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Guest Writer - Gastautor - Gast Schrijver

Dylan Penner



Nano-Justice and Food Sovereignty  

Imagine it's 3am and you hear a rustling in your backyard garden. You look out to see shadowy figures rooting around. You wake the next morning in a cold sweat, thinking it was only a bad dream, to find a letter pushed through your mail slot. It reads: “Dear Occupant: We suspect that you have been growing Monsanto's Roundup Ready ® canola. To avoid legal action, send us $1000 and tell no one about this, especially not the media. If you do not send us $1000, we will sue you for $20,000 in damages.”

From Canada to Iraq, Saving Seeds is Under Attack

The above letter is fiction, but according to Percy Schmeiser - a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto - this is exactly the type of letter Monsanto has been sending to farmers, as a means of intimidation. As for the rustling in your backyard garden, farmers in the prairies call them the Gene Police . They are former RCMP officers, now working on private contracts for Monsanto. As Schmeiser puts it, their role it to harrass, intimidate, investigate, and create a culture of fear.

Why such heavy-handed tactics? It's simple. Monsanto currently controls 91% of the global GMO seed stock, but they want to control 100% of the food supply. These issues, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. The biotechnology of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a stepping stone on the path to nanotechnology. While biotech manipulates matter at the molecular level, nanotech seeks to control matter at the atomic level. Proponents argue unprecedented and world-changing benefits will arise from this new technology, and perhaps that is the case. But the question we need to ask is this: by whom and for whom is this technology being developed?

Percy Schmeiser was in Toronto on Friday May 13, 2005 at a public forum talking about his legal battle with Monsanto, which made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004. ACT for the Earth organized the event to launch a Nano-Justice campaign focussed on the convergence of GMOs and nanotechnology. ACT for the Earth is calling on governments and corporations involved in biotech and nanotech to heed the precautionary principle and uphold the safety of our ecosystems, human health, and the food supply.

Corporate Control: for Whom the Cell Tolls

Schmeiser stresses that “there's a lot more advancement in nanotechnology... than really people realize. The driving force is more control.” Nanotech covers a broad range of technologies, but one of the varieties that has many people concerned is the advent of assemblers .

K. Eric Drexler was one of the first people to seriously look at the social, economic and ecological consequences of nanotechnology in his book Engines Of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology . Drexler calculated that assemblers - self-replicating nano-machines - could consume the entire surface of the Earth if they got out of control. More ominously, he anticipated that this dire scenario could happen in a matter of days.

Nanotechnology is currently at the same stage biotechnology and GMOs were 10 years ago. And while nanotech is advancing much more rapidly, so too is the resistance to it. It is marching forward due to large government subsidies in nanotech initiatives, with no public input. As was the case with biotech 10 years ago, there is now an urgent need for society to debate the worth of nanotechnology. It is already clear from the corporate record on biotech, that such technologies are prone to abuse. According to Schmeiser, it is only a matter of time until we understand the long-term effects of biotechnology and nanotechnology on “the environment, indigenous plants, seeds, and what about human health?”

Schmeiser notes that “if you would ask our [Members of Parliament] that 90% wouldn't even know what nanotechnology is... I make that statement based on different meetings that I've gone to where that topic has come up.” It is time we made nanotech a political issue. If more people knew what was going on in our names, with our tax dollars, there would be outrage.

Sponsoring Suicide Seeds and Biopiracy

There's a lot of talk about sponsorship scandals these days, and rightly so. But there are some important sponsorship scandals that aren't being talked about. Through the Canada Pension Plan the Canadian Government is funding military corporations that are profiting from so called "Missile Defence" and the War in Iraq, such as Lockheed-Martin, SNC Lavalin, and Halliburton. The Canada Pension Plan is also funding Monsanto and it's activities to the tune of over $4 million. The Canada Pension Plan has also embarked on a high profile nanotech "investment" venture . It is time we all stood up to the backdoor funding of Star Wars, the War on Iraq, as well as attempts to control our food supply and matter itself. By demanding peaceful pensions , we can help to end the "war on terror" as well as the war on terra.

Order 81 in Iraq, issued by Paul Bremer before the “handover”, made saving seeds effectively illegal. The purpose of this has been to pave the way for seed privatization. With the Canadian Seed Sector Review (SSR), self-described as “an industry led, industry wide assessment of the seed sector”, anti-seed saving legislation could soon become a reality in Canada as well, if we don't act quickly. The SSR is, not coincidentally, funded by the Canadian government. The same government, which has recently taken on the role of leading global advocate for terminator seeds . The same government which nearly prevented Dr. Tewolde Egziabher , one of the world's leading advocates of biosafety, from entering Canada by witholding his Visa until the very last moment. While the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which recently engaged in consultations on the Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Act , has said seed saving is not threatened , many Canadian farmers remain skeptical . So should we all.

Schmeiser cautions that “when the terminator gene is installed in the seed, and when the seed is planted, it will produce a plant where the seed from this plant is not fertile (will not germinate). The danger of the terminator gene is that in pollination stage it can cross-pollinate with other plants, especially close cousins, and make these also sterile.”

Assemblers: a New Threat, a New Resistance

What we are witnessing is a new global tapestry of invasion, which threads events in Iraq and Canada into a common fabric. It is crucial that we pay attention to the technologies and politics behind the curtain. Seed supplies in both countries are under attack. There are those who want to patent matter from cells all the way down to basic molecules, to enhance corporate control, not just of life, but reality itself. The problem is there is a fertile resistance bent on such radical ambitions as biosafety and human survival.

The ETC Group has pointed out that the "Canadian government has proposed that nanotechnology be discussed at the G8 meeting in July in Scotland". ACT for the Earth will be there with many others to help put Nano-Justice on the people's agenda. This is one genie that we can still put back in the bottle.

Dylan Penner is Executive Director of ACT for the Earth, which organized Percy Schmeiser's May 13, 2005 speaking engagement in Toronto, Ontario.

Further Reading and Action

SEED SECTOR REVIEW: Undermining farmers' rights to their seed
Biodemocracy 2005 Protests
Resisting GMOs in Africa



The contents of this page, including the views expressed above, are the responsibility of the author. They do not represent the views or policies of Nano Tsunami Dot Com, except where explicitly stated.


Copyright © 2005 Dylan Penner

Dylan Penner


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