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close this bookLife Industry: Biodiversity, People and Profits (WWF, 1996)
close this folderPart 1 - The tools of control
close this folder2. Science, markets and power
View the document2.1. Changes in the genetic supply industry
View the document2.2. Genetic engineering and biotechnology in industry
View the document2.3. Biodiversity newspeak

2.3. Biodiversity newspeak


In his book 1984, written in 1948, George Orwell described plausible but most unpleasant social and political developments. Orwell's Utopian Society of 1984 demonstrates the interrelationship between the struggle for power and the control of language and historiography. Anyone who wants totalitarian control over people has to obtain a monopoly over defining and re-defining the meaning of words and over writing and rewriting history. In Orwell's Utopia the Ministry of Propaganda is called Ministry of Truth. Torturing by the secret police takes place in the Ministry of Love. The new controlled language is called Newspeak, which aims to abolish the old vernacular, called Oldspeak. Oldspeak is a term of abuse for the people's language, i.e. for the vernacular.

We are now more than ten years beyond 1984 and, fortunately, we do not have to live under totalitarian rule of the type Orwell described. We do, however, live in a time when the 'battle for the meaning of words' has become prevalent and decisive. Moreover, today's Ministries for Research and Technology demonstrate strong tendencies towards becoming Ministries for the Production of Public Acceptance of Certain Research Projects and Technologies? which by their very structure do not promote a technology policy worthy of a democratic society.

The coining of words is a key tool in political conflicts. This paper will examine how the new verbal Siamese twins of biodiversity' and 'biotechnology' are shaping research and technology policy in academia, politics and business.

Scientific discourse has changed markedly since the 1970s. The relative decrease in public funding for universities has resulted in a growing concentration on certain key topics of research, sometimes aptly termed 'precompetitive' research. Basic research, applied research and product development are converging in terms of time, personnel and structure. Thus, university research has acquired a close similarity to research in normal business, which is geared to economic competition. Unfortunately, this also means that universities arc being drained of their independent critical qualities.

Among the different forms of political negotiations over technological pathways, one has gained prevalence at the moment. This 'promotion of public acceptance' - sometimes also called acceptance PR' or 'acceptance production' is based on a purely strategic assessment and is meant to keep environmental stakeholders from instigating sanctions against government or industry policies. 'Acceptance promotion' optimizes justification without changing the reigning criteria and standards of decision-makers. It is a tool with which powerful decision-makers gain public acclaim (or at least resigned acceptance), and which guarantees the smooth running of their plans without calling into question their own criteria and decision-making priorities. This approach currently dominates over other, less cynical, forms of political negotiation, such as 'risk limitation' based on the precautionary principle, or 'global regionality for the environment'. The latter combines co-operation against ecologically destructive global structures with the promotion of differentiated and diverse solutions at local and regional levels.

The verbal symbiosis between 'biodiversity' and 'biotechnology' is in line with the dominant trends in science policy and technology policy. The common use of the prefix 'bio-' and the rhythmical parallels between the two words suggest a natural harmony and logical coherence between them. A verbal screen of confused notions is being put into place, however. It encourages the merging of basic and applied research, thus weakening the important critical function of scientific discourse. It encourages the concentration of funds and personnel into one branch of biology. It acts as a perfect tool in the creation of acceptance by suggesting that whoever is in favour of preserving wild species must also be in favour of biochemical companies and their investments in genetic engineering. This is a public relations ploy aimed at the large constituency of environmental activists and people who enjoy the beauty and diversity of creatures in the world.

'Biotechnology' is most often used as a synonym for 'genetic engineering', a term which incites public alarm. The term 'biotechnology' does not incite the same alarm. There is a price, however, since it obliterates the technological, social and economic differentiation between traditional crafts using plants, animals and micro-organisms on the one hand, and a new 'mega-technology' on the other. This mega-technology is promoted by a triple power alliance consisting of:

o the new scientific fraternity which uses the methodology of genetic engineering
o governments which heavily subsidize the quest for technological supremacy
o multinational chemical companies.

