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Synthesis/Regeneration 19   (Spring 1999)

The Issue Behind the Issue

by Don Fitz, Gateway Green Alliance

[S/R 19 is a continuation of S/R 18. Both are based on information presented at the "First Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation: Genetic Engineering," July 17-19, 1998 in St. Louis, Missouri. S/R 18 included sections on "Introduction to Biotechnology," "Artificial Foods & Human Health," "Ecological Balance & Biological Integrity," and "Control of Information." The introduction below is adapted from opening comments by the author.]

It is no accident that the First Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation is called a "gathering" and not a "conference." The word reflects the Green idea that the root of environmental destruction is dominationóboth the domination of people by people and the domination of nature by people.

A broad environmental perspective cannot limit itself to addressing the domination of nature without addressing underlying social roots of domination. A narrow view would critique specific types of environmental destruction without understanding that new forms of devastation arise faster than older ones can be solved.

We may succeed in having asbestos removed from production, only to watch corporations introduce nuclear power. We may succeed in reducing lead emissions but watch explosions in the production of organochlorines. Long before we make headway in removing chlorine from production, society's corporate masters are threatening the world's ecosystems with genetically engineered organisms.

Environmentalists must address who is making these decisions and how they exclude the overwhelming majority of society from the decision-making process. The issue of genetic engineering is first and foremost an issue of multinational corporations' attempting to reshape society's relationship with nature by recasting those sectors of the economy the concern our most basic biological needs: food and health. The most obvious manifestations of this effort are their willingness to contaminate the food supply, destroy ecosystems, and drive hundreds of millions of farmers off of the land. To hide what they are doing, their PR departments throw up the smokescreen of claiming to "feed the world." They then do everything in their power to suppress criticism, and even discussion, of their actions.

The Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation seeks to challenge all of these repressive corporate behaviors. Yet, as we oppose corporate devastation, we are simultaneously developing relationships between each other, which we hope will replace the corporate model. Thus, while the gathering includes lectures by those knowledgeable in major aspects of biotechnology, it focuses on creating bonds between people. Every major speaker participates in a workshop where those who come to the gathering can share experiences. The gathering carefully avoids filling every minute with lectures and sets time aside for participants to create regional networks and plan actions. The demonstration at Monsanto World Headquarters is an opportunity for everyone to work together on a concrete action and use it as a model for designing regional activities.

The corporate model is based on people selling themselves into bondage during their work lives in exchange for money they need to survive. To protect its own existence, each corporation must expand its production regardless of the consequences that expansion has for human health and environmental destruction. Genetic engineering is one in a long series of abuses the corporate model has visited on this planet. The most important way to overcome biodevastation is to replace it with non-corporate, egalitarian ways of working together and making decisions.

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