change we’ve ever made.

What’s this, I hear? GMOs are particularly dangerous because they are self-propagating. Take note: we have been introducing self-propagating changes with mostly unknown consequences since, like, forever. Consequences unknown to human and environmental health, I mean. Oh, I don’t just mean breeding rather peculiar varieties of fruits and grains. That’s bad enough, of course, as the paleolithic diet people never tire of pointing out. But the quantity of pollutants we have released into the atmosphere have no doubt all kinds of random mutation effects no less dangerous than our crude attempts at firing a new gene into a wheat seed.

No, it’s absolutely no different from any other form of technological progress with unforseen consequences. You may complain, and rightly, about the perfidy of Monsanto and the other boogeymen, but Monsanto is not any different from Lockheed Martin, DuPont, or, heck, Apple. Corporate biotechnology exists to socialize the risks of biotechnology and privatize the profits—-like any other corporatized industry (ie, pretty much all of them).

Thing is, almost all new technologies of note involve the socialization of unforseen and potentially catastrophic risk. The problem of corporate agriculture and biotech, like any other industry, is not how to privatize risk—-that is, to me, the definition of primitivism, and if that floats your boat you could have stopped reading at the beginning. The challenge of new technology under capitalism is how to socialize the profit. I was always a little skeptical of the Vandana Shivas of the world, and now I hardly pay attention, because cultivation even by rural farmers using traditional seed-sharing methods is still an industry, albeit one of technologically-backward agrarians who frequently do not have running water or home internet. And, gah, the “organic” food INDU$TRY.

If something can be engineered, it will be, whether we know the consequences or not. Plant genomes, human genomes. If we eventually gain the ability to engineer the very sun, we will, and perhaps even should. And if we destroy ourselves, so be it.

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on December 3, 2012 6:48 PM.

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