[Marxism] Frankenpolitics: The Left defence of GMOs,

dave x dave.xx at gmail.com
Thu Jan 9 01:32:55 MST 2014

As a brief preface, I am by personal inclination about as the far from the
anti-science left as you could get, I gladly look forward to the day we can
all upload ourselves into a cyber-utopia, I think Hegel is hopeless baggage
and Quine and modern naturalism is great, etc, etc.

However I think there are serious reasons to be cautious about embracing
GMOs. In particular to be cautious about Monsanto's transgenic crops and
food staples.

One the issue of health effects and risks in humans is not proven, the sort
of independent studies to show that it is safe have simply not been carried
out. The one independent study from France that came out a while ago and
showed negative effects was methodologically flawed (which was known at the
review stage but published anyways because the results were notable) and
pulled due to political pressure, and has yet to be rerun with a better
setup. Of course there may be no human health effects and if there are
human health effects these may be due to particular techniques or
particular genes that are inserted and perhaps these can be fixed. So not a
reason for long term pessimism, but this is research that still needs to be
done and is not being done largely due to political/corporate pressure. A
certain amount of caution in mucking around with the world's basic staple
crops is warranted and that caution is simply not compatible with
Monsanto's bottom line.

The second reason to be cautious about Monsanto style GMOs is that it is
part of a whole model of crop production that essentially ignores
everything we know about evolution. Basically green revolution style
monocropping tends to be pretty destructive ecologically (lots of
clear-cutting of natural habitat, agricultural areas are turned into
ecological 'deserts' where only a few species can exist, patches of natural
habitat tend to become cut-off and isolated from each other leading to
population declines and extinctions, etc).

Genes of organisms in the wild are normally subject to all sorts of
competitive pressures from their environment and the other organisms around
them. However this is not true of modern mono-crops whose genetic makeup is
kept artificially static by modern agriculture. This means that modern
crops tend to suffer serious deficits of evolutionary fitness and simply
could not survive well without extensive human intervention to counter-act
this effect.

Further the organization of agriculture as vast monocultures with very
little to no genetic diversity (something that genetic engineering has made
worse) makes them radically vulnerable to all sorts of environmental
threats. You could think of each one as a little like a bomb sitting in the
world's grain house waiting to go off. So of course to prevent that from
happening and to keep yields from continuing to decline (and recent
evidence does point to them declining) humans have to do all sorts of
things, in particular what we have done is pesticides, new pesticides and
more of it. But pesticides are just a temporary fix (one with heavy, heavy
costs to human health and to the natural environment). It may slow done the
evolutionary counter-attack but it doesn't stop it. Evolution is one of the
most powerful optimization techniques of which we are aware. Like
antibiotics, modern monocropped agriculture may have been (and still be)
miraculous in its capacities, but these capacities are degrading and will
eventually be severely degraded if not gone altogether.

Like a gambler doubling down on a losing bet, this is where Monsanto's GMOs
come in. Monsanto is a pesticide company. They make GMOs in order to sell
pesticides. It is a bundled product. Genetic engineering as a way to sell
pesticide, which of course is capitalism in a nutshell. Analogies that come
to mind might be developing quantum computing as a way to promote
cigarettes or interstellar space travel as a way to sell more shampoo.
Doing something stupid and shortsighted with a powerful and highly advanced
technology. So incredibly blind. Evolutionary theory is deeply bound up
with modern genetics, their whole strategy is obviously unstable from an
evolutionary perspective and even some of their scientists must realize
this cannot work long term, yet it does not matter. Business concerns drive
the science not the other way around. Its end effect will be to take modern
agriculture further down an evolutionary black hole and to further the
ecological degradation from modern agriculture rather than to help humanity
find a way to sustainably feed itself and maintain a healthy environment.

On Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 8:34 PM, Mark Lause <markalause at gmail.com> wrote:

> ======================================================================
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
> ======================================================================
> Louis and Shane make complete sense on this.
> The scientific method doesn't mean we trust corporate agriculture until we
> can scientifically prove what they're doing is not safe.  It means that
> they have to demonstrate that it is.
> ML
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