Philip Regal, Professor at the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, says that there are really four bio-technologies: Firstly, biotechnology is a material technology for chemically rearranging DNA; secondly, biotechnology is a policy of several industrialized and other countries; thirdly, biotechnology is an ideology - a vision of the future; fourthly, biotechnology is an area for economic and career investment.

In debates about genetic engineering its critics are often asked: 'Admittedly, you have rational arguments concerning single cases of deliberate releases, special production processes and certain questionable applications, but you must commit yourself and tell us clearly whether you basically believe in genetic engineering? Do you confess a fundamental faith in this technology? You must not evade this essential question!'

So this technology calls for a basic belief and the confession of a fundamental faith. If you replace 'genetic engineering' in these sentences with 'metallurgical processes' or 'laser technology', it becomes evident how new, shocking and inadmissible this call really is. Nobody ever asked us to believe in 'metallurgic processes' or to confess our faith in 'laser technology'. Technologies are means to ends. At best, suitable means to carefully chosen ends. It is particularly strange for beliefs and confessions to turn up in the context of science and technology. Willingness to look at phenomena critically is what marks the difference between Galileo and the Holy Inquisition. Why are we suddenly urged to believe fundamentally in a technology?

There are certain mega-technologies that do not allow the normal scientific procedure based on trial and error. Professor Wolf Hle, one of the fathers of the fast breeder reactor in Germany, gave an outspoken and clear analysis of this in the context of nuclear power. He classified nuclear power as a technological venture which enters into the domain of 'hypotheticality'. This means that this technology leaves the domain of classical experiments with their spatial and temporal containment. Hle calls it a technological adventure 'of the order of magnitude of the history of mankind'. Incidentally he unlike others who reacted to this insight professed faith in this adventure.

Hence the preoccupation with faith and belief. It could well be that modern biotechnology will also lead us into another adventure of the order of magnitude of the history of mankind. It certainly shows some elements of hypotheticality:

o Its scientific and technological impacts and hazards can spread themselves both spatially and temporally, potentially through the entire biosphere. Releases of genetically manipulated organisms are irreversible and cannot be recalled. Releases are not scientific experiments in the classical sense.

o The choice of scientific and technological pathways is not scientific. Increasingly, these choices take on the character of a bet on the future, of a self-fulfilling prophesy, of belief and make-believe.

o The impetus of research and development becomes directed towards so called 'key technologies' to the disadvantage of other technological options.

o Modern biotechnology is expensive, requiring and causing a concentration of investment and power. The very powerful constellation of biotechnological stakeholders in research, industry and governments does not only promote the engineering of genes but can forcefully push and engineer market successes of certain products. This poses problems in the patent debate, since patents can be defined as non-monetary state subsidies. It also poses problems in the debate on the general labelling of genetically engineered food, euphemistically called 'novel food'. Without labelling, forced consumption enters the 'market'. A third area of concern opens up if governments do not demand an adequate liability and insurance coverage for this risk-technology. Bets on the future of biotechnology seem like bets on horses at a racetrack where it is permitted to bribe the jockey, to dope the horse and to change the rules during the race.

If these observations are correct, the demand to confess one's technological faith becomes less of an absurdity. It becomes an icon of the technological realities of today.

Are these realities an advance or a setback? Are they desirable or not? Is there coercion towards technological fundamentalism? How does an 'experiment of the order of magnitude of the history of mankind' fit in with some of the cultural inventions that we are proud of? How does it fit with democracy, with the protection of minorities, with equality of opportunity and freedom of choice?

I do not see any international forum in which there are adequately comprehensive, sufficiently long-term and serious exchanges of views and negotiations on this technological mega-adventure involving the present generation of humanity, let alone future generations. I do, however, see many instances of experts condemning the public to mutism, confusion and resignation. This is part and parcel of devious pre-emptive acceptance promotion. Some international negotiations of the last few years have not met the standards of debate and democratic decision-making that are needed.

The Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, now WTO) agreed on a continuation and reinforcement of the world market with its unhindered global shipping of biological species. This in itself - as every ecologist can tell you - is hostile to diversity, be it biological or cultural. GATT and its Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) radically redefined the cultural, social and legal character of animals, plants and micro-organisms, and this happened without public discussion or democratic legitimation.

Similarly, the Earth Summit's action plan, Agenda 21, lends itself easily to being misread as a plan for the promotion of genetic engineering. The chapter on 'Sustainable Agriculture' is subtly misspelt by some as 'Sustaining Biotechnology in Agriculture'. The chapter on 'Science for Sustainable Development' often gets interpreted as a call for the promotion of biotechnology in the arena of different scientific approaches competing for appreciation and funds. Chapter 16 of Agenda 21 does not need an implicit redefinition. It has the title Environmentally sound management of biotechnology'. The introduction states that: 'Biotechnology, an emerging knowledge-intensive field, is a set of enabling techniques for bringing about specific manmade changes in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or genetic material, in plants, animals and microbial systems, leading to useful products and technologies.' So the chapter starts with the prophecy that this technology will prove 'environmentally sound' and 'enabling' and that its products will be useful'. The introduction goes on to name the aims of Agenda 21 in the field of biotechnology. Amongst these are: 'To engender public trust and confidence' and 'to promote the development of sustainable applications and to establish appropriate enabling mechanisms'. It is quite frightening how quickly we are approaching the ballyhoo of technology acceptance and how fast the words of the debate on environment and development get worn and torn in the public relations of genetic engineering. More money is spent on the technology promotion and the production of public acceptance than on technology impact assessment and biosafety research. In an EU research proposal on 'Bioscience and technology' 10-16% of the total sum of 552 million ECU are reserved for 'prenormative research, biodiversity and social acceptance'. Biosafety issues are neither mentioned nor funded in this paper published in 1994. A UNIDO report submitted in preparation for the Meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in January 1995 even suggests that funds from the international community within the framework of the Commission on Sustainable Development should be made available for biotechnology promotion. The overall financial resource requirements for subsidizing and promoting biotechnology in developing countries given in the report are as follows:

1. Facilities and training in modern biotechnology in the fields of agriculture, health and environment

20 billion US$

2. Biosafety

2 million US$

3. Endogenous biotechnology promotion

5 million US$

The report stresses that biotechnology promotion is an attractive way for industrialized countries to comply with the United Nations target of 0.7% of the Gross National Product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA).

This UNIDO paper is a regrettable demonstration of a twisted funding approach. The North requests funds of approximately 20 billion US$ for the export of its technological priorities to the South at a time when stock-market analysts of Wall Street pointed to losses of biotechnology companies of about the same amount. ODA again might prove a cynical tool by which to screen to the public of the North and promote to the public of the South already falsified investment strategies. The low figures given for biosafety requirements suggest that once again risk-externalization and risk-dumping are part of the promotion game. Here again we are reminded of Orwell's warnings.

Yet this is not a necessary development. A surprising move in the opposite direction took place at the Third Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development which met 11-28 April 1995, in New York. Chapter 16 was on the agenda of this meeting. It was one of the most controversial and hotly debated issues. The sensational outcome of the debate was the formation of a new pro-biosafety coalition between developing countries (G77 and China) and a group of OECD-countries which want to stop the rat-race for deregulation in the North (e.g. Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and some Eastern European Countries.) Strong support and written background materials were provided by NGOs and critical scientists, both from South and from North. The debate culminated in the decision not to follow the UNIDO suggestions and to issue a recommendation to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity for a Biosafety Protocol.

