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Monsanto And The Corporate Appropriation Of Science As A Brand

August 16, 2011

I can’t stand Monsanto, but I also can’t stand the way the term “GMO” gets thrown around. Tons of stuff is “genetically engineered”, let’s not get all woo-woo-y about conceptual demarcations when humans have been crossbreeding for centuries. Little pisses me off more than corporations giving a bad name to the potential of a technology because they want to wrap themselves in that potential to sell shit without actually allowing scientists to fulfill it. The problem isn’t that something is genetically engineered. The problem is when it was engineered in a slapdash, irresponsible, non-scientific fashion to serve a very particular goal (as with suicide genes) that sucks.

A lot of the “engineering” going on right now is more blind experiment than it is actual designing. This is because we’re not at the level of understanding yet where we can directly program in DNA. Rather corporate research teams are pushed to more or less just fiddle with stuff to see what works in terms of macroscopic aggregates while relatively ignoring or skipping past the complexity of the underlying mechanisms. This is not real science. Genetic engineers are basically still just script kiddies. Of course there are interesting things to be learned through such play that can help further science and our understanding, just as there’s a lot that will be possible, but the corporate bosses are entirely disinterested in understanding, they’re pushing for “useful” results.

By which I mean they’re interested in things that increase profit (within an extremely short sighted capitalist economy with no real capacity to internalize externalities). So they work to achieve greater yield crops (which can be great) but are inclined to ignore the interplay of the crops with the ecosystem so then you get crops that are unsustainable in some way. Or because they don’t understand all the mechanisms of what’s going on they introduce genes that have unforseen negative consequences and (because they’re not not subject to social/market oversight) don’t even bother to adequately test them. Lastly there’s actions they take to directly fuck over the farmer, as with suicide-genes that force farmers to become dependents of Monsanto who, thanks to IP law, can charge whatever they like.

As with anything there’s a give and take between the inclinations of the scientists and those of their bosses.   A lot of positive developments slip by and contribute to abundance (and freedom from material subjugation as with gene therapy to overcome our bodies) which in the long term is obviously detrimental to power structures like Monsanto.  This sort of short-term preference on the part of power structures is fairly constant across history when power structures attempt to control the creative/inquisitive process.  Positive breakthroughs seep out into general use whereas negative ones are eventually repulsed.


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