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DESCRIPTION"Unraveling the Double Helix: 'Truth' and Power in Agbiotech"
Unraveling the Double Helix: Truth & Power in Agbiotech
Hillary Violet Lehr Advising Professor: Laura Nader Department of Anthropology UC Berkeley [email protected] May 1, 2006
Unraveling the Double Helix: Truth & Power in Agbiotech Table of Contents Contents Acknowledgements Preface Introduction: An Alternative Double Helix o Science: Evolution of a Truth Machine o The Social Power of Scientific Ideas o Focus o Methodology Ch. 1 Legitimation of Scientists Authority to Manufacture Truth o The Rise of the Specific Intellectual o Reign of (and Reins on) the Specific Intellectual o From the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution Ch. 2 The Apparatus of Truth: University Labs o Current University Climate o Beggars Cant Be Choosers o Patent or Perish o Knowledge (Production) o McDonaldization of the Lab o Mcjobs Off Campus o Knowledge (Reproduction) Ch. 3 In the Name of Science o Bad Science or bad Science? o The Need to Educate the Public o The Public: Anti-Agbiotech or Anti-GMO? Ch. 4 Good Science, Good Development o Food, Health, Hope o Nailed Bootstraps o Imagine Conclusion Appendix Bibliography
[Acknowledgements] Over this school year, I have learned so much about my topic, the writing process, and myself! Firstly, I would like to thank my sponsoring professor, Laura Nader, for encouraging me to turn my final paper for Anthropology 139, Controlling Processes, into a thesis. Thank you for applying anthropology where it is most relevant. In doing so, you have inspired so many students in your courses to understand how best our bodies and minds can throw wrenches into trim tabs. Thank you to Laura Nader and Professor David Winickoff for helping me to formulate ideas, learn of helpful sources, and challenge me to focus in specific areas. Professor Winickoff, thanks for letting me borrow Visvanathan for practically all of last summer! To all of the brilliant authors and essayists whose works I encountered, I am amazed at your ideas and challenges to the status quo. Jason Delbourne, thank you for paving social analysis right into the College of Natural Resources. Keep fighting! And lastly, I must thank Foucault. Foucault! I will never forget the late-night dash to City Lights- the only bookstore in San Francisco I could find open at 11pm on a rainy Saturday night. Over the course of the year, I learned so much from the people I interviewed. Thank you to all of the Berkeley Agbiotech scientists, farmers, lecturers, social scientists, Monsanto employees, and ecologists who made time for me over the semester: Ignacio Chapela, Percy Schmeiser, Vandana Shiva, David Winickoff, Mike Freeling, Peggy Lemaux, Jaswinder Signh, Greg Guisti, Charlie Schwartz, Martin Lemon, and Toni Voelker. While my end result may be surprising to some of you, this honest response is out of respect for your intent and in the hopes that the better world we want for all may be closer (rather than further) from being realized. Thank you for your warmth, your
reflection, and your openness. I would be honored to continue these conversations with you. To the Monsanto employee who could not, under contract, give me his opinion on GMO controversies because I may have used his response for anti-Monsanto purposes, thank you. Your silence was more illuminating of the difference between public and private research than any of my other interviews. I am afraid this may indeed be an antiMonsanto paper. Imagine. I have so many people I am grateful to have in my life. Their support, smiles, tea, and backrubs got me through the most tumultuous of revisions, the longest nights, and the moments of uncertainty. Thank you to my partner and friends and everyone who helped with reading over my drafts. Adam, Brittany, and Kate, you are amazing! Thanks to discussions with friends, classmates, and everyone in my co-op who shared unique ideas and perspectives as we questioned the food we snacked on in the kitchen.