Not only Agenda 21 but also the Convention on Biological Diversity which was signed at UNCED in Rio enforces the international success of the Siamese twins 'biodiversity and biotechnology'. If a difficult relationship wants to pose as an ideal partnership, it does not need realistic scientific research nor environmental impact assessment; it needs good public relations. 'Biodiversity and biotechnology' is such a difficult relationship. The fact that the Biodiversity Convention does not pertain to the irreplaceable and vitally important collections of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), is significant. Until recently, these collections were considered under the premisses of the UN Conference of Stockholm which took place in 1972. Animal, plant and microbial species were then regarded as 'the natural heritage of humankind to be safeguarded freely accessible for the present and for future generations.' Only twenty years later the fight for exclusive access and private property is in full swing. And it becomes evident that the factual legal status of whatever was collected before the year 1993 is dismally unclear and vehemently contested.

In June 1994 the World Bank attempted a takeover bid for the CGIAR collections. This was turned down, but the concept of Global Commons has very real political weaknesses and will probably he threatened again. Commons can only be safeguarded within the rules of decency and the sanctions of their corresponding communities. The only globally functioning community, at the moment, is the world market, and its only rule of decency is the maximization of private profits. The global Commons are unlikely to thrive in this setting. Our form of economy has blatantly blundered in the task of using resources sustainably. Unfortunately, the technological fundamentalism of hypothetical technologies seems to go hand in hand with an economic fundamentalism that does not allow us to analyze and restructure our economies. This urgent task is left undone. Instead, an elaborate verbal haze is created. This haze is actively thickened with words taken from the environmentalists' vocabulary whose positive connotations are ridiculed, watered down or perverted. Again Orwell is brought to mind.

And again, this is not the only strand of activities and policies influencing reality. At the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the South North biosafety coalition which had established itself forcefully in New York in April, won the day again. In Jakarta, on the 16th of November 1995, a mandate to negotiate a Biosafety Protocol was so decided. The draft protocol is to be prepared by an open-ended ad hoc working group in six sessions and is to be submitted in 1998. The precautionary approach, the legally binding character and the obligation for advance informed agreement have been firmly established. The first step will be the regulation of 'transboundary movement'. The scope and timing of the following steps is still contested. Additional hot spots of the debate in Jakarta were 'access to genetic resources' which includes the issue of the CGIAR collections and 'intellectual property rights'. It was decided to initiate studies having a closer look at some of the implications of the GATT/ TRIPS agreements for biodiversity, for local communities and for indigenous peoples.

A new and difficult round of intergovernmental negotiations on all these issues will take place at the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in Leipzig, Germany, 17-23 June, 1996. Countries like the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan, and new industrial NGOs like the 'Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO)' will have their opposing strategies ready in order to stop the 'New York-Jakarta Trend' of 1995. .

In the past, the following strategy proved to be very successful: Critics of genetic engineering are often themselves criticized as being hysterical, irrational and panic-driven. And here things really become difficult. Who decides what is rational? Modern science began with the rebellion of individual rationality and judgement against the reigning dogmatic definitions of 'reality' represented by the Holy Office. The former scientific rebels may - as many successful rebels do - copy the power mechanism of their former oppressors, and we may end in a sickening paradox. The promoters of genetic engineering may claim what one could almost call the 'inquisitorial privilege' of defining and administering the terms 'enlightened thinking, rationality and critical sovereignty'. Not only may they claim this privilege, but in fact they sometimes do.

Biodiversity has left the ecologists' Arcady and is revealing itself in political, technological and economic conflicts. In the turmoil of the political arena environmentalists face many new challenges. One important task will be to make sure that words rooted in civil opposition do not lose their 'Oldspeak' meaning. Another task is the search for suitable alliances. People engaged in nature conservation and species protection have so far not been strong enough. If they do not wish to be condemned to failure they must avoid being narrow-minded, orthodox or too fastidious in their search for allies. Careful evaluation is necessary, however. Genetic engineers are now offering to enter into alliances for the protection of biodiversity. What contributions can they make?

