Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 28, 2009

Offshore; Food, Inc.

Filed under: animal rights,Ecology,economics,farming,Film — louisproyect @ 6:31 pm

“Offshore” might not be the first movie about Indian call center workers—“Slumdog Millionaire” has that distinction—but surely this dark comedy is the first produced by Indians that deals with the cultural and economic dislocations, not to speak of the outright racism, when they get these jobs as a result of outsourcing.

As a joint Indian-U.S. production, the movie tries to tell both sides of a story that is all the more topical given the current economic downturn. It begins with a visit of Voxx call center executive Ajay Tiwari (Sid Makkar) to the offices of Fairfax Furniture in Detroit in order to line up a deal to relocate their call center to Mumbai where it will be staffed by Indians.

But before the move can be consummated, it will be necessary for a cadre of Voxx workers to be trained at Fairfax headquarters where they will be on a forced march to learn the model line in two months. Voxx had proposed a nine month preparatory period but the Fairfax bosses were anxious to cut costs as soon as possible.

The three Indian workers are given the cold shoulder in the company cafeteria and are convenient scapegoats for the long-time employees who are on their way out. Even worse, the company trainer makes their daily sessions a hell on earth demanding instant answers to obscure questions about how to assemble a coffee table, etc. The Indians are models of perseverance and good will but come close to breaking on a daily basis.

Director/writer Diane Cheklich explained her motivation in making such a movie:

Almost everyone these days has been personally touched by outsourcing, whether as a customer calling into a call center for service or as a worker who has lost their job to an offshore company. The concept resonates with people on both sides of the ocean.

While I found the movie altogether compelling, it did leave me with a somewhat deflated feeling since the drama was posed in terms of “cowboys versus Indians” as the film-makers describe it. In an epoch of an almost Hobbesian struggle of workers of one ethnicity against another for the right to be exploited by a Fairfax or a General Motors for that matter, the audience, well at least this member of the audience, would hope for a resolution that favored all the workers against the bosses who set them against each other. “Offshore”, perhaps acknowledging current realities, does not offer such a pat resolution. “Offshore” opens tomorrow at the Imaginasian Theater in New York. A trailer can be seen at the official website: http://www.offshorethemovie.com/

****

“Food, Inc.” is a powerful indictment of corporate farming that opens at the Film Forum in New York on June 12th. Inspired by the writings of Eric Schosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”), who provide a kind of tag-team running commentary throughout the documentary directed by Robert Kenner, it is the definitive statement on how America produces crappy food to the detriment of the people who eat it, the animals who are treated cruelly in farms and slaughterhouses, and the largely immigrant workforce that labors in unsafe and low wage conditions. The only benefactors it would appear are the men who run Monsanto, Purdue, Smithfield and a small group of other huge multinationals that only see food as the ultimate commodity. When they look at a tomato, they don’t see something to eat but something to turn into a dollar no matter the consequences to society.

While I have been paying close attention to these issues for well over a decade, I was surprised to learn that I only knew half the story. It is far worse than I imagined, especially when you are dealing with camera images rather than words on a page. I was shocked to see what chickens raised in factory conditions look like. The film’s producer went to dozens of large-scale chicken farmers who were under contract to Purdue or Tyson to get permission to film inside a chicken coop (a warehouse would describe it better) but were thwarted each time, only finally to get Carole Morison—a Purdue supplier—to allow them inside even if it meant the end of her business. She was disgusted by what was taking place and wanted to get it off of her chest.

She had already put up screened windows so her chickens could see daylight over the objections of Purdue, but had no control over how the animals were raised. The chickens had been bred to have larger breasts and mature twice as fast as normal with the intention of supplying the supermarkets with a more cost-effective product. What this does not take into account is the inability of a hen to walk properly with the extra weight on top placed on spindly underdeveloped legs. As a consequence, the sheds were filled with crippled hens crawling about the floor, often close to death or already dead. The floor of the warehouse was littered with these casualties to the profit nexus and their feces. No wonder Purdue and Tyson didn’t want you to see how your food looked before it came to the meat bins at your local supermarket.

