Summing up, moving on

Chapter 9 Conclusion Throughout this book we have looked at different ways in which the source of the food stream, basic to human life, is being diverted through the advocacy of genetic engineering and the patenting of living organisms to serve the priorities of the transnational corporations. As we have seen, many of those corporations are larger in economic terms than countries, yet they are private bodies whose recent evolution into global giants has been extremely rapid. We take them for granted, yet we often forget that they have not always been there. The biotech companies are not among the largest in the world, but their ability to change our lives arguably places them among the most powerful, since their work involves bypassing the process of evolution and changing genomes irrevocably. We have given examples of the many levels on which they have been working and of how they are infiltrating and subverting a wide range of institutions in their efforts to promote genetically engineered crops. The colonisation of indigenous agriculture through the green revolution has destroyed farming systems and eliminated locally adapted varieties and knowledge, undermining the agricultural diversity that has been nurtured over millennia. Each farmer variety that is lost means the loss of germplasm and knowledge painstakingly selected, built up, exchanged and passed on down the generations. Such wealth is irreplaceable. These systems are being replaced by crops that depend on inputs and farming systems that depend on agribusiness, while farmers are being displaced to expanding cities. All this has intensified cycles of dependence and struck at the roots of self-reliance. A system of commerce based on perpetual growth requires an unquestioning mass consumer culture in order to thrive. This provides the perfect context for the operations of the large corporations. Genetic contamination has already penetrated Mexico, the centre of origin for maize, transformed by farmers over thousands of years from a plant of little food value to a world staple. The emergence of the biotechnology corporations in their present form would have been impossible without a number of facilitating factors, some old and some new. The gradual development of the charitable corporation into a for-profit entity with little liability, almost complete freedom to operate and only one main obligation – to maximise profit for shareholders – has played a major role. That corporations have also acquired many of the same rights as human beings without any of the limitations of being human adds to the danger. [...]