In this context the Merck-INBio deal has become a nearly paradigmatic example. The two American giants in biodiversity research and promotion, Edward O. Wilson and Thomas E. Lovelock see it as a happy and fair cooperation between biotechnology and biodiversity. But do funds to create an infrastructure for the extraction of a resource really contribute to the safeguarding of this resource? This was certainly not the case with other resources in the past.

The role of experts deserves a closer look. Edward O. Wilson sees the 'Louvre of biodiversity' burning. When I listen to long scientific controversies on whether there is a species extinction every fifteen minutes or every three minutes I can scarcely resist screaming. If not only the Louvre but also the Metropolitan Museum, the Hermitage and the Pinakothek are burning down simultaneously, this is certainly not the time to employ art experts to catalogue pictures; firemen are more important. And the search in all the museum for potential short circuits and compulsive arsonists is also more important. A perfect scientific musical accompaniment to the funeral procession of lost species is not enough. In the past unique, vital, complex, endemic and co-evolving diversity thrived without scientific help - and it should be able to do so again. It is not enough to hospitalize it in zoos and botanical gardens, inventory it in herbaria and between book covers, document it in films and deep-freeze it in gene banks in order to resurrect it as a genetically engineered patchwork. The term 'conservation of biodiversity' allows many interpretations. A critical look at biodiversity policies will uncover the arenas of political conflict behind the verbal haze.

To politicians, biodiversity is the title of a new political chapter. Its main theme is the drastic legal redefinition of living organisms as TRIPS and patentable 'inventions'. Public awareness of these trends takes a long time to grow. Linguistic astonishment might help: what is so intellectual about trade-related intellectual property rights? Is it an intellectual act to run a sequencing machine and to fill in the forms properly for patent applications, thus stopping living organisms from belonging to themselves and to the places and people where they have resided and have been used for centuries? We find another good reason for astonishment if we recapitulate the original function and purpose of patenting. Patents were meant as a protection for the financially and infrastructurally weak inventor, whose invention was thereby made accessible to the community while bringing just financial rewards to the inventor. Patents were devised as public tools against market concentration. But modern mega-technological progress takes place almost exclusively within the framework of institutions heavily funded by rich countries or by rich companies from the North. The function of the positive historical purpose of patents is being perverted into a legitimation of completely new structures. History is being rewritten in a such way that the protection of the weak is still being claimed, whilst the protection of the strong is what is actually taking place. Again, one thinks of Orwell.

Politicians inevitably focus on the promotion of their national economies. Will business adequately safeguard and promote biodiversity? Nature conservation is unlikely, in the long run, to win an uphill race against economic priorities. This was pointed out as early as 1932 by Nicolai Ivanovitch Vavilov, the famous Russian agronomist and geneticist:

the growing needs of civilized man and the development of industry make the introduction of new plants necessary. The vast resources of wild species, especially in the tropics, have been practically untouched by investigation.

Vavilov made a very realistic assessment in assuming that the central decisions were likely to be taken in the economic domain of the 'development of industry and the growing needs of civilized man'. Many conservationists share his assessment and, even though this is rarely their own intrinsic motivation, they point to the potential market value of biodiversity as 'immense biological capital'. They calculate the market value of birds and absorb nature into the economic calculus. This, however, has two sides to it. On the one hand, it may be the only way to get the attention of decision-makers who are aware only of monetary values. On the other hand, it completes the commercialization of our culture. Clearly economics has not yet proved itself a reliable guardian of long-term concerns which require unity of purpose between different countries and different generations.

Business and the economy certainly show an intrinsic interest in biodiversity, however. The tragedy of species loss, translated into economic terms, says: 'buy now and sell later'. Many years ago a private company, Campbell Soups, started to hoard tomato genes and is now in possession of a substantial fraction of the world's tomato biodiversity. The company followed a clear economic rationale which is probably an early precursor of things to come. The resource of biological diversity is getting scarcer every day. Why is that so? The demand for biodiversity is growing because diverse biological options become increasingly necessary as solutions to the man-made problems of climatic, agricultural, social and economic changes. Increase in scarcity and/or increase in demand: these are the normal economic preconditions for an increase in market value. The interest of the business world in biodiversity, therefore, does not mean that business has integrated environmental values and is applying the criteria of sustainability. It simply means that the exclusive ownership of this resource promises to be good business.