Despite the grizzly aspect of factory farming that is depicted throughout the film in a kind of homage to Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, the branding for these commodities tries to evoke a long-lost period when farming was a far more local and organic mode of production. The pictures on the labels for well-known food products make you think you have been transported to Dorothy’s farm in the Wizard of Oz when the reality behind the label is much more like Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”. In one particularly grotesque scene, we are in the control room of a mega-corporation where a bank of computers oversees the production of ground beef at various far-flung farms under its control. The key to success, the owners tell us, is that the beef is sterilized with chemicals in order to prevent e-coli disease. Apparently this is exactly what Burger King et al are looking for since they anticipate that more than 90 percent of all fast food burger patties will be produced this way in a few years.

Unfortunately, Barbara Kowalcyk, one of the interviewees, was not fortunate enough to have had one of these chemically treated hamburgers served to Kevin, her 2 ½ year old son, on a vacation some years ago. The meat carried e-coli bacteria that killed him after several days of agony in a hospital bed. Now she campaigns to see “Kevin’s Law” passed in order to close down any plants that have repeated violations of contaminated meat. Surprise, surprise. Washington has not seen fit to pass the bill.

Although I strongly urge my readers to see this movie, I do feel obligated to offer some criticisms that get to the heart of my differences with Schlosser and Pollan, no matter how much I applaud their work. A significant part of the movie is devoted to an examination of Stonyfield yogurt, a product that is always in my refrigerator especially since yogurt is a staple of the Turkish dishes I enjoy preparing. The CEO of Stonyfield is one Gary Hirshberg who is seen conferring with Walmart representatives who were about to introduce his products to their vile stores. Hirshfield justifies dealing with Walmart because he believes that there is no alternative to capitalism, even though he doesn’t quite use those words. If we are going to make wholesome food grown in conditions respectful to the environment and to animals, you need retailers like Walmart to make the organic sector grow.

The press notes for “Food, Inc.” quotes Walmart on this score:

“Actually, it’s a pretty easy decision to try to support things like organics or whatever it might be based on what the consumer wants. We see that and we react to it. If it’s clear that the customer wants it, it’s really easy to get behind it and to push forward and try to make that happen.”

– Tony Airosa, chief dairy purchaser for the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which recently began carrying organically-produced food in its store. Wal-Mart has since stopped carrying milk containing growth hormone.

In my view, it is utopian to think that the factory food system will be transformed incrementally in this fashion. The Monsantos, Purdues, Tysons and Smithfields of this world are not going to be displaced by organic farming for the simple reason that they were produced by the forces of production that have taken a century to mature. American society is under enormous pressure to compete with other capitalist powers in an epoch of stagnating profits. As such, factory farming is geared to the economic imperatives of a nation that is being forced to attack the living standards of workers and farmers alike.

If any evidence of the bankruptcy of the system is needed, as well as its talent for self-deception, you can start with the White House itself—a symbol of American corporate power and its strategy for continued world domination.

When Michelle Obama planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, Michael Pollan hailed the move in the Huffington Post:

Perhaps the most encouraging action so far has come from the East Wing, where Michelle Obama has been speaking out about the importance of real, fresh food, home cooking and gardening. By planting an organic garden on the White House lawn, she launched a thousand victory gardens (vegetables seed is suddenly in short supply), gave conniptions to the pesticide industry (which wrote urging her to use some of their “crop protection products” whether she needed them or not), and at a stroke raised the profile and prestige of real food in America.

He also was encouraged by Obama’s appointments:

Tom Vilsack has sounded a welcome new note at the Department of Agriculture, where he has appointed a proven reformer — Kathleen Merrigan — as his deputy, and emphasized his commitment to sustainability, local food systems (including urban agriculture); putting nutrition at the heart of the department’s nutrition programs (not as obvious as it might sound), and enlisting farmers in the fight against climate change. He has been meeting with the kinds of activists and farmers who in past administrations stood on the steps of the USDA holding protest signs.