Brief Encounters of an Imperial Mind In the fall semester of 2004, I was one of twenty students that traveled to Moorea, French Polynesia to conduct tropical biology research at the UC Berkeley Gump Biology Station as part of a 13-unit course for the semester. Part of the uniqueness of the program is that students are encouraged to create their own research projects based on their own interests. As a Conservation & Resource Studies major focusing on Political Ecology, I was drawn to the agriculture of the island, specifically the traditional methods of farming subsistence crops that have evolved over centuries. I developed a proposal to study taro, a root crop, and possible explanations for planting at different phases in the lunar cycle. I had a few hypotheses: the tapunas (elder priests) planted taro at full moons to have less insect predation and at new moons if they wanted the taro to grow quickly. It wasnt implausible that the predatory insects oriented themselves to light and flew upwards toward the full moon instead of chomping down a fresh plant, nor that the slight increase in gravitational pull responsible for higher tides at the full moon may influence the apical meristem's gravitational orientation at a slightly stronger level. Whatever the reasons, I will never know, because my research proposal was immediately disregarded as not real science. A prominent Berkeley biology professor said my research interests were like a 7th grade science fair project where you play music to plants and I know that your experiment will not show anything. I found this puzzling. Simply trying to put a different cultural phenomenon into scientific terminology and inquiry had met profound resistance. I found it difficult to see how a scientist so well trained in objectivity and disciplined to draw conclusions based on careful study
could disregard an idea that had no evidence at all. Even more alarming were his dismissals of the lunar planting cycle and traditional knowledge overall. We dont want to insult these people and tell them that they are wrong implied to me a presupposition that we are always right, even without the scientific evidence to back it up. Two problems were at play here. First, was a presupposition that Western science is always right and traditional knowledge is eternally inferior. Secondly, and perhaps most alarming, is the profound neocolonial racism that manifests itself not only in scientists behavior towards non-Westerners, but in the staunch refusal of some Western scientists to even ask certain questions. How did this happen? At risk of failing a 13-unit course, I eventually settled on a project that used repetitive insect sampling to study the dynamics of an invasive species of aphid (indigenous to Texas, ironically) on taro crops around the island. This process involved requesting permission from local Tahitian farmers to sample in their taro fields. Several of the farmers asked me for a pesticide to stop the aphids and I, in my embarrassing ignorance of native Tahitian and stammering imperial French, promised to do my best. After nine weeks on the island I baked cookies from imported flour and M&Ms and thanked each farmer individually for their assistance. One farmer, a Tahitian man in his seventies, asked me for the pesticide. I replied to a friend who translated to French to the mans daughter who translated to Tahitian that I had no pesticide, but I knew that the aphids preferred one sweeter variety of taro. The man shook his head, said, Of course they do in Tahitian and walked away. It was at that moment that I realized the conflict here was not a linguistic barrier and was not a an error of understanding, but that the farmers frustration was over the failure of yet another continuous form of imperialism to help him in any way at all. This was the result of imperialism of ideas, of the biased approach of biologists towards the 6
island and its inhabitants. Year after year, this research program returns to the island with the same professors, only one of whom speaks some French, to tell the local Tahitians our version of how their island functions. The Tahitians have stated that they well aware of how their island functions without our graphs and tables, but most of the biologists on the program have never even considered that this could be the case. The problem on Moorea is two-fold. One, we are not asking the right questions. Students are directed to study abstract biological nuances and discouraged from interacting with locals to even ask how they could be of aid during their stay in paradise. Secondly, American biologists are perceived as but a slight variation of the French colonizers that first began to control Tahitians everyday life under the violent, paternal assumption of their own intellectual superiority. This hegemonic process seems to be caught up in a whirlwind of assertions of who knows best. It was here that I became interested in the problem of Truth.
