Food Biotechnology: Promising Havoc or Hope for the Poor? [was: Re: Rain]

Brian James hillbily at
Thu Nov 23 20:19:45 MST 2000

Marx was writing in the 19th century. The "metabolic rift" he refers to,
the separation between man and nature created by capitalism, is one of
the foundations of the modern world, including the 6 billion and rising.
How do we go about fixing this metabolic rift without jetisoning that
which is largely its consequence--the good stuff I mean, like lots of
ordinary people, urban living and freedom from toil? We have to look
beyond Marx and the methods of his day on this one.

Brian James


Louis Proyect:

Look, it is not just a question of socialists taking over existing
technologies in the agrarian sphere. If it was that simple, Marx never
would have warned:

"The moral of the tale is that the capitalist system runs counter to a
rational agriculture, or that a rational agriculture is incompatible with
the capitalist system (even if the latter promotes technical development in
agriculture) and needs either small farmers working for themselves or the
control of the associated producers." (Capital vol. III, chapter 6,
section 2).

Stop and ask yourself why Marx challenged the premise that "technical
development" was sufficient or why he thought that "small farmers working
for themselves" was one *rational* approach.

This is because factory methods applied to farming do not work. It is one
thing to use the most advanced technology to create integrated circuits,
etc., but you have a different set of problems with food production. It
falls within the general rubric of the "metabolic rift" that preoccupied
Marx to such an extent that he studied the soil chemist Liebeg for answers.
He saw the answer in overcoming the separation between town and countryside
that capitalism had produced. A way had to be found to reunite organic
fertilizers with the fields. This was codified in a series of demands in
the Communist Manifesto:

- --Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state;
the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the
soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
- --Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies,
especially for agriculture.
- --Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual
abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable
distribution of the populace over the country.

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