But what do you do if you are not primarily interested in making a profit from imminent species loss, but rather want to halt it? It becomes increasingly difficult to make clear choices while our palates are being confused by the associated 'ketchup' of acceptance promotion which adorns every technological dish. Plans to protect biodiversity must be based on the existing historical knowledge of the conditions under which the continuous co-evolution and conservation of species thrived.

How did and does biodiversity come into existence? It certainly did not need global management or biotechnology to do so. On the contrary, globality and narrow selective aims are probably threats to the unfolding and stabilization of diversity.

The origin of diversity is a central question of biology. Since Darwin's time the 'survival of the fittest' has been linked to the scientific and public perception of biological evolution. Few reflect on the causal links between the two. Darwin carefully chose the term 'survival of the fittest', not 'survival of the best'. Fitness can only be defined in the context of a certain environment and a certain situation. Natural evolution is a highly complex and dynamic game, in the course of which changing players enter into competitive and cooperative interactions with each other. Fitness, strictly speaking, can only be defined retrospectively: 'Fit were the ancestors of those who are still around.' Essential evolutionary insights hide behind the simple waiving of a definition of present fitness. Genetic engineering is always linked to a very narrow selection of genes: hence, the temptation to define present fitness gains a new technological pungency.

Some basic facts are easily forgotten. Selection alone does not create diversity and complexity. Obviously, every act of selection reduces diversity. Selection is only part of the whole evolutionary dynamic.

Diversity is regenerated after every selective step by mutations, i.e. aberrations and errors that occur in the gene replication process. The 'survival of errors' and their recombination in every generation is critical for the evolutionary process. In one environment, these genetic errors may make an organism less fit (i.e. less well adapted to the environment) than another. But if the environment changes, these 'mistakes' may actually offer a survival advantage, thus increasing fitness. The 'survival of errors' and their recombination in every generation makes it possible for several of these errors to combine into a specialized fitness in part of the old environment, or even a fitness allowing life in a new environment. The mutation rate of organisms seems to be matched to the long-term success of co-evolving systems. The greater the rate of change in the environment, the more important variation becomes. As Ronald Fisher, one of the founding fathers of the mathematical theory of biological populations, formulated in 1930: 'The increase in fitness at a given time is proportional to the variance of fitness at that time.' This means that to streamline evolution through the application of biotechnology is to hamper evolution. It also means that a galloping innovation rate combined with a perfectionist concept of monocultures is in principle unsustainable in evolutionary terms. And - in a sense - we all live under evolutionary terms.

The rise of 'fitness' from 'errors' is unpredictable and surprising. Who amongst us - if we had lived in the cretaceous period - would have bet on the evolutionary success of dwarfish dinosaurs with bones full of holes, fluffy scales and a strange tendency to flap their front extremities? More likely we would have bet on the success of ever-larger dinosaurs with thicker scales and more teeth. We would thus have dismissed the major evolutionary breakthrough of birds. If we plan to make future evolution dependent on our betting behaviour we need to know much more about evolution is considered by departments of molecular biology or by multinational companies.

Barriers and limits create the free spaces which are a necessary precondition for the creative unfolding of diversity. The role of geographical, biochemical and behavioural barriers in differentiation, complexity, and co-operation and in the buffering of destabilizing rates of change has been largely underestimated and neglected in the dominant scientific, political and economic debate. The present unprecedented rate of genetic erosion is probably largely due to the destruction of those barriers. 'Globally successful' products of genetic engineering will continue this trend. Unfortunately, the huge research and development costs of these products probably makes global successes economically necessary.

