Make no mistake this is a rant and I may or may not stop for punctuation.
When our government allowed the patenting of life of any kind, which our forefathers were wholeheartedly against by the way, it not only opened the door to a bizarre Sci-Fi world but certainly helped in the obliteration of any kind of corporate morals. The case that allowed that door kicked in was Diamond vs Chakrabarty (a genetic engineer who was working for General Electric.) Mr. Chakrabarty had developed a bacterium that was capable of breaking down crude oil that he proposed be used for oil spills that he wanted to patent (own). After many legal battles the case went to the Supreme Court where five Supreme Court Judges, Warren E. Burger, Potter Steward, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist and John Paul Stevens, ruled in favor for the patenting of life. You can personally thank them (preferably by kicking them in the shins and screaming ‘what on this green earth were you THINKING!?!’) for leading us smack into the food crisis and ridiculousness that we are currently mired in. Chakrabarty’s bacterium as it turned out was unstable and uncontrollable, and even though it never made it to the market Pandora was already out.
The legal change in perspective has enabled massive corporations to take control of our food supply on a genetic level. Farmers find themselves having to pay Monsanto for patent infringement when their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s GM pollens and seeds even if accidentally. The farmers more often than not settle with Monsanto, rather than lose their farms entirely and they are not allowed to discuss their settlements. This is happening not only here in the United States but in Canada as well. The Future of Food is a great documentary about just this reality.
There is no reason to assume that genetically engineered salmon, created and developed by AquaBounty Farms will be any less owned, and one can presume based on the Monsanto model that AquaBounty could claim to ‘own’ any fish that was offspring of a wild fish that had bred with an AquaBounty fish. Ownership then becomes something very sneaky and slippery indeed, and brings a whole new level to the concept of corporate espionage. What’s to stop AquaBounty from purposely contaminating the natural fish population? So, now seeds, fish, genes, land, and water rights are all things that are owned and no longer part of the common human good as they were once thought to be.
As if this all weren’t enough to make my head explode, here comes the Enviropig. It is widely known that the pigs manure is a serious polluter so what some scientists did was create a genetically engineered pig whose poop is less offensive, because clearly the problem is the piggy genes and not the way we grow them. Leaving aside the plethora of things I can say about that line of thinking, it is this quote from eatocracy that really got my panties in a bunch.
“Scientists added DNA from E. coli bacteria and from a mouse to a Yorkshire pig’s embryo to create the Enviropig. The E. coli bacteria gene allows the pig to digest plant phosphate, by allowing the pig to produce an enzyme called phytase in its saliva. The mouse gene acts to accelerate the process.”
E. Coli. Fantastic. No, really. Good job guys, since we haven’t had enough of that lovely bug running around lately.
Just for the record, you know what is called ‘Long Pig’ not only certain Sci-Fi circles but in periods of our own human culinary history? We are. No doubt someone is going to patent that too. Can’t wait to pay those infringements.
- Can This Pig Fly? (blogs.wsj.com)
- Canadian-American company seeks approval to create genetically engineered fish (nationalpost.com)
- Could Canadian-made Enviropiggy go to market? (ctv.ca)