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Genetic Engineering: Holy Grail or Pandora's Box?

Genetic Engineering: Holy Grail or Pandora's Box?

Releasing genetically transformed seeds does not enrich the diversity of life, on the contrary, it is a potential cause of loss of germplasm, since if there is positive selection in favor of the transgenic in competition with a native one, races will disappear, each one adapted to specific conditions. and with this, the genetic resources that we have available to sustainably face technological challenges such as ongoing climate change will be irreversibly eroded.

Capitalism is factory

Well, the plant is conducive to the technological homogeneity that this economic system needs to exchange and reproduce based on prices. On the other hand, agriculture is diversity: plurality of climates, altitudes, reliefs, hydrographies, soils, biological species, ecosystems, landscapes ... the sustenance of different productive uses that in turn have given rise to multiple cultures. And for three centuries, big money has been determined to match it, replacing it with the monotony of the so-called "industrial agriculture."

The discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), in the middle of the last century, led to the development of biological technologies that at the end of the expansive period of the world economy that began with the post-war period (a contraction that in agriculture manifests itself in the stagnation of the production and price rises of the 1970s), translate into new genetic manipulation procedures that for the second time in the century will revolutionize agricultural production.

Less than forty years ago, for the first time a vegetable was altered by manipulationin vitroof the genome. In 1983, the first patent for a transgenic plant was applied for, which was granted in 1985. In 1987 Monsanto grew the first genetically modified tomatoes. In the remainder of the century, the use of altered seeds is generalized, going from two hectares in 1996 to almost 50 million in 2000. And the expansion continues.

Patenting living beings promised to be the business of the new millennium and around it, new transnational corporations arose, the so-called “industries of life.” This seemed to fulfill the nineteenth-century prophecy about the end of the millennial agriculture. The big money was happy because with biotechnology he believed he had appropriated the key, the secret of the productive forces of nature that could now be isolated, reproduced and transformedin vitro. No longer by hybridizing species or related races, as peasants did ancestrally, but by splicing chromosomes of beings of different races and even kingdoms in the laboratory. Thus creating unpublished and factory living beings that, like other inventions, could be privatized.

But the Holy Grail turned out Pandora's Box

And it is that the bioengineers and their sponsors had their ecosystems misplaced. They forgot that life is not loose animals and plants, but their infinite intertwining. A prodigious framework that can be intervened intentionally and profitably, but whose parts sadden and die if they are separated and isolated.

Like butchers and forensic doctors, routine technologists only know how to dismember what they find together. His are obscene practices similar to those of the pornographer who digs into the "interesting" parts of the body and forgets the rest. The novelist J. G. Ballard is right when he says that "science is the ultimate pornography, an activity whose main task is to isolate objects and facts from their contexts." And it is ratified by Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, who argues that classical physics “conceptualized that units had priority over interactions. Each unit evolved separately as if it were alone in the world ”. But in reality, individuals "cannot be separated from the totality of their interactions."

"Proponents of genetic engineering tend to defend a reductionist view of science, that is, they think that the best way to explain things is by reducing them to smaller constituent units," says Martha Herbert. Approach that transformed into technology is extremely dangerous.

In this perspective it all comes down to information

If life is genetic codes, life is reducible to bytes. The lifeblood of the biotechnology revolution is the information revolution, as the privatization of germplasm takes the form of dizzying databases. The huge amounts of bits that information technologies allow to handle can refer to global financial movements, tastes of potential clients, voters' inclinations or deciphered genetic codes ... but in any case their reserved and exclusive handling is a source of profit.

Before it was said that time is money, but in the instantaneous world of online simultaneity, information is money, information is power. And the old hoarding becomes secrecy; concealment of privileged data that anticipate trends, or manipulation of the information that creates them.

The globalization of virtual money and the hijacking and manipulation of financial information are today the largest sources of speculative profits. And in the same way the dizzying information on genetic codes, but also on soils, rainfall and temperatures, in addition to prices and markets, is the support of the new "industries of life". Everything is information; Computable data is the common denominator of the most sophisticated production processes and in them, more than in money, resides economic power. Bytes are the millennium change value of computing. And life translated into genetic codes running on bytes has become money.

More "green deserts" and fewer peasants

With the third technological revolution, the industry is going from the homogeneous and mass production of Fordism and Taylorism, to more flexible and differentiated forms. On the other hand, in agriculture, the new resources and procedures deepen the monoculture that had already driven the “green revolution”, while concentrating production on large farms and wiping out small and medium-sized peasants.

As technologies are homogenized and generalized that reduce the influence on the yields of the different qualities of natural resources, the differential rents associated with the different costs of the same product also decrease and the comparative advantages of certain regions and countries lose economic importance. The result is a greater concentration of production, especially cereals and oilseeds, in central economies, growing food dependency on peripheral ones, and, in both, the erosion of diversified small-scale agriculture.

Wear and tear of the peasant world, which in reality is agriculture as such, which, according to this, would have been transformed into a kind of bioindustry of raw materials, integrated and subordinate to the input generating plants and the crop processing plants. Because if agricultural production could really avoid the cycles, diversity, variability and glimpses that define nature, agriculture, which has its hallmarks in them, would have disappeared.

Mainly sustained by the production and productivity of the central countries, at the end of the 20th century the world agricultural supply far exceeded the demand. Overproduction that some see as the end of the agricultural production constraint to natural factors; as the end of rents, since the differences in returns are minimized; and as the end of the small farmers who endured due to their ability to face agroecological restrictions and were pampered and even encouraged by their willingness to tighten their belts and continue producing without profit or even at a loss, but that the boom of large intensive production returned useless.

And that's where we were when the 2007 food crisis hit


Many factors come together in it. On the supply side, we have stagnation in the productive effects of new technologies, loss of fertility due to unsustainable practices, erratic harvests due to climate change. On the demand side, the growth of the world population and the change in consumption habits, the increasing use of crops such as fodder, inputs for biofuels and other industrial uses, influence ... The result is a disproportionate rise in grain prices that extends to the rest of the agricultural products and that although it remits, it has not stopped threatening us. In its July 2009 report, the FAO states that "for the first time in the history of mankind 1.2 billion people, one sixth of the world's population, suffer from hunger."

Quick and timely agro-technological transnationals offer their services. But by now we know that the "industries of life" are indeed industries of death. Today it is clear that GMOs and their technological package are part of the problem and not the solution. Thus, the dangerous and reductionist mirage of genomic manipulation is followed by the recovery of the value of ecosystems and agro-ecosystems. And with them the inevitable return of the peasants who are the ones who know how to handle them. Welcome.

Video: Pandoras Box, E6: A is for Atom (October 2020).