Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
WAKE UP! WAKE UP! ITS YER FOREVER IN BLUE GENES
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
ISSUE 264, FRIDAY
30th JUNE, 2000
Scientists have called it the most significant discovery since the invention of the wheel; "A Milestone for Humanity" blurted the backdrop at the White House press conference, whilst others frothed that in biology's 'race to the moon' it was the equivalent of Neil Armstrong's first historic step...
Yup, on Monday scientists announced to media hysteria that they had cracked the entire 'genome sequence' for human beings- and no, we didn't know what it meant either. Basically a 3-billion-character long 'Book of Life', the genome sequence is our entire DNA blueprint; it contains every scrap of genetic information that goes into our make-up. The colour of our eyes, the gingerness of our hair- it's all in there. We have, as Bill Clinton would have it, "learned the language of God".
In theory, by searching through the chemical sequences, researchers will now be able to pinpoint genes which lead to disease, and alter or eliminate them. Major afflictions- like cancer, for instance- could become history.
The breakthrough has come through the work of two rival research teams- one from the 'philanthropic' public sector- the international Human Genome Project (HGP)- and one from the profit-hungry private, represented by US gene sequencing company Celera. The HGP has published all its findings in daily updates on its website; Celera, on the other hand, has tried to keep its discoveries as secret as possible- whilst taking full advantage of the HGP data.
To anyone blessed with half a cynicism gene, the implications quickly become obvious: in our crazy corporate world whoever holds the rights to all this genetic information stands to make a very fat wad indeed. And Celera is just one of many companies out to make bucks from patenting bits of our bodies. Dr William Haseltine, chairman of Human Genome Sciences: "Any company that wants to be in the business of using genes, proteins or antibodies as drugs has a very high probability of running foul of our patents. From a commercial point of view, they are severely constrained- and far more than they realise."
Already, patent applications are being made by companies on pure guesswork- just in case they might one day yield some lucrative medical breakthrough or other. This patenting of abstract codes - so-called "intellectual property"- is simply a 'logical' progression in a corporate world desperately scrabbling for new sources of profit. Starting with the 'ownership' of land - something inconceivable in saner societies - capitalism has 'progressed' to the stage where legal disputes have occurred over the 'ownership' of air and clouds. And a recent European directive - pushed by Blair and co.- now enables private companies to own plant and animal species as well as human genes. "The attempt to grab the genome is just one of many symptoms of a far graver disease. We are entering an age of totalitarian capitalism, a political and economic system which, by seizing absolute control of fundamental resources, destitutes everyone it excludes."- George Monbiot
From an ethical point of view, the ability to identify and alter "offensive" genes also raises the ugly spectre of eugenics (see SchNEWS 230)- a fave hobby for Nazis. At the opening of the lottery-funded International Centre for Life - a flash human genetics visitor centre- in Newcastle at the beginning of this month, protesters dressed in Nazi uniforms to highlight the potential consequences of Frankenstein science. "We need to celebrate the rich diversity of human life, however unpalatable it is sometimes. However, this is not ICFL's chosen path. By wanting the elimination of certain genetic conditions through pre-natal screening, the ICFL is reinforcing the social stigmatisation of disabled people and reinforcing its connection with the practice of 'eugenics'."- GeneNo spokesperson
And, of course, one of the most tragic things is the sheer crassness of this corporate race. Curing cancer or Huntingdons' Disease sure ain't top of the list- companies have been recently been scouring the genes of Pakistani villagers- trying to find a cure for bald spots on American men!
* Nearly 1 in 80 children born in the UK is a test-tube baby. Seeing as it was first pioneered only 22 years ago, it just shows how quickly the 'impossible' catches on!
* For info about the International Centre for Life send an SAE to GeneNo! PO Box 1 TA Newcastle, NE99 1TA Tel 07788 520037 www.tapp.cjb.net * Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering: email email@example.com
* SchNEWS has just learnt that GM giant Monsanto has withdrawn it's Research and Development project in Bangalore, and that large numbers of staff have been sacked from another one of their units in the area. Nothing to do with the fact that Bangalore is the home of the Karnataka State Farmers who have waged a long war of resistance to Monsanto, burning down genetic crops and occupying their offices.
* Genetic Engineering Network have been informed that three genetic test sites in Cambridgeshire, forming part of National Seed List tests have been destroyed.
For leaving a puppet show! Riot Police in Eugene, Oregon made 22 arrests after ordering people to disperse who were - eh, dispersing after watching puppet shows and activities commemorating last year's June18 demos. Police fired bean bag rounds and used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, in a use of force justified by the cops because someone was destroying "a park bench or sign."
Last week 17 anti-GMO activists invaded an animal feed production facility in Hampshire. The site was shut down for a couple of hours as forklift trucks were squatted, the gates blockaded and the offices occupied. The site was owned by BOCM Pauls, who are the largest manufacturer of animal feed in the UK and a major user of GM crops. they state that they are using GM crops to keep down costs and offer the customers value for money, but what is the real cost of the technology they are putting into the food chain? The answer is that no-one knows but it doesn't stop the governments and the companies that use this technology. What ever happened to taking precautions? Genetic Engineering Network, c/o PO Box 9656, London N4 4JY. 020-8374-9516.
* Carnival Against GM crops. New Craig Farm, Davot Saturday 15th July at 2pm. The genetic oilseed rape on this farm is the only authorised large scale planting in Scotland. Tel 01224 451140 email firstname.lastname@example.org
SchNEWS this week decided that it is time to back-off and cease our attacks on corporations. The reason? Well, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) this week agreed a new code of conduct for multinational corporations. The new code sets higher standards on labour and the environment and contains stronger implementation mechanisms. Perhaps the only slight problem is that the code is not legally binding.
There have been OECD guidelines for multinationals since 1976 - and it's plain for all to see just how effective they've been. Even that well known bastion of anti-capitalism rhetoric The Financial Times noted "The code (has) .been largely ignored by governments and companies since they were adopted more than 20 years ago."
So, obviously what we need now is a New Improved Version - which corporations will now no doubt adhere to rigidly.
SchNEWS in brief
On 2nd July 1999 Errol McGowan was found hanging from the door handle of his friends house in Telford with an electric flex around his neck; Errol had suffered prolonged racist abuse. His nephew, Jason, tried to find out who was behind his uncle's death. Six months later Jason was found dead, hanging from park railings in the early hours of new years eve. Despite the highly suspicious circumstances West Mercia Police decided not to open murder investigations and treated the deaths as suicide. Eight months after Errrol's death and following a media campaign West Mercia Police have finally apologised to the McGowans and will now treat the deaths as murders. The McGowan family are calling for justice for Errol and Jason and are organising a rally and march, 11.30am, Sat 1 July, Telford Town Park. Contact PO Box 430, Teedale, Telford, TF4 3WZ.
Plants For a Future (PFAF)... has a future. After three years of fighting the local council PFAF have finally received planning permission for the building of a major plant research and visitors' centre. The research Centre will carry out research into potentially useful plants and investigate alternatives to mono-culture growing techniques, such as woodland gardens, permaculture and the use of perennial plants. Work has already started on preparing the demonstration garden, and building up the range of plants for sale in their shop and catologue. It is hoped the land will eventually become the site of an 'eco-village' with sustainably designed housing. Financial assistance is desperately needed to pay off loans. The Field, Penpol, Lostwithiel,Cornwall, PL220NG www.scs.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/
In December 1998 local residents in Hinchley Wood, Surrey moved caravans on to the car park of their well-loved local pub which had been closed and the land leased to McDonald's. The residents aim was to occupy the site and stop it from being turned into a new store. After 18 months and a 24hr-a-day continuous occupation and campaigning, McDonald's threw in the towel and handed back the lease on the pub to the original owners. Residents Against McDonald's (RAM) long campaign gained local support through public meetings, posting their newsletter door-to-door and distributing campaign posters and stickers. McDonalds have been increasingly targeting pubs as sites for new stores, as the planning laws (already in favour of the developers) doesn't recognise transformations of local pubs into fast food stores as a 'change of use'. RAM have been trying to change the planning laws and the Government have announced a review. www.mcspotlight.org
Worthing Council have spent £26,000 in a blitz against the appalling affliction of chewing gum on pavements. The cheeky Worthing newsletter The Pork-Bolter has identified another foul, stinking menace that must be tackled at once, another sordid stain on the reputation of Worthing that, if ignored, will end in ruin and tragedy: Just when will the Council finally do something about all the dust on top of bus shelters? (Nicked from The Pork-Bolter - to receive a copy of the newsletter send an SAE to PO Box 4144, Worthing, BN14 7NZ, or visit www.worthing.eco-action.org/porkbolter)
Cor-blimley-theyre-practically-giving-them-away book offer SchNEWS Round issues 51 - 100 £5 inc SchNEWS Annual issues 101 - 150 £5 inc. SchNEWS Survival Guide issues 151 - 200 and a whole lot more £6 + £1.20 postage (US Postage £4.00 for individual books, £13 for all four). In the UK you can get the fist three for £15 inc. postage. And finally.... The Schquall book at only £8.00 inc postage. In addition to 50 issues of SchNEWS, each book contains articles, photos, cartoons, a yellow pages list of contacts, comedy etc. All the above books are available from the Brighton Peace Centre, saving postage yer tight gits.
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Last updated 30th June 2000