Eons ago man's violence was limited to throwing stones and wooden spears. Advances in metallurgy led to the use of sharp blades, swords, and lances. Guns, rifles and cannons soon followed - along with machines doing yet more violence to nature such as cutting down entire forests and strip mining.The last century's violence, however, was unparalleled. According to the World Watch Institute, the 20th century saw the highest percent of humans ever dying in war - via atomic weapons and gas chambers. Environmental violence accelerated in ways that parallel human violence.

However, these transgressions may turn out to be but child's play compared to what is now under way - a selective elimination/recreation of virtually all of life on earth, for profit. Conglomerates, for example, have bought up competing seed companies, destroying most of their heritage seed stocks and replacing them with only patented genetically altered seeds - what Time magazine has called the Death of Birth. Such waves of "bioviolence" actually begin when companies microscopically attack and breach a seed's tiny nuclear membrane using a gene ballistics gun. A fish's genes, for example, can be blasted into a tomato's foreign nucleus, a snake gene into a flower's, and so on. Due to this hidden micro-violence, new forms are artificially and forcibly created. Some are employed for food, fiber, chemical and pharmaceutical production, with the latter process called biopharming.

Historically, the chemical/mechanical revolution altered the foods we eat, clothes we wear, as well as cosmetics, cleansers and other products we now use. This new biotech revolution creates "bio-factories" that produce the same and other creations. But when prior chemical wonders went awry, we could generally fix things. We could clean up parks or our backyards (picking up trash, plastic, and cans) and re mediate the most super toxic sites. But with Frankensteinian genetics gone haywire, there is often no fixing. New mutations will spread, sometimes permanently and worldwide. Meanwhile, some companies habitually hide their laboratory disasters and refuse even the very simplest disclosures through labeling - keeping consumers largely in the dark. One is reminded of The Matrix, the film in which humans are also kept in the dark, tube-fed artificial food, and kept alive just as human batteries to run machines. Consumers are, however, told that these new, let us call them "genetically violated organisms" (GVOs) instead of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are really equivalent to familiar organic ones - and therefore must be intermixed (otherwise it's unfair trade), permanently polluting organic crops with their gene markers. Once so polluted,the industry can actually claim legal ownership to the newly polluted crops and their seeds! Gradually, one can imagine corporations claiming ownership of all crops and thus controlling the world's food supplies, giving biotech companies ultimate power.

Science fiction? Monsanto has actually started just this kind of strategy on a global level. It is suing and intimidating about 400 farmers in the U.S. and, internationally, claiming patent infringements and seed ownership. Monsanto is also buying up, wholesale, water resources in the Third World. The most ominous danger, however, is the passive acceptance by consumers: in 2002, 46% of Americans surveyed thought GVOs were safe and acceptable, up from 35% in 2001. Meanwhile, 70% of U.S. processed supermarket foods are already genetically altered and unlabeled. This means we are not winning the battle to stop bioviolence, and far more activism is urgently needed.

This article was originally published in Sierra Atlantic - Winter 2003 [PDF]

About the author

Nathan Batalion is a member of the Susquehanna Group and founder of Americans for Safe Food. He is the author of 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods and a PhD candidate in philosophy at Binghamton University. He is concerned about the genetically food-violent trends of our culture.