[Introduction] When we imagine the slender curves of the infamous double helix, we are drawn not only to the aesthetics of the geometry, but to the elegant structure we are told holds the key to our own destiny. DNA: the blueprint of life. There is a mysticism within this silent structure that holds great power in the cultural imaginary. Part of this sacredness is DNAs intangibility, its inaccessibility to the common person. When one examines a history of science (or of anthropology), many interesting social climates become evident.1 From scientific racism to social Darwinism, the line between context and certain obvious truths becomes blurry. Similarly, when we look critically at the role of science in todays society, many contemporary values and structures become clear. The space we perceive between ourselves and the helix coding our destinies is similar to the space between the individual and the massive structures of power in contemporary globalized West. This culture is said to be guided by reason and rationality, based on the principles of sound science. Our destination is fixed upon a linear road of Progress. However, historical context complicates this understanding:The closer historians of science look at the great achievements of science, the more difficulty they find in distinguishing science from pseudoscience and from the political, economic, and ideological contexts. Scientists philosophical views about nature, man and society appear to play a very important part in the formulations of the substance of major scientific ideas Science is much more like the messy world of social and political intercourse than working scientists care to believe, or are willing to concede.2
If we were to pause time and review society from a less immersed1 2
Coleman, 1971: 92-98; 3-15 Young, 1972: 103-104
perspective, we would probably list Science as one of the major belief systems of contemporary society. It teaches us how to understand where we came from, how to survive in the present, and seems to fuel where we are going. Its methods empower individuals to use reasoning to standardize results approximating Truth. Science accepts and pursues Truth. If we were in fact able to pause time, we may also notice that the winding staircase we climb towards Truth looks surprisingly like a strand of DNA. And opposite, we see a parallel structure. What is this complementary helix connected to the Truth? We must trace the social nucleotides, the interlocking social and political pieces connecting these two structures. If we did, perhaps we would find that this double helix is made up of Truth and Power. Though pristine and elegant as the double helix appears, if we were to peek through a messy lens of social and political influence, we might see an inseparable connection between the pursuit and progress of Science and the structures of Power to which it is linked. It is important here to quickly distinguish between Truth and Knowledge and its relation to Science (with a little help from Foucault). Knowledge is statements, what can be known, information that can be produced and used. Scientists/intellectuals produce knowledge. Truth is more abstract than knowledge. What we call Truth is filtered through what society accepts as real or true. In this sense, Truth can be obtained through navigating a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of knowledge/statements. Positivism and essentialism (characteristic of most current hard and soft sciences) hold that there is a singular Truth which can be discovered. Scientists and some philosophers believe in the Truth. Science: Evolution of a Truth Machine 9
The scientific process evolved as a form of observation supplicated by experiment to test observations and answer questions.3 Upon the entrance of the European Enlightenment, science took on a new cultural role. Countering the prevailing deeply religious political and cultural climate, science was used to usher in new secular ideologies and provide substantial, popular challenges to indoctrinations and controlling ideologies of self and purpose. From this historical turning point, European philosophers were perched to begin to challenge and redefine the idea of God, divinity, and Truth. Currently, Science is a powerful form of knowledge-making. It has the privileged role of viewing and explaining the Truth in our society. The scientific method formalized in 1686 lent itself to the addition of concepts of controlled conditions, controlled variables, and reproducibility of experiments. 4 Standardizing scientific methods led to a greater network of innovation that served to propel Europe into the Industrial Revolution.5 As the culture of the West moved into a new political economy, so did prevailing discourses and ideology: the big move to Modernity. Thus Truth took on its own political economy. Foucault points out five points regarding such a political economy of Truth: 1) Truth is centered on the form of scientific discourse and the institutions which produce it; 2) It is subject to constant economic and political incitement (the demand for truth, as much for economic production as for political power); 3) It is the object, under diverse forms of immense diffusion and3
Egyptian and Babylonian records of experiments predate increasingly standardized forms of observation streamlined by Aristotle, Pythagoras, and other Greek and Roman philosophers. When the dark ages hit Europe around 700 A.D. much of inquiry-based forms of knowledge-making were preserved in the Islamic empire, and often by women. As the story goes, upon Europes break from experiments in JudeoChristian religious fundamentalism, science emerged as an objective pathway to the Enlightenment. Relative to the Dark Ages, indeed it was. Science liberated Europe from an oppressive, non-tolerant ideology that governed peoples choices, lifestyles, and activities. 4 Machamer, p. 37 5 Hart, lecture. 2-14-05; A. Smith: 1776, p. 112; Browne: 1996, p. 107
consumption (circulating through apparatuses of education and information); 4) It is produced and transmitted under control, dominant if not exclusive, of a a few great political economic apparatuses (university, army, writing, media); 5) It is the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation (ideological struggles). Truth does not simply exist. It is found, and found/created for specific reasons. These reasons are shaped by culture and social systems. Societal (and therefore economic) effects upon scientific theory and process are evident in even the most widely accepted theories, which I will discuss throughout this chapter. Evolution of Evolution: A Primordial Theory Stew Eco, the root word of both ecology and economy is derived from the Greek oikos, meaning household.6 While today we view economics as the globalization of Western hegemony, many see ecology as a more universal understanding of natural processes.7 The common origin of the terms since bifurcated into a human-based model of material exchange and a human-absent model of nature. The space between the two concepts leaves room for politics. For instance, one such overlap occurs when the eco model employing broad concepts of scarcity slips into a resource-based analysis of the other. Most scholars and economists today describe Malthus treatise that the human population will outstrip resources as pessimistic and bourgeoisie.8 But Malthus' conclusion is interesting because he blended scientific and ecological evaluations with economics. Beyond a startling wake-up call that humanity was not as independent from nature as they wished, Malthus influenced the most important theory of the 19th century: evolution. Darwin built the theory of evolution upon one crucial point: scarcity. In his autobiography, he states:6 7 8
The term oekologie was coined in 1866 by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. V. Shiva, 1993: p. 9 Hart, lecture 1-28-05; Malthus, 1798.
