Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Putting the AG in Iraq

AlterNet has a follow up story to previous (and slightly misrepresented) reports about the sexily titled Order 81 [PDF], otherwise known as "Amendments to Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law", a piece of legislation enacted way back in 2004 by Paul Bremmer before leaving his position as administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The AlterNet piece explains the order as basically setting up a favorable Intellectual Property regime for US biotech /seed companies, one similar to that operating in much of India, especially where cotton farming is becoming dominated by Monsanto's Bollgard ® Bt patented seed variety. Disturbingly, the parallel rise in suicides (over 4,500 in the last 6 years) by farmers in these regions is linked to the corporate domination and financial tactics used to create the IP environment so beneficial to companies like Monsanto, an environment that practically forces these farmers into unresolvable debt. PBS's Wide Angle Series has an episode on the Indian situation as well.
While the debate about the war goes on, and US withdrawal becomes more and more imminent, it looks like there are other questions yet to surface about the kind of Iraq being left in the wake of the US occupation. Such developments also reveal that it takes much more than oil to lubricate the "free market".
[image from Hindu Net]

posted by ryan griffis  # 7:36 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Beginnings of "Life Sciences"

The New York Times has a video about the continuing effects of dioxin, a primary ingredient in Agent Orange, on life in Vietnam. One of the primary companies involved in the production of Agent Orange was Monsanto, along with Dow and 5 other corporations. These companies have been sued by both Vietnamese groups and US Veterans.

posted by ryan griffis  # 8:59 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The BRCA Gene and Pre-emptive Surgery

The New York Times has an article about genetic screening and the search for the hereditary BRCA gene, the genetic marker identified as the culprit responsible for a large percentage of breast cancer cases. The BRCA genes (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2) have been in the news in the past, not just because of their link to breast cancer, but because they were effectively patented by Myriad Genetics - the patent being primarily based on the series of test that Myriad developed to "locate" the genes. These patents were initially used to control any research that involves those genes, thus prohibiting a lot of other work being done on breast cancer.
The absolute linkage of genetics to disease, a hermetically sealed narrative of cause-and-effect, remains dominant in the reportage and popular understanding of cancer, despite more and more research that points to the scientific inaccuracy of the single-gene theory.
Barbara Ehrenreich has written a terrificly critical account of the cult of breast cancer "awareness from her own experience with the disease - identifying the problems of how "prevention" is imagined when it comes to breast cancer. "Prevention" is explicitly constructed through the promotion of screening - both genetic testing and physical (mammograms). Prevention equals detection. As Ehrenreich points out, this is not accurately prevention, which would require much more investment in locating the complex causes of cancer. And as she also points out, this presents a conflict of interest for pharmaceutical companies that seek to make a profit off of potential "cures" as well as continuing the chemical dependence driving large parts of our economy, at the expense of our bodies. Prevention isn't the desired outcome, it's treatment. And genetics provides a perfect alibi.

posted by ryan griffis  # 9:47 AM 0 comments links to this post


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