Friday, November 8, 2013

GMOs and enslavement by Technology

> GMO Food-labeling supporters say fight is moving to statehouses

Initiative 522's defeat in Washington won't stop the fight to require
labeling of genetically engineered foods, proponents say, and even foes
predict more success with legislators than voters.

More than 20 states are expected to consider legislation in 2014 to
require labeling, and some of those bills are likely to pass, said
Scott Faber, executive director of the national group Just Label It!

"Regardless of the outcome in Washington, the long-term trend is
consumers demanding to know more about what's in their food, how food
was made and where food was made — and GE labeling is part and parcel
of that," he said.

But as in California, the "Yes" campaign was heavily outspent.
Opponents, including Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Nestle and other food
companies and agribusinesses, raised a record-setting $22 million —
compared with 8 million donated by labeling supporters.

"When you're outspent 3-to-1 — or 5-to-1 as we were in California — you
cannot win the media war," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of
the Center for Food Safety, and a member of the I-522 steering committee.

Matthew wrote:>
I'm disappointed that corporate advertising can turn public opinion on a
popular referendum question like this. It demonstrates that most people
are not savvy media consumers. They don't ask the most basic questions,
"Who is paying for this ad and why? Do they share my interests?" Yet
what do campaigners hope to accomplish with labels? Do we expect voters
to be any more savvy when they shop? There are already extensive food
labeling laws to tell people about calories, cholesterol, fat,
trans-fat, sodium, etc. Yet walk into any major grocery store (or
worse, gas stations and convenience stores where many poor and working
people must shop) and you'll find few healthy options, if any! One of
the myths of capitalism is that we have free choice. It would be much
more accurate to say that people eat what the system feeds them. They
give us lots of brands, but under the packaging it's all the same crap.
So long as we have poverty and food is distributed with markets, lots of
people will eat GMO foods. My concern is less about unforeseen health
effects than what we are doing to the genetic diversity of agricultural
products. The food diversity we have inherited from small farms around
the world makes us rich, but it cannot be easily commodified so
agribusiness is destroying it. GMOs are destroying sustainable
agricultural practices, setting us up for environmental catastrophes and
crashes in food production. The stuff doesn't need to be labeled, it
needs to be banned! ~Matt A.

Steve Marshall wrote:>

The ironic twist in this analysis - which I agree with - is that
advocates of labeling are counting on the ignorance of the American
consumer to substitute for knowledgeable purchasing. Why are the food
giants fighting labeling so hard? because they reason that uninformed
buyers will look at the label and see a warning. We don't need a ban if
people don't buy the food, but what kind of strategy depends upon ignorance?

There may be problematic health effects associated with GMOs. I haven't
seen the science. But what worries me is - like you Matt - the ecology
of technology which is being built and promises to further entrench the
privileges of capital. We need the natural ecology of our planet to be
healed and nurtured, and the diversity of food plants with it.

I was trying to understand how technology interconnects with capital and
wealth accumulation, when it struck me that technology constitutes an
entire new category of economic forces. Until recently, technology was a
form of capital: those who could afford it could produce goods and
services and earn income from ownership. However, with the cost of
technology declining with every new generation of computing power, cost,
and therefore capital, is less of a factor. Much more important will be
what the technology does. For example, 3D printers, DNA analysis, and
livestreaming. What matters more is access to the knowledge of that
technology and how to use it. This is a nascent idea and I wonder what
others think.

In the case of GMOs, the point is that the seed companies don't have
monopoly control relative to each other, but they create a monopoly
class whose interests drive them to construct an entirely new ecology of
technologies. If they can displace the natural ecologies with their own,
they have found a way to tax sunlight. To say it another way, When
farmers can save their seeds, Those seeds are not entirely free, but the
cost is merely that the farmer doesn't get to sell them. When farmers
cannot save their seeds, and must buy from technology companies, the
farmers are paying much more for their seed, and the profit goes to the
owners of the technology. "No", they are saying to the farmers "You
can't use that storehouse of knowledge and energy which is the seed you
have produced. Only ours can be used, and you will pay extra for the
privilege!" Somewhere along the line, such as when the air is too dirty
and everyone is compelled to live in houses with filtered air and can
transit from one place to another only by wearing gas masks, they will
have commodified air.

