A Fishy Tale: Part 1

The Untold Story of How Genetic Engineering Threatens Aquaculture and Agriculture

Putting GE in Context: Corporate ‘science’ in a globalized unsustainable world

There are many aspects of Genetic Engineering which make it unique, including its position as a ‘science’ and the severity of the risks it presents.

As a ‘science’ GE is very new, and growing rapidly due to the billions invested in GE research by Governments and corporations. Whilst the motives of Government may have differed from corporations at times , the high level of overlap between Government and companies is in fact one of GE’s distinguishing features. GE has appeared at a time when power has become concentrated in the hands of a few Multi-National Corporations (MNC’s). Several corporations’ income exceed the GNP of most nations! This concentration of power has emerged through a process called globalization, in which many of the world’s economies have become increasingly interconnected and Governments have lost much of their sovereignty to international trade organizations such as the WTO. The high level of corporate control in setting the GE agenda has led to growing concern from many sectors including independent scientists and the public at large. Many commentators question the validity of GE research run by corporations seeking quick financial returns . The very status of GE as a ‘science’- which can make claims to objectivity and rigor through peer review- is therefore open to challenge.

Governments and corporations have been so eager to promote GE due to their desire for power and technological answers to social, cultural and political problems. At a point when the limitations of the present global system of consumption and production have become completely obvious; through, for example, structural poverty, habitat loss, global warming and species extinction, GE provides one of the last opportunities for expansion and exploitation. For MNC’s such as Monsanto and DuPont the shift to GE is part of a tactical move enabling them to change their image from polluting chemical producers to beneficent ‘life sciences’ corporations.

It is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability demands a shift away from economic growth. Numerous studies show that the economic growth approach is flawed as it ignores the true costs of such ‘growth’, including pollution, exploitation of people and other species, social disruption and stress.

Rather than continuing to blindly seek economic growth, sustainability requires that we recognize the existing range of skills and resources that we still have, and placing more power into the hands of local people. This is particularly the case in ‘Third World’ countries, where most traditional knowledge and practices have not yet been lost ! Sustainability thus demands more genuine democracy than we currently have. GE, however, is located at the other end of what I term this democratic, ‘sustainability spectrum’. It offers powerful bodies such as corporations and Governments further opportunities to maintain their power over citizens as it is a technology to which none of us has independent access. While anyone can participate in organic food production, only powerful, centralized organizations can produce GE. Corporations and governments as a means of maintaining their role as ‘experts’ are therefore using Genetic Engineering (which helps them to maintain their power).

The GE agenda has largely been created by governments and corporations in an attempt to continue on a path of economic growth and private profits. In addition, the ‘problems’ the GE lobby claims GE will ‘solve’ are in fact those stemming from this unsustainable, unjust economic growth approach. This is discussed in tomorrow’s Part 2, when comparing GE aquaculture with GE agriculture.

Due to combination of factors, such as reductionism, corporate psuedo-science, and novelty of techniques involved, GE presents a unique range of ecological, socio-cultural, human, animal and ecosphere health risks.

It is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability demands a shift away from economic growth.

Parts of the A Fishy Tale series:

A Fishy Tale: Part 1
A Fishy Tale: Part 2
A Fishy Tale: Part 3
A Fishy Tale: Part 4
A Fishy Tale: Part 5

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