I discovered that the new issue of the ISR, the theoretical journal of the
batty sect-cult that I used to belong to in a previous lifetime, has an
exchange between Richard (is he still here?) and Steve Clark, a long-time
hack who has written some truly bizarre articles on the environment written
falsely in the name of Marxism:
>>"Capitalism, Labor, and the Transformation of Nature," an exchange
between Richard Levins and Steve Clark, is the final item in this issue.
Following publication of the articles by Clark in the Militant, Levins,
professor of population sciences and a researcher at the Harvard School of
Public Health, wrote a response.
Levins is active in the July 26 Coalition, a Boston-area Cuba solidarity
organization, and works with the Institute of Ecology and Systematics of
the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. Levins's
article is published here for the first time, followed by Clark's reply and
final comments by each author.<<
I am somewhat surprised that Richard would waste his time with these
lunatics who have no influence anywhere. Well, who am I to speak since I
answered Clark myself a while back on the Marxism list:
STEVE CLARK (Third of four parts in the Militant newspaper on farming,
science and ecology): Despite the near-hysterical pitch of the campaigns
against "genetic pollution," there is not a single documented case of a
human being anywhere in the world being harmed by food or medicine produced
in this way. Nor is there a single example of dreaded armies of
"superweeds" vanquishing fields and wetlands. By their very origins, in
fact, genetically modified plants are very dependent on human care and
cultivation; on their own, they are poorly adapted to nature "red in tooth
The nostrums advanced by various bourgeois and middle class proponents of
"organic" agriculture are not neutral in their effects on the conditions
and prospects for liberation of working people, either those in the
oppressed nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America or those in the
COMMENT: Not surprisingly, what Clark fails to address is the context in
which genetic modified seeds are being introduced. They are fixes to a
system that Marx identified as riddled with internal contradictions over
150 years ago. The introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides,
monocrop cultivation--in a word, all of the staples of capitalist
farming--involve ecological overhead that leads to the undermining of the
ability of society to reproduce itself.
Obviously agribusiness is totally behind the introduction of GM. Why a
working-class newspaper would want to shill for the Monsantos of the world
is another question entirely.
In the underdeveloped countries, where small farms supply most of the food
needs for the local market, GM is much more likely to have destructive
consequences. In a report for Food First, Peter Rosset comented:
"In order to survive under such circumstances, and to improve their
standard of living, they [small farmers] must be able to tailor
agricultural technologies to their variable but unique circumstances, in
terms of local climate, topography, soils, biodiversity, cropping systems,
market insertion, resources, etc. For this reason such farmers have over
millennia evolved complex farming and livelihood systems which balance
risks -- of drought, of market failure, of pests, etc. -- with factors such
as labor needs versus availability, investment needed, nutritional needs,
seasonal variability, etc. Typically their cropping systems involve
multiple annual and perennial crops, animals, fodder, even fish, and a
variety of foraged wild products. Under such highly varied circumstances,
uniform varieties, such as those put forth under the green revolution, or
newer GE or 'transgenic' crop varieties, are unlikely to be widely adopted
or found useful by many such farmers.
"When GE crop varieties, carrying the Bt insecticide gene, for example, are
'forced' into such cropping systems, the risks are much greater than in
large, wealthy farmer systems, or farming systems in Northern countries.
For example, in the Third World there will typically be more sexually
compatible wild relatives of crops present, making pollen transfer to weed
populations of insecticidal properties, virus resistance, and other
genetically engineered traits more likely, with possible food chain and
super-weed consequences. Such farmers are unlikely to plant refuges, making
resistance evolution by insects more likely. Horizontal transfer of genetic
material is also highly risky in such circumstances. The associated risks
of super-weeds and new pathogen strains, among others, are likely to put
the poor in a more precarious position."
Obviously one can't expect a hack writer for the Militant to be as familiar
with such issues as Peter Rosset, who is an agroecologist and rural
development specialist with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. But
that should not inhibit somebody who is speaking on behalf of the
revolutionary proletariat. When you have such heavy responsibilities, who
can be bothered with wasting time on deep research.
CLARK: Major environmentalist organizations, for example, waged a
successful effort against the unquestionably toxic pesticide DDT, resulting
in a welcome halt to its use throughout the imperialist world.
No comparable energy or resources, however, are now being devoted to
campaigning against various imperialist governments and agencies that are
refusing to fund the use of DDT in some 25 semicolonial countries
where--applied in relatively small quantities--it is the most effective way
to control mosquitoes that spread malaria. That disease kills more than 1
million people annually worldwide, most of them children, and recurs for a
lifetime in those who are "cured."
COMMENT: This "analysis" from a Marxist publication is noteworthy for its
failure to analyze why diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, etc. are on
the rise in 3rd world countries. Malaria is not a function of hot weather.
It is a function of poverty. There are alternatives to DDT, including
bednets soaked in insecticide, use of lower-risk pesticides, elimination of
mosquito breeding grounds and the introduction of natural predators
including mosquito-eating fish. Obviously Clark is as interested in the
environmental consequences of DDT in the third world as he is in that of GM
seed. But most scientists free of industry ties agree that chlorine-based
pesticides are linked to birth defects, cancer and other diseases. The
answer obviously is to spend the money necessary to kill malarial
mosquitoes using safe methods, but the corrupt gangs typically running 3rd
world countries lack the political will to put imperialism on the spot.
After all, it was imperialism that caused the poverty that makes malaria an
epidemic. Thabo Mbeki's response is typical. He called for the
re-introduction of DDT at the same time he recommended quack medicine
against AIDS. A revolutionary approach would be to demand the elimination
of predatory capitalist "development" in the 3rd world and all the
despoliation that goes along with it. However, one would not expect that
from a "Marxist" newspaper, would one. They are much more comfortable
joining hands with the public relations department of outfits like Monsanto.