Genetic engineering overcomes the barriers between species. It should not be forgotten, however, that the active genetic separation of life-forms into species proved to be an overwhelming evolutionary success. Genetic engineering is proud of overcoming the species harrier: it is 'scrambling nature's algorithm'. Is there nobody who ponders the evolutionary meaning of species barriers before celebrating their abolition? One function of the barrier, at least, seems to be evident. The ability of higher organisms to control their very fit and evolutionarily versatile pathogens seems to depend on species barriers. Even before the advent of gene technology, pathogens which jump species harriers were an extremely unpleasant prospect. This prospect may grow to be even more unpleasant if pathogens are offered genetically engineered trans-specific evolutionary highways.

The success of co-evolving contextual living systems depends on their ability to he error-prone and error-resilient at the same time. This allows them to make a highly creative and co-operative use of errors. For this combination I use the term 'error-friendliness' or 'erro-philia.' In Darwinian fitness' we have the history of past survival. In 'error-friendliness' we have the orientation towards the future. Fitness and error-friendliness could be called the two complementary legs of evolution. Their successful cooperation allows evolution to continue. Error-friendliness needs high genetic variance, a rate of change that is constantly kept below the 'critical speed of innovation', and, last but not least, it needs a sufficient protection by barriers.

Let us sum up. Genetic engineering advertises its ability to increase the speed of innovation. It advertises its higher selective potential and precision. This focus makes easy access to 'clean', deep-frozen biological material highly desirable. The contextual regeneration of biodiversity in forest and field, on the other hand, is of no prime concern in the selective context. Banishment from ecosystems and being canned in deep-freezes as raw materials for biotechnology is the probable future for many species. Last, hut not least, biotechnology prides itself on the removal of species barriers. If we compare the self-portrait of genetic engineering with a suitable framework for the further evolution of biodiversity we have to face the fact that the very successes of modern biotechnology might prove to be its most dangerous feature.

The conflicts about basic biological assumptions on evolution are conflicts about the historiography of nature. Orwell pointed out that he who has the power to write and rewrite history has totalitarian control. A reduction of evolution theory down to the level of flat Social Darwinism legitimizes and supports a shift in the social and political structures towards those areas in our society which are selection-orientated, not diversity-orientated.

A closer look at the new verbal Siamese twins of 'biodiversity' and 'biotechnology' has shown that biotechnology may well be a fox in charge of the chicken coop of biodiversity. Foxes undoubtedly love chickens. Foxes have certain types of expert knowledge about chickens. Foxes genuinely believe in the importance of monitoring and accessing chicken coops. Foxes may even have clever policies for the promotion of their public acceptance. Still, one should think again: all this does not predestine foxes to be good guardians for chickens.


1. Vandana Shiva analysed this historical shift and coined this expression.

2. E.g., the Research Proposal to the Council of the European Union entitled Predictive Medicine: Analysis of the Human Genome, Document of the Council No. 7929/8x.

3. The Protestant Churches in Germany had established a Working Group on Genetic Engineering, whose report pays special attention to the analysis of the changes in the political and financial framework and in the organization of scientific structures. See: Kapitel II. 1: Vererungen in den Voraussetzungen und Rahmenbedingungen fur Forschung Technik und ihre ntliche Kontrolle. In Einverstnis mit der Schng. Ein Beitrag zur ethiscben Urteilsbildung im Thick auf die Gentechnik, Goh, 1991, S. 29-39.

4. Schneidewind, U. (1994) York Lunau: Von Akzeptanzsicherung efdungsbegrenzung zu 'Globalregionalitfur die Umwelt'. In: GAIA 3 No. 6, S. 311-314.

