Jonathan Campbell, Health Consultant
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Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.
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The "Genetic Engineered" foods controversy

At the heart of the controversy about "genetic engineered" foods controversy is the concept of the patenting and ownership of life processes. The first such patent was granted to General Electric Company in 1971 for what the "inventor," Anand Mohan Chakravarty, described as "I simply shuffled genes, changing bacteria that already existed." Thus began the rush by U.S. corporations to understand, and, ultimately, to patent and claim ownership of existent and modified life forms.

In her recent book Biopiracy - The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge Dr. Vandana Shiva convincingly traces the roots of this ideology - that all life processes can and should be patented, owned, and commercialized - to the European invasion of the Americas:

Today's patents have a continuity with those issued to Columbus, Sir John Cabot, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and Sir Walter Raleigh. The conflicts that have been unleashed by the GATT treaty, by patents on life forms, by the patenting of indigenous knowledge, and by genetic engineering are grounded in processes that can be summarized as the second coming of Columbus.

At the heart of Columbus's "discovery" was the treatment of piracy as a natural right of the colonizer, necessary for the deliverance of the colonized. At the heart of the GATT treaty and its patent laws is the treatment of biopiracy as a natural right of Western corporations, necessary for the "development" of Third World communities.

Biopiracy is the Columbian "discovery" 500 years after Columbus. Patents are still the means to protect this piracy of the wealth of non-Western peoples as a right of Western powers.

Through patents and genetic engineering, new colonies are being carved out. The land, the forests, the rivers, the oceans, and atmosphere have all been colonized, eroded, and polluted. Capital now has to look for new colonies to invade and exploit for its further accumulation. These new colonies are, in my view, the interior spaces of women, plants, and animals. Resistance to biopiracy is a resistance to the ultimate colonization of life itself - of the future of evolution as well as the future of non-Western traditions of relating to and knowing nature. It is a struggle to protect the freedom of diverse species to evolve. It is a struggle to protect the freedom of diverse cultures to evolve. It is a struggle to conserve both cultural and biological diversity. (My emphasis).

In the 1970s, when the dangers of genetic engineering were first discussed by the Cambridge, Massachusetts organization Science For the People, the discussion centered around whether the highest level of biological protection - a so-called "P5" laboratory - would be sufficient to prevent contamination of the biosphere with mutated life forms. The emerging bio-technology industry responded that their laboratories were certainly sufficient to prevent such release and biosphere contamination.

Today the massive introduction of bio-engineered life forms into the biosphere is considered a goal of the bio-technology industry. Millions of acres of genetically-engineered soybeans, corn, potatoes, rapeseed, and cotton are being cultivated, with modified genes in their pollen, which in some well-documented cases have spread to neighboring fields and cross-pollinated with non-modified species. Animals with altered metabolic processes now exist and are reproducing on farms.

It is clear now that the focus of the bio-technology industry is precisely what is described by Dr. Shiva above, and profit and control, rather than scientific discovery and health, are their goals. We must resist this technology and attempt to reverse the damage that it has done already to the biosphere.



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