I wonder if Michael Pollan watched the movie he appeared in, since Monsanto was rightfully pilloried as using its control over genetically modified soybean seeds as a way of maintaining a monopoly over farmers, who once had the right to reuse seeds. (Monsanto patented the seeds and sues any farmer its detectives find in violation.)

This is what the Organic Consumers Association has to say about Tom Vilsack:

TAKE ACTION TO STOP VILSACK’S CONFIRMATION

* Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:

http://www.gene.ch/genet/2002/Oct/msg00057.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/gefood/drugsincorn102302.cfm

* The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership.

* When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

* Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government’s possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.

* Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a shill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack’s history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack.

The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto’s jet.

Despite these criticisms, I strongly recommend “Food, Inc.” that opens at the Film Forum in New York on June 12th.

Official website: http://www.foodincmovie.com/

23 Comments »

  1. Well, here’s Pollan’s previous book the omnivore’s deliemma as applied to the macroeconomy:http://www.slate.com/id/2152675

    I personally think there’s some merit to Genetically modfied foods,but I also agree that there should be a fair equality between those businesses and the farmers.

    Comment by Jenny — May 28, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  2. Curious as to what you think the “merit to Genetically modfied foods” are in general — and under what political system you envision there would ever be “fair equality between those businesses and the farmers” in particular?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 29, 2009 @ 1:03 am

  3. Well, I think they have the potentinal to prevent faminine. Yes, I remember that Daily mail article you sent me, but what do you yourself propose?

    Comment by Jenny — May 30, 2009 @ 1:43 am

  4. The industrial revolution also had the potential to eliminate famine long ago but politics means “who gets what”?

    As for deciding that question I’m afraid you wouldn’t like my proposals as they’d likely be akin to the sans-culottes.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 30, 2009 @ 2:27 am

  5. Okay, but focus on the aspect of now. what can we do in the meantime before revolution? Continue to support farming subsides? Donate and volunteer for grass roots?

    Comment by Jenny — May 30, 2009 @ 3:49 am

  6. What is to be done about Monsanto’s scourge of genetically modified foods? Since in this political era one cannot get away with my first choice of giving their excecutives a last meal of genetically modified soy burgers & then shooting them — perhaps a good start is a book like Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” which spawned a movement to ban production of DDT, another Monsanto scourge in another era.

    Pollan was just interviewed tonight on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He didn’t really say much, mostly due to the interruptions of Maher, whose politics are now so polluted the sound of his voice makes me cringe.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 30, 2009 @ 5:10 am

  7. yes, that company seems to be the main problem here.

    Comment by Jenny — May 30, 2009 @ 6:11 am

  8. Would you encourage traditional agriculture then?

    Comment by Jenny — May 30, 2009 @ 6:12 am

  9. The “main problem” is actually the inherently predatory “system” that allows companies like Monsanto to thrive. Since the political question is how to abolish that “system” then clearly “traditional agriculture” won’t cut it.

    In 1989 the World Health Organization published a report that calculated 32,000 children on the planet died on average each & every day in 1988 from malnutrition & easily preventable disease. Turns out virtually all these kids were from countries that were part of that same “system” — as opposed to the countries that weren’t. Thus it was as if that “system” had dropped Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs on the world’s poorest children every week. Now there’s some food for thought.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 30, 2009 @ 8:03 am

  10. Karl,
    It is obvious from the tone of your posts that you are, at the very least, skeptical of the “merit to Genetically modfied foods”. The term ‘Genetically Modified Foods’ is one that is often confused, and is used to mean different things. The most accurate scientific definition of a ‘Genetically modified organism’ (GMO) is any organism that has been genetically modified in ANY WAY. By this definition, every food you eat is genetically modified. Domestication of plant or animal is genetic modification via ‘artificial selection’, a process that has been ongoing for more than 10,000 years.