"In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from longcontinued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work."9 So we see Darwins ground-breaking theory was heavily generated by a concept of scarcity those arose from the cultural and economic climate of early capitalism. It is no surprise to us that Darwins theory of evolution is highly competitive and individualistic. One might even venture to ask if it was Darwin or a leading factory owner who first articulated survival of the fittest. His theories are riddled with phrases that echo the economic paradigms of early capitalism permeating an industrializing Europe: mass production through factories and industrialization coupled metaphorically with a specified mass production of offspring to leave favorable traits to be least likely to be naturally selected in the marketplace of phenotypes.10 This concept of a possible social root in the theory of evolution may be startling to some, and it is no wonder. Todays science culture is ready to embrace Lamarck or Galileo or any other ground-breaking scientific revolutionary that may be contextualized today but was nonetheless valuable to science as a whole. It involved no profound reevaluations or terrifying questions to note that scientists can be right or wrong, given a safe distance in the historical past. But it is much more difficult to realize that we are not insulated from this imperfect process. In fact, it is still happening all around us. Within the other double helix, we must look at connections between our systems of Truth and systems of Power.9
Darwin, 1876. V. Shiva, discussion 4-25-05.
The Social Power of a Scientific Idea Evolution is groundbreaking and indeed incredibly significant to Western concepts of nature, ecology and biology. However, we see the theorys ideological offspring, social darwinism, propelling itself into the latest nexus of scientific pursuit, biotechnology. For example, Troy Duster has analyzed the prism of heritability in which genetic traits are sought to explain societal variation in crime, intelligence, addiction and other conditions and behaviors.11 He explains the danger of these explanations is that they subvert investigation of social experience of inequality in favor of a biological explanation. Genetic hypotheses of racial difference (a social construct) have surfaced in academia, such the highly controversial assertions made by the authors of The Bell Curve.12 According to the president of one of the Wests most distinguished institutions, it is innate [biological] differences that bring about male survival in the sciences. 13 These pseudo-scientific statements and hypotheses use the language of science to articulate socially constructed categories. Foucault states in Truth and Power: The stormy relationship between evolution and the [economists], aswell as the highly ambiguous effects of evolutionism (on sociology, criminology, psychiatry, and eugenics, for example) mark the important moment when the savant [the specific or expert intellectual begins to intervene in contemporary political struggles in the name of a local scientific truth.
The local scientific truths being sought in genetics are highly significant. While a complete investigation of all of these is too extensive for any one paper, it is worth noting that as fields become more specialized, so does the lens with which experts view and explain11 12 13
Duster, Troy. The Prism of Heritability and the Sociology of Knowledge Devlin, 1997, p.14 Dr. Larry Summers, statement at Harvard University. 1-16-05
the world around them. The increasing specificity of genetics has narrowed the search for understanding to what can be attributed to a strip of DNA. As the sciences have replaced much of religions role of providing knowledge about the world around us, the common understanding of Truth takes on a scientific dogma. Today, the Truth is one of testable hypotheses and objective theory. In doing so, it rejects other forms of knowledge and risks losing the ability to recognize its own locality.14 Science, in becoming a universalized method in pursuit of Truth, risks loosing perspective on its own subjectivity. Just as Darwins theory shaped and was shaped by societal experience, todays evolutionary and genetic theories hold an aura of mystic revelation steeped in social assumptions. While unraveling a small but mighty molecule, scientists may be overlooking the social world that is affected by the results of their careful study. In doing so, scientists may gather predominant discourses in a society, discourses linked to systems of power. Since there are many ways of conceptualizing reality, what becomes accepted as Truth depends on the intimate association of knowledge and power.15 I contend that Truth and Power are like two strands of a double helix: interwoven and mutually dependant. Without reflexive questioning, the greatest efforts of wonderful minds are swept up into use by various political and economic entities. Laura Nader states in Naked Science: The politicization of science is unavoidable, not only because politicians, corporations, and governments try to use what scientists know, but because virtually all science has social and political implications.16 There seems to be an aversion of many scientists to messy social
Such as I experienced on Moorea. Also, Jasanoff, 1995, Harding 1998, Shiva, 1989. Latour, 1994. Pratt 1992, 15 Nader, 1997, p.721 16 Nader, Laura. p.
