I think there are three principal classes of what i call catastrophic risk technologies: nuclear, genetic modification, nanotechnology. In each of these three cases the technopiles and capitalists are mostly winning, though we are pushing back in nuclear. In each of these three cases, relatively accessible mistakes can have global detrimental impacts.
As of this writing there are 395 protests worldwide scheduled for this May 25th (this coming Saturday) against Monsanto for its work on genetically modified organisms. Of these, 230 are in the US, which seems appropriate given Monsanto is a US creation. Fortunately, i will be able to go to the protest in Washington DC. [Which in this case is especially aptly called Death City]. Stay tuned for pictures of this protest.
395 is a lot of simultaneous protests. Let’s look at some of the other big international protests in comparison. This is about 1/3 the size of the Occupy movement at it’s height (which wikipedia claims were in 951 cities in 82 counties on the 15th of October 2011). It is about 1/8th the size (in terms of number of locations) of the world-wide protests against the Iraq War in the lead up to the unlawful US invasion (which wikipedia estimates at over 3000 locations and over 36 million people between Jan 3 and April 12 2003). The Iraq War protests were in a greater number of cities in the US, and possibly a bit smaller in number of participants than the mass protests against the Vietnam War in the US, which started well after the conflict began.
But there is something very different happening here. Occupy had a huge agenda. Most of the Iraq War protests took place in Europe which was keenly aware of the deceptions of the Bush administration about the invasion. These Monsanto protests are targeted at a single corporation, which is in most of the protest countries operating legally.
There is another difference, which is that there is no real spark for these coordinated action. There is no war looming, there is no financial crisis sharpening the inequities between rich and poor. And the demands of the Monsanto protest are highly accessible:
- Boycott Monsanto owned companies
- Label GMOs
- Repeal US “Monsanto Protection Act”
- More research on health effects of GMOs
- Holding Monsanto and supporting politicians accountable thru direct communication
Clearly missing from this list is a ban on further GMO product releases until the research on health effects is completed. India and other countries have banned sale or cultivation. Hungary went so far as to burn 1000 acres of GMO corn and make planting or selling GMO crops a felony. Unwilling to wait for often slow government action, activists around the world are destroying GMO crops themselves; typically the test beds. And they risking imprisonment to do this.
When i dig into who is organizing this March Against Monsanto, it appears to be tiny groups including:
These groups are so small, that Anti-Media has only 3 comments on their March announcement. Activist Free Press appears to be a one person operation. A-revolt is of slightly indeterminate size, but it could be just a few handful of people.
I was asked at lunch today what the spark for this global protest movement was and a couple people thought it was the passage of the Monsanto Protection Act. The more i read about this legislation the more especially vexing it is. So much so that the national outcry has been loud enough to to spark the first congress person calling for provisions of the bill to be removed.
There is a long fight ahead to stop Monsanto, but it seems to have powerful memetic legs and global significance.
The author of this post, Paxus Calta, works for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) in central Virginia. SESE is part of the ASGATA lawsuit against Monsanto to block them from suing farmers who have been contaminated by GMO seeds.
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