    The definition most commonly encountered (and the one I assume you are working under) for GMO is an organism which has had a specific gene or genes altered in some way using techniques in molecular biology excluding classical breeding. Products such as BT and ‘Round-up Ready’ crops (Monsanto products), ring-spot virus resistant papaya and golden rice to name but a few. These crops are made to confer pest, disease or drought resistance, increase yield per acre, enrich with nutrients and many others. Genetically Engineered crops could, potentially, never need pesticides or inorganic fertilizers, and could contain more nutrients and use less water. The merits are obvious for anyone familiar with the technology. It is these traits that the farmer is trying to achieve with classical breeding, the difference is only in the approach. Classical breeding is a brute force technique, like carpet-bombing, while Genetic engineering is a precision smart bomb.

    The new technology does not deserve the derision it gets in this day and age. The current system of patents and intellectual property is ill equipped for handling the biological revolution that is occurring right now, much as the older agrarian systems of the past were ill equipped for the industrial revolution. There are ways to solve the problems we see, such as mono-culture and corn over-production and the unfair practices of large agro-business like Monsanto and Cargill. But these are caused by a new technology in an old system. We can replace one and keep the other, Monsanto and BT corn aren’t synonymous, and I say we replace the old system (something that should please your more radical side, viva la Revolution!)

    Should it be regulated? of course, and it is, by the EPA, FDA and USDA.
    Should we be careful and take all the necessary precautions? Yes, as we should with any new technology.
    Should we be skeptical? yes, as a scientist, skepticism is a necessary part of the process
    Should we lambaste the technology and scoff at the “merit to Genetically modfied foods”? Not when we realize that ALL agriculture is based on GMOs and we would still be hunter-gathers killing each other in the forest without it.

    Comment by Jon Banes — June 5, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  11. If I misinterpreted your stance, i’m sorry, and I take it back :)

    Comment by Jon Banes — June 5, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  12. Jon: of course selective breeding has been done for human benefit for millenia. That’s not what upsets me.

    What I object to is this kind of scourge:

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

  13. Here’s another socially dubious food product from the folks who got rich off DDT & Agent Orange:

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  14. Let me set the record straight, I hate Monsanto. There is nothing I trust less than large Corporations, and Monsanto is, as you say, a scourge. What I am an apologist for is Genetic Engineering. That said BGH, antibiotics, DDT, AMP and any chemical use is NOT GENETIC ENGINEERING. I am, generally, against the use of excess chemicals in farming.

    As for agriculture in India, it is extremely difficult and has a very long history of drought. This clip is posing as if this is the first time drought and famine have ravaged the sub-continent, when this has been going on for most of recorded history. Farming in a notoriously fickle monsoon climate without irrigation is a huge risk. These factors should not be overlooked. In addition to this those farmers who got into the pesticide cycle were not the ones planting BT cotton, and nowhere does it say otherwise. BT crops allow for less pesticide spraying and the seeds that BT is engineered into are American crops. In the US farmers almost alway irrigate and our system of farming and climate is very, very different from India, it should not be a surprise that plants suited for this continent did not do well under completely different conditions. I am not defending Monsanto for advertising falsely to the people of india (who lack the infrastructure and technical knowledge to make the decision correctly). What that company is doing is killing agriculture and they need to be stopped (remember, viva la Revolution!). It is important that we separate ‘Monsanto’ from ‘Genetic engineering’ as they are not synonyms.

