igor on Fri, 6 Jul 2001 18:41:52 +0200 (CEST)

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Reintroduction of topic - <was:Re: <nettime> Planet destroyed; film at 11>

dear all,

/excuse discontinuity/

McKenzie Wark wrote:
>The thing about second nature is that it seems so 'natural'. We grow up
with it as
>normal, as taken for granted. When something comes along that appears as a
>from it, its tempting to cling to the naturalness of second nature, and
forget that it is
>the product of thousands of years of human artifice.

Distinction between the first/second natures seems to me as an easy-way
out. It implies that there is something like nature untouched with human
activities, but we may only discuss the level or modes of influence by
genus homo. I fully agree that appealing to the 'preservation of the
Nature' can not have any sense at all. "Natural nature" or The Nature is
simply a construct (except the magazine), some sort of wishful thinking
(it can be compared with the idealistic representation of childhood in
contemporary western culture). We are changing the environment in many
ways, not all the time even being aware of the changes.

Industrial Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), like PCBs and pesticides,
are accumulating in the animals, and many of toxic components are
converted in substances that can be excreted. The liver-enzyme system,
responsible for the cleaning of organism, does not exist in fish
"naturally", but recent researches in Arctic region imply that certain
species develop such a mechanism. Recent hype about ozone depletion
contribute (financially) to many researches, but it's still not known what
kind of influence climate change have on the base of food web: plankton
community. Heavy metals (primary mercury and cadmium), acidification, even
radioactivity - all are contributing to the creation, evolution and
adaptation of living species.

On the other hand, there is a problem of non-native species introduced by
humans. Australia (and some of the islands) is a nice example: feral
population of cats and foxes impact on vulnerable marsupial population in
is disastrous (nice research article The impact of cats and foxes on the
small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia, can be found
at www.publish.csiro.au/journals/wr). Finally the impact of non-native
plants is far more important whit potential of great danger - particularly
so-called invasive species. And, that's the place where GMOs are entering
the story, and that's the only reason why lot of scientists is skeptical.
But, there is no essential difference among introduction of
'traditionally' breed new sort, and one managed by biotechnology.

>To me, its an issue that can be argued within the purview of second nature.
>technologies need regulatory scrutiny and democratic control. Key parts of
>biological information must not be turned into intellectual property that
can be >monopolised by a few corporations.

Certainly there is also a need for risk-analysis - not because of nature
(it may change but it will survive), but because of selfish reasons:
preservation of human health - but the GMOs are problematic in two
strictly anthropocentric points. The first one is almost ten years old,
and it was put into agenda at the Rio summit back in '92. (Convention on
Biological Diversity precisely). It's Access to Genetic Resources and
Benefit-sharing meaning "fair and equitable sharing of the benefits
arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by
appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of
relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources
and to technologies, and by appropriate funding". In practice it's still
fully unregulated area, despite several attempts to prevent degradation
not only in biological, but also in economic and cultural sense. Official
biodiversity convention site www.biodiv.net have impressive collection of
recommendations in that sense. However, the major problem for me is not
even that new type of colonialism, but the question of the biotech
industry purpose. And on that field there is palpable need to reorient and
restructure biotechnology R&D institutions (and the agricultural
biotechnology community's values and attitudes) so that future benefits
are indeed achieved through agricultural biotechnology.

And, as a digestive, bit off the topic - what about danger of
memetically-modified organisms, like neo-liberal social democrats (one can
found them in almost any 'post-socialist' government),
neuro-psychoanalysts, or my favorite: M3 - Memetically Modified


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