Friday, August 10, 2012

Blue Corn

In one of the digital photos we can no longer access, the blue corn stalks are as tall as our six year old daughter. The seeds were second generation from two ears we were able to grow with kernels planted as part of a public protest in 2016. We donated five bucks to the nonprofit FreeSeeds for a packet of organic heirloom corn with drought-tolerant gene sequences patented by Insanto. The corporation more or less ignored this performative flaunting of patent infringement as thousands of backyard farmers got to feel radical while learning that corn is pretty hard to grow.

Last night I was thinking about Insanto's fate and strange rebirth. The first mysterious GM corn and soy field meltdowns were exciting. As thousands of acres of crops withered almost overnight, people thought "nature" was finally retaliating against Insanto's will to control. BT-resistant corn rootworms were winning the arms race. But the bombing of Insanto's corporate headquarters in St. Louis made it clear that the dead fields were also terrorist attacks. Then arsonists started torching the dried up fields. Another drought year.

The self-declared Organic Militia's attacks forced a sudden, glaring clarity on what Insanto had been doing all along: weaponizing food. The armed rent-a-soldiers on hire from Nergal LLC (formerly known as Academi, Xe Services and Blackwater USA/Worldwide) stationed around Insanto's HQ and various test sites were just the human analog to the weaponized food itself, life forms of mass destruction aimed at multitudes of micro- and macroorganisms. Whereas the corporation could kill targeted plants and insects with impunity, the militia had blatantly crossed the line into a categorically different form of violence by killing Insanto employees. Insanto's undeclared war against nature had blurred into an undeclared war between a corporation and a citizen-militia.

In contrast, Organic Militia's first press release was quite open and rabid in their declaration of war against Insanto. There were spies and saboteurs on both sides, comparisons to the French Revolution -- peasants trying to take down a monarchy with organic seeds, mushrooms species, and flames and drought conditions as weapons. They compared Insanto to the East India Company of the 19th century, widely hated while still touting its benevolence in "improving agriculture" and gifting food security to the masses. Both corporations enjoyed paternalistic fantasies of development and state sanctions on their virtual monopolizations in international trade. Organic Militia cast backyard middle class gardeners in the US as peasants, urging them to take up arms and get militant along with some of the laborers in the Global South demonstrating against GM agriculture by burning Insanto seed. Groups like Occupy Insanto committed to non-violent protest and civil disobedience condemned the Organic Militia while still leveraging new images of Nergal troops with rifles protecting HQ and fields.

GMOs were inescapable, showing up in non-GM labeled food, slipped into recipes at supposedly "all organic and locally grown" restaurants. For every fraud caught passing off BT corn or flounder-tomatoes as the natural thing, there were dozens undetected. Government regulators with the FDA or USDA just helped Insanto push through more GM quasi-species. Of course everyone was shocked and saddened by the St. Louis bombing, but we all kind of expected it after a decade of public frustration over foodflation and fundamentalist outrage over landscape impurity and genetic pollution. A speaker at the second GMO-Free Midwest conference in 2013 even predicted the attacks. Strapped state police forces remained surprisingly impassive, as if to say "this fight is between you guys." (Or the '17 Crash caused their non-intervention; the National Guard was far too busy with emergency response on the eastern seaboard to get involved). Multiple court cases ruling in favor of plaintiffs -- organic farmers, people with cancer, etc. -- crippled the corporations' profits with billions of dollars in ongoing settlements. But the clincher was evidence that Insanto labs had engineered a bacteria into corn and soy specifically targeted at degenerating human liver function at the same time one of their biopharming subsidiaries developed medication to help the resulting condition (splicing the same bacteria into fungi). Like a dream, a landmark Supreme Court ruling shut down the company and blockbusted it into little subsidiaries, with a harsh ten year moratorium on planting GM seeds in the US and territories.

Millions of acres of GM landscape patches with dead dirt and thriving superweeds needed remediation. Volunteers cropdusted them with fungal spores that are natural herbicides also capable of breaking down glysophates in the soil. Manure spreaders fertilized the fields with raw human poop. The alien acres of mushrooms seemed to glow at dawn and dusk.

Ultraviolet rays from the rising and setting sun also made our blue corn glow when we peeled back the silk. The stalks grew twice as tall as me. We babied the plants, picking off worms, carefully fertilizing, as if the few ears we might grow could feed the world. But the third year our seed wouldn't come up. We haven't tried growing corn since.

Now Insanto is back with odd new benevolent products. Nanotech waterbeads that manufacture water from soil air. Anti-depressant and anti-psychotic GM corn and soy. Pesticide resistant carabid beetles that eat rootworms. Insanto has realigned itself with the World Peace Council, the UN Peacekeepers, and other international organizations and publicly apologized for its long history in weapons manufacturing (from Agent Orange to glysophates). Strangest of all, Insanto open sourced its entire patent library. Everyone's skeptical: could they really be good guys now?


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