    Comment by Jon Banes — June 5, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

  15. I don’t disagree. I have no beef with the science of genetic engineering per se just as I don’t have a beef with machine guns per se. It’s a question of how such technology is used. Genetic engineering is technology. Technology is really the collective wisdom of humankind. But under capitalism that collective wisdom is privatized and is therefore highly political. Politics, as Lenin rightly put it, is “who gets what.” What’s disgusting is that such an iniquitous social arrangement that encourages companies like Monsanto to prosper is taken for granted to be the pinnacle of human economic achievement. Sounds like you agree with as much so there’s really no argument.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  16. Film maker Robert Kenner makes some good points on the Daily Show:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=232260&title=robert-kenner

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 4, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  17. …. crops are made to confer pest, disease or drought resistance, increase yield per acre, enrich with nutrients and many others. Genetically Engineered crops could, potentially, never need pesticides or inorganic fertilizers, and could contain more nutrients and use less water. The merits are obvious for anyone familiar with the technology. It is these traits that the farmer is trying to achieve with classical breeding, the difference is only in the approach. Classical breeding is a brute force technique, like carpet-bombing, while Genetic engineering is a precision smart bomb.

    The new technology does not deserve the derision it gets in this day and age. The current system of patents and intellectual property is ill equipped for handling the biological revolution that is occurring right now, much as the older agrarian systems of the past were ill equipped for the industrial revolution. There are ways to solve the problems we see, such as mono-culture and corn over-production and the unfair practices of large agro-business like Monsanto and Cargill. But these are caused by a new technology in an old system. We can replace one and keep the other, Monsanto and BT corn aren’t synonymous, and I say we replace the old system (something that should please your more radical side, viva la Revolution!)

    Should it be regulated? of course, and it is, by the EPA, FDA and USDA.
    Should we be careful and take all the necessary precautions? Yes, as we should with any new technology.
    Should we be skeptical? yes, as a scientist, skepticism is a necessary part of the process
    Should we lambaste the technology and scoff at the “merit to Genetically modified foods”? Not when we realize that ALL agriculture is based on GMOs and we would still be hunter-gathers killing each other in the forest without it.
    Comment by Jon Banes — June 5, 2009 @ 9:24 am

    ————————-

    Hold this image in mind, while reading the following: think about it – the corporate scientists have placed the dna of cold-resistant sea creatures in the dna of strawberries. to prolong resistance to freezing. What are the unintended effects of this and the unlimited quantity of similar – or much worse – profit-oriented and human health-indifferent extensions of this technology? Who knows? What has this to do with the natural evolution and adaptation of living matter? Monsanto and its counterparts have since the 80s been rotating their executives and board members through a revolving door, in and out of national government and international bodies, especially the FDA in the US, and back again to corporate management and boardrooms and allied law firms. I have in mind especially Mickey Kantor, Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Michael Taylor, William Daley, Robert Zoellick, Lord Sainsbury in UK and many others. What they have accomplished, as US trade representatives and as government functionaries in these regulatory agencies, is the surreptitious, massive importation of genetically modified organisms into our food regimen, now 70% of them in the US, intimidating or otherwise opposing and neutralizing government regulation by Congress and the Executive branch or world trade or diplomatic agencies. As a result, any attempt at long term systematic peer review, any sustained studies of the generational effects on the environment and on human organisms have been brutally squelched – even in Europe, where there had been a groundswell against gmos. We aren’t even accorded the option of labelling so that we could at least know what we are eating. The chemical dependency of our food supply has received a perhaps (at least for years or generations) irreversible impetus. This has been accomplished despite the economic effects of patented, intellectual property protected seeds and genetic modification of plants and animals (us too?) – on the future of growing things. – unknown because gigantic agribusiness doesn’t want us to know. Also,consider thalidomide, if you want an example of what unregulated science can produce in the way of unintended or disregarded consequences.

    Comment by Ralph Johansen — October 12, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

  18. Should it be regulated? of course, and it is, by the EPA, FDA and USDA.

    Ha-ha! That’s a good one.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 12, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  19. First, I do agree with Karl Friedrich, you make some very good points and I want everyone to realize that ANY technology can be used for the social injustices you see committed in places like India. It is a problem with the entire agricultural system, and GE offers some great new potential to help solve this problem.

    Second, to louisproyect, that example of the so-called ‘fish’ gene into strawberries has never happened. You’ve probably been reading too much GreenPeace propaganda. It was proposed as a novel idea, but I don’t know of a single lab that has even proposed applying for a grant to start this process for real. Facts need to be checked.

    Even if this was done, so what? There are many genes that strawberries and fish share already, what will putting one more in really do? Also, imagine this, a farmer uses classical breeding to get the very same effect, do you oppose it then?

    In order for a food or drug to get into your home it has to jump a number of hurdles:
    EPA: deals with impact on the enviroment of factories and such
    FDA: deals with consumer saftey
    USDA: similar goals to the epa but they deal only with agriculture (crops, animals, etc.) and farming, husbandry practices specifically
    Anti-GE apologists often claim that GE is completely unregulated (GreenPeace loves saying this). That is a lie. The truth is that the system is not perfect (but there is a system) and thalidomide is a good example of when the system went horribly wrong, but I noticed that you failed to mention the, literally, thousands of unsafe drugs that the FDA denies on a routine basis, that’s not a very objective data set.

    I will grant you that regulation of our farms and animals has been severely limited ever since the Nixon administration and the Secy. of the USDA Earl Butz. It has been furthur weakened by the Regan era deregulators, namely Regan, Clinton and Bush (both of them), really everybody. This system does need some work and I am sorry if I didn’t make it clear that I wanted more and tighter regulation, but my point was that it is needed NOT JUST FOR GEs but across the board. The problem is not GEs, it’s the entire agriculture system we have in place, it needs some seriously smart people to reform it.

    I am once again feel like i’m being accused of supporting giant corporate interests and cronyism. Come on, it’s like your not even reading my posts I hate the large corporations and what they are doing to our food supply but the fact remains, Monsanto =/= GE technology. Period. That is my point. I have a problem when people lump in GE technology as some kind of evil along with the rest of our problems in agriculture. It is a scapegoat, not the root of all evil on the farm and to say so is to grossly misrepresent it.

    One more point I feel compelled to make; Should it really be that big of a surprise that the largest companies in the US are suppling people to work in the regulatory agencies? What choice do you have? To get people qualified enough, who know the science and are dedicate to the field, you’re going to have to either look toward the industry itself or academia. It’s hard to draft from academia because of a little thing called tenure, no professor will give tenure (or even the hope of obtaining it) up for a crappy gov’t job that will last him a short time and will not grant him academic freedom(tenure is academic freedom for LIFE). So you really need to reach in the private sphere to get the qualified people to run these agencies and guess where all the industry jobs are? Large Corporations! This does not defend putting your drinking buddy who’s on the board of Cargill in charge of regulation. But these companies have the most qualified people in the field, where else can you get that?

    Comment by Jon Banes — October 12, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  20. “What has this to do with the natural evolution and adaptation of living matter?”

    This shows how little you understand domestication. None of it has anything to do, at all, with natural evolution, none of it. Wheat, cows, corn, dogs, none of it. Look what we have done to dogs! Compare a Chihuahua with a wolf. It’s a bastardization of the original species. Do me a favor and look up Teosinte, I almost don’t want to spoil the fun… oh well, you may as well know now, corn is even more messed up than dogs and not by a natural process, but by us. Who claims our crops are natural now? Who claims that farming has ANYTHING to do with natural processes? It is silly to lambaste GE as unnatural because no one is claiming it to be, just as no scientist will say that non-GE corn is natural. It is troglodytic to say GE tech. should be baned when we have been messing with genomes for 10,000 years.

    Comment by Jon Banes — October 12, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

  21. Jon. You’re obviously learned in the field of bio-engineering and your social insticts are healthy when it comes to the perfidy of multinational corporations (except, curiously, GE) but what you seem to lack is skepticism in the long term viability of the production for profit system. Hence your faith in more or stronger regulations and regulatory bodies like the FDA, etc. But it’s those regulations, or lack thereof, that are root of the problem insofar as the profit system will always have foxes guarding chickens. You said it yourself, the regulators are the products of these very large, private, monstrously secretive, profit-driven corporations. Yet it’s these very corporations, and this hideously iniquitous social arrangement (ironically called “freedom”) that allows such corporations to thrive, the very same corporations which actually write the regulations, and then their ex-employees implement them in the name of protecting the public! Could a larger farse ever be perpetrated on humankind? And the nauseating propaganda that this is the greatest civilization in history — I mean Goebbels would have been proud.

