Volume , Number 0
Silja j.a. Talvi
Silja j.a. Talvi
Stephen R. Shalom
Nonviolence Versus Capitalism
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Trajectory of Change
Jan knippers Black
Eleanor J. Bader
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Redesigning Life? is one of the most complete and up-to-date overviews of the diverse objections against biotechnology. This compilation of essays was conceived and edited by biologist Brian Tokar, who teaches at the Institute for Social Ecology.
One opinion poll after another has shown that most North American and European consumers believe that labeling foods as GM has the same effect as labeling them with a skull and crossbones. In response to this massive consumer rejection, whole supermarket chains in Europe have already decided to go GM-free. Farmers are not happy either. In November 1999, a coalition of 30 U.S. farm organizations warned that farmers that plant GM crops are risking their economic future and the future of agriculture.
Activism has gone far beyond boycotts and straight into civil disobedience. Greenpeace activists have destroyed GM crop shipments and have used their ships to prevent the passage of American freighters loaded with GM corn and wheat into European ports. In England and Germany, clandestine commandos have uprooted GM plants. Some do it in broad daylight, and turn their actions into festivals of resistance, with processions, music, and costumes. Sometimes they occupy uprooted GM fields for weeks at a time.
In 1998, members of Frances Confidiration Paysanne (Peasants Confederation) entered a warehouse containing five tons of GM corn and destroyed it by spraying it with water. When the U.S. threatened the European Union (EU) with trade sanctions for refusing to import American GM products, French farmers responded by flooding local McDonalds restaurants with manure and rotten fruit. One of the little-known reasons for the World Trade Organization 1999 Seattle conferences failure was the EUs refusal to give in to U.S. demands regarding GM foods.
The eight essays in the books first section, Our Health, Our Food and The Environment, show that the objections to genetic engineering have more than enough scientific footing. Biologist Martha Crouch explains why biotech will not feed the world or save the environment, while Vandana Shiva takes on the much-celebrated GM golden rice, touted in the mainstream media as the solution for vitamin A deficiency. Collaborators Ricarda Steinbrecher, Jennifer Ferrara, and Mike Dorsey expose the technologys inherent dangers, and Beth Burrows and Jack Kloppenburg Jr. talk about biotechs incompatibility with sustainable farming.
The second section, Medical Genetics, Science and Human Rights, deals with the uncomfortable subjects of cloning and human gene manipulation, and links the endeavor to alter the human genome to the pseudoscientific agenda of eugenics. Zoe C. Meleo-Erwin takes us to the macabre world of the new reproductive technologies; and Alix Fano, of the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation, makes a most convincing case that xenotrans- plantation (the use of animals for spare organs for humans) will result in a public health disaster of untold proportions. Marcy Darnovsky speaks out against the genetic enhancement of human genes, and Sarah Sexton questions the wisdom of turning to human cloning to solve the worlds health woes.
The third section, Patents, Corporate Power and the Theft and Knowledge of Resources, deals with the political and economic implications of genetic engineering. Special emphasis is given to indigenous peoples, who play a central role in this global controversy. Hope Shand, of the ETC Group, provides an overview of the corporations that form the Life Industry, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Mike Dorsey explain what the biotechnology revolution has in store for the worlds indigenous peoples. In her essay Biopiracy: The Theft of Knowledge and Resources, Vandana Shiva denounces corporate bioprospecting as just another form of plunder.
If it werent for its fourth section, titled, The Worldwide Resistance to Genetic Engineering, Redesigning Life? would be no more than an obituary for our planet. This final section presents a broad overview of actions being undertaken all over the world to stop biotech and to create sustainable, healthy alternatives. Jim Thomas tells about the wacky adventures of activists in the British Isles, while Vandana Shiva tells about efforts to protect Indias farmers and biodiversity from corporate takeover. In his essay, Resisting the Engineering of Life, Tokar shows that Americans havent exactly been the quiet ones in the global challenge to genetic engineering.
Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a journalist and a Research Associate at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont.