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Hive Mind
Saturday, November 06, 2004
 

Biotechnology Rant


I just came across an excellent article which fairly acurately mirrors my feelings on both the biotech industry and its opponents. It's written by a trained geneticist, and it's really funny in that it pokes fun at the ignorence of the anti-biotech crowd while simultaniously pointing out the very real dangers of agricultural biotechnology.

My feelings on biotech have always been rather complicated. On the one hand, I think that agricultural biotechnology, or at least the Monsanto style implementation of agricultural biotechnology, is a really really really bad idea. I mean, it doesn't take a PhD in ecology to figure out that flooding an ecosystem with alien, previously nonexistant organisms can potentially result in disaster, or that eating previously nonexistant organisms could provoke allergic reactions or other unpleasant side effects. I'm also agqainst the idea of patenting genomes, and think that all genetic data and technology should be open-source.

On the other hand, I've consistantly found that the people I talk to who so militantly oppose biotechnological research, some of whom I consider to be fairly intelligent people, have a four year old's grasp of genetic technologies. Often they have absolutely no knowlege whatsoever regarding how these technologies work, how research is conducted, or most importantly, how to accurately assess the potential risks or benefits of any given example of biotechnology. Their lack of basic scientific knowlege on the whole is generally appalling.

So it seems that opinions surrounding biotechnology are divided into three groups. The first would be the biotech industry itself, which casts all social, political, ethical and environmental concerns aside in the blind pursuit of pure profit. A second group would be the green, no-GMO crowd. As I said, these people typically don't understand what they oppose, so they react out of blind fear, categorizing all things biotech as being intrinsically evil, no questions asked. And then a third group would be the general public, who are usually completely ignorant of the issue and exist in a state of blissful ignorance, happily munching away on their Monsanto corn and soybean products. It's plain to see that none of these groups posess an intelligent analysis of the situation.

I do think that there are other options. I think it is possible to be critical of biotechnology without issuing blanket condemnations, and while recognizing that siome of it could prove useful in the end. I think that many of the problems we face regarding biotech comes from the profit-driven corporate control of biotech, not the technology itself, and that something akin to the open source movement in biotechnology could be of great use. I also think there needs to be a source of information about biotech that doesn't come from lying corporations or hysterical technophobes. I dont exactly know where I'm going with this, it's a bit of a rant, so here's a list of links to people and organizations that I feel have a comparatively intelligent view of the situation:

Critical Art Ensemble

Biotech Hobbyist Magazine

Bioinformatics.org

Open Source Biotechnology

Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering explained by someone who's done it










 
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LINKS/RESOURCES

Open Source, D.I.Y. Media/Tech:

DNAHack
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Biological Innovation for Open Society
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2600
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Temple of the Screaming Electron
CTheory

Brain Tools:

Erowid
SMI2LE Nootropics
Bouncing Bear Botanicals

Online Books and Booksellers:

AK Press
Project Gutenberg
Autonomedia
Loompanics
Feral House

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