    It’d be like the health insurance giants actually writing the language of Obama’s health reform bill — which is precisely what’s going down on Capitol Hill today!

    Reform or Revolution? That’s the classic divide on the left. Some imagine you can tweak this putrified social system that has the built in logic, if not motto, that “greed is good”. Others, like myself, are convinced that it’s impossible to sufficiently tweak insofar as capitalist production methods will always amount to foxes regulating chickens. No social or biological engineering can make a field of rotten vegetables fresh again. You’ve got to plow it under and plant a new crop. There’s just no way around it.

    The point is so long as there’s fundamentally no way around that problem short of a radical change in property relations then there will always be Unrepentant Marxists. When a social system rewards profiteers as it’s guiding principle, and there’s profits to be made undermining the Earth & its inhabitants, then the 2 entities are irreconcilably antagonistic. The sooner one comes to grip with this fact the sooner they will quit deluding themselves that they can somehow sufficiently surpress the appetites of the foxes.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 13, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  22. Jon Banes wrote:
    Second, to louis proyect, that example of the so-called ‘fish’ gene into strawberries has never happened. You’ve probably been reading too much GreenPeace propaganda. It was proposed as a novel idea, but I don’t know of a single lab that has even proposed applying for a grant to start this process for real. Facts need to be checked.

    ———————————————

    I was the reporter of that observation. I appreciate that you consider some points made by me to be worthwhile. My answer here is, the fact that this was on the drawing board, and was as you state withdrawn after it was called attention to, that it was feasible whether or not put to use, in the climate in which this is all taking place, tells me that any outrageous use is permissible, so long as, in an intensely competitive, oligopolistic, profit-driven market, it enhances expansion of corporate returns on investment and can be brought out without controversy or publicity – regardless of its effect on environment and health. That is why any reasonable person should oppose, in the present circumstances, any use of this dna technology, unless and until it has for gods sake some integrity and reliability and some prospect of being viewed critically – in a manner similar to application of many less-cozened, insulated scientific developments.

    As for your observation that the fact that only the foxes know the ins and outs of laying waste to the hen house somehow justifies putting them in charge of the preservation of hens just doesn’t pass any credible smell test. Among other things, I’m sure you will agree, qui custodiet ipsos custodiet? Do you contend that there is no rational objective alternative? Whether in a system of concentrated accumulation of capital as a prime, virtually exclusive desideratum, such a reform is feasible is a question we should all put out there and ponder.

    Your response to my question, “What has this to do with the natural evolution and adaptation of living matter?”, is certainly reasonable as far as it goes, and I am neither putting myself in a debating stance nor do I mean to put genetic research down tout court. We seem to be in agreement there. I would only add two things: 1) that the applications of this technology are less-known than the others you mention – are in many ways in the same dimension as pesticides and hormones and other productivity-enhancing additives in feed stock,in fact – and because of the range of fantastic conceivable uses they are more potentially devastating and 2) that I see the manner in which this technology has been foisted on us – as if there was something to be feared by bloated big ag in subjecting their applications of the technology to peer reviewed, long-term study, BEFORE it’s allowed by the compromised regulatory agencies to go into production, says worlds to me about the drive to capture market without regard to consequences and also about their likely undisclosed awareness of its potential harm.

    Comment by Ralph Johansen — October 13, 2009 @ 12:48 am

  23. [...] A hard-hitting documentary reviewed here. [...]

    Pingback by Magnolia movies-2009 « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — November 13, 2009 @ 8:14 pm


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The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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