It isn't true that nothing is free. Sunlight is free. Sunlight is the
source of all of the energy we use and the power which drives the
anti-entropic engine of life. Only water, that ubiquitous solvent, and
the Earth (the substrate on which all life roots) itself, is as
important. And as long as the ecologies of the Earth are operating, the
air is free and many of the services we depend upon are free or cheap.
The cost of water is climbing, but is still fairly cheap.

But we are contemplating technology which can commodify these services
and convert them into wealth diversions. In simple terms, technology
such as GMOs can enslave us. Technology will put a price on all of these
ecological services.

When the American pioneers were fighting off the indians, even the land
seemed free, and to European eyes equality (the opposite of slavery)
between people (those sharing the settler culture) was the natural and
necessary relationship. But the land got filled, and stopped being free.
When land is not free, open to all, we are domesticated, and if we do
not have the power of capital, we learn to live within fences and barns,
we are simply forced into any economic slot that happens to be nearby -
for aboriginal Americans it became genocide - for whites it was
destitution, poverty or, for the lucky, labor, factory work, the
merchant class or the professions. (African Americans began as property,
remained oppressed, so not to belittle their plight, do provide insight
into the complexity but not the nature of this trajectory.) The point is
that what is given to us by the cosmos can be taken away; an ecology of
forces is set upon us as we struggle to live and thrive and to control
and manage our lives, and we are already familiar with the effects of
the first great theft, the theft of place and soil. With technology and
GMOs in particular, we begin the final great theft, that of a great
self-perpetuating engine of life.

What I still wonder is whether the human-managed ecology can in any way
replace nature's. With any comprehension of Earth's ecological
complexity, we would need to think "NO, we are too uttterly inept and
ignorant." More important, I think, is that when we let nature manage
nature, it does not require our attention. No maintenance is required
(just not overburdening it with waste). In every instance where we
insert ourselves into the ecological system (by producing GMO seeds
which allow herbicides to be used, replacing ecological solutions to
pest control) we acquire a new burden which requires the expenditure of
energy and resources to maintain, with all of their consequent effects.
Imagine a technological ecology which is responsible for clean air and
the production of oxygen for the entire planet! Consider the existing
problems of producing enough clean water for all of the people and
creatures of the planet!

This perhaps is the deep ecology definition of unsustainable. The use of
technology and energy to solve problems which nature alone has already
worked out. These solutions - being created and managed by people -
define our relations with each other, and enslave us first, and then
extinguish us.

We won't need to prevent this from happening. It is after all
unsustainable. But if we love life and want to heal the planet, we do
face an epochal struggle.

On 11/8/2013 9:07 AM, Brian Tokar wrote:
> This was a big debate 10 years ago: would labeling spell the end of GMOs? Many of us argued in the negative, saying that it could mainly just solidify a GMO-free niche market, and likely an elite one. We argued for a more holistic movement vs. GMOs, focusing on the core issues, including protecting farmers, both in the global North and South from the increasing dominance of agribusiness -- especially Monsanto and other chemical companies' now virtual monopoly over commercial seed sales.
> We passed 120 town resolutions in New England and demonstrated agst. the biotech industry wherever they had their then-huge annual conventions. Several Calif. counties and some ME towns banned them outright, something our towns were legally prohibited from doing. Because of that, most activists here in VT shifted focus toward the legislature, and after a couple of symbolic victories and a gubernatorial veto, that movement fizzled out, both in VT and nationally.
> So now interest in GMOs is growing again, and those who've taken the initiative (mainly natural food companies and groups funded by them) have chosen to focus on labeling and the right to know. At first, it seemed like they might succeed where we didn't in getting some legal restrictions on the books. But now that the power of corporate lobbying and disinformation to defeat labeling has been clearly demonstrated (to the tune of almost $65 million in just CA and WA), I think we need to think about more holistic strategies again.
> That's my rant for this morning…
> Brian.

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