5. Eurich, C. (1995) Die Megamaschine. Darmstadt, Luchterhand, 1988. S 54 ff.

6. Philip J Regal: Critical issues in Biotechnology. In: Third World Resurgence No. 53/54, Penang.

7. Taken from a collection of notes that I made on numerous panels on biotechnology.

8. Hle, W. (1974) Hypotheticality and the New Challenges: the Pathfinder Role of Nuclear Energy. Minerva, Vol. Xll, p. 401.

9. Ibid.

10. Wills, P.R. (1994) The ecological hazards of transgenic varieties Scrambling Nature's Algorithm. Paper presented at the International Conference on Redefining the Life Sciences, Penang, Malaysia, 7-10 July. Forthcoming publication by Third World Network, Penang.

11. Burns, T.R. and Ueberhorst, R. (1988) Creative Democracy. Systematic Conflict Resolution and Policymaking in a World of High Science and Technology. New York, Greenwood Press.

12. Lesser, W.H. and Krattiger, A.F. (1994) Marketing 'Genetic Technologies' in South-North and South-South Exchanges: The Proposed Role of a Facilitating Mechanism. In: Widening, Perspectives on Biodiversity (Krattiger et al. eds) IUCN & International Academy of the Environment. Geneva, 1994. The authors (representatives of the Agency for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Projects) were the core team of a series of round tables in Latin America, in Asia and in Africa organized by the Stockholm Environment Insitute in collaboration with the International Academy of the Environment which took place in 1994.

13. Report on Chapter 16 of Agenda 21: E,'CN.17/1995/20.

14. Draft Proposal on a 'Special Programme for Biosciences and -technologies' submitted by the EU Commission to the President of the Council of the European Union on March 30, 1994. Document of the Council of the European Union No. 6277/94. Quoted on page 30 of Drucksache 431/94 of the Report of the German Government to the Bundesrat (Federal Council).

15. Report of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) prepared for the Discussion on Chapter 16 of Agenda 21: Malee Suwana-adth and Virginia W. Campbell (Technology Promotion Section, Technology Service, Investment and Technology Promotion Division): Financing Biotechnology for Sustainable Development. January 1995, pp. 1011.

16. E.g. Eghziabher, T. et al. (1995) The Need for Greater Regulation and Control of Genetic Engineering. A Statement of Scientists Concerned about Current Trends in the New Biotechnology. Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network, April.

17. von Weizser, C (1992) The Use and Abuse of Biodiversity. A Feature from NGONET in Rio (Environment and Development Information for Non-Governmental Organisations), Montevideo 11000, Uruguay: NGONET.

18. von Weizser, C. (1995) Gentechnik und Artenvielfalt. Eine schwierige Bezichung, die als ideale Partnerschaft gelten me. In: JWorters (ed.): Leben and Leben lessen. Biodiversit onomie, Natur und Kulturschutz im Widerstreit. focus: id 10. Giessen: pp. 53-68.

19. von Weizser, C. (1995) Biodiverse versus cognostic knowledge. In: Research for Development. Sarec 20 Years. Stockholm, pp. 91-103.

20. Daly, H.E. and Cobb, J.B. Jr (19X9) For the Common Good. Redirecting, Economy toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future, Boston, Beacon Press.

21. Document UNEP/CBD/COP/2/CW/L.22

22. Document UNEP/CBD/COP/2/CW/L.24

23. Document UNEP/CBI)/COP/2/CW/L.8/Rev.1

24. Document UNEP/CBD/COP/2/CW/L.25

25. See "Models of co-operation" of this book.

26. Wilson, E.O. (1992) The Diversity of Life. National Academy Press.

27. von Weizser, C. (1993) Competing Notions of Biodiversity. In: Wolfgang Sachs (ed.): Global Ecology. A New Arena of Political Conflict. London: ZED Books.

28. Quoted from: M.S. Swaminathan, 'Genetic Conservation: Microbes to Man' at the 100th Anniversary of Academician N.I. Vavilov, Moscow, Nov. 1987, p. 1.

29. The Global 2000 Report to the President - Entering the Twenty - first Century, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1980, p. 329.

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