systems.17 This distaste can function as an imaginary disembeddedness, a lack of reciprocal influence between science and the less objective worlds of politics, economics, and culture. I argue that in this darkness, scientists passionately conduct their research, but do so without full recognition of the complex functioning of social ecosystems where the effects of their research end up. This shady fertile ground for the planting of political and economic seeds which eventually grow into the exercise of Science as political power. When I refer to big S Science, I am referring to the politically influenced, economically incorporated, institutionalized practice of little s science, the practice of inquiry. The practice of Science is a pursuit up the helix of Truth. However, this helix is forever encircling the helix of Power. Currently, the knowledge produced by the scientific elite determines what society sees as Truth. The specialization of scientists creates blinders to the horizontal connections they share to Power. Sciences objective Truth is entirely subjective to Power. Gieryn clarifies, Truth, far from being a solemn and severe master, is a docile and obedient servant.18 The Truth Machine, the Double Helix, and Manifest Destiny: My Focus Some examples of the social and political implications of evolutionary and genetic knowledge have been introduced. This paper will focus explicitly on the subtle evolutionist flavor of social and political influences on agricultural biotechnology (institutionalized as Agbiotech) research.19 In Chapter 1, I trace the rise of the expert, the17 18
see The Apparatus of Truth: University Labs chapter Gieryn, 1995, p. 18 19 I will borrow two important definitions from Jason Delbournes thoughtful dissertation on performance of academic dissent at UC Berkeley: Agricultural biotechnology is the science and practice of manipulating agricultural organisms at the genetic level with the tools of molecular biology. This includes genetic engineering/modification (the addition, subtraction, or modification of sequences of DNA at the molecular level), transgenic organisms (organisms with splices of DNA from another species), genetic screening/selection (the analysis of cells or organisms on the basis of specific sequences of DNA), DNA sequencing (the production of
specific intellectual amidst trends of specialization and technological expertise. I will focus on how the increasing specialization of Agbiotech research eliminates alternative discourses of consequence and how the isolated lab setting and conditions of research facilities allow for influence and encouragement from limited sources (namely corporations and other Agbiotech apparatuses) in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 examines how dissent regarding GMOs and arguments about Agbiotech and power are dismissed or ignored using the elitist nature of specialized Scientific knowledge and anti-ecological definitions of good science. Lastly, Chapter 4 introduces the way the Agbiotech apparatus produces (and depends upon) faith in a singular Truth which overlaps with Western notions of Progress and international Development.20 I argue that the hegemonic social and political influences on Agbiotech are inseparably linked to discourses of power structures currently dominating global society. Methodology I began my research as a student interested in the above issues. I took a variety of courses aimed at discussing a variety of issues surrounding genetics. Meanwhile, I was a student in the College of Naturalordered lists of nucleotide bases of portions or all of an organisms genome), and cloning (the insertion of one organisms genome into the nucleus of another cell to create a new organism with nearly identical DNA to the donor). Agbiotech is more than an abbreviation for the science of agricultural biotechnology. It speaks to the social promoters of this science and includes boutique research firms, transnational corporations, public and nonprofit organizations that promote the use of agricultural biotechnologies, and individuals involved in the chain of research, product development, marketing, distribution, and management.20
Definitions of development & Development attributed to Gillian Hart and Alberto Escobar (see Good Science, Good Development chapter. Big D Development is a historically singular experience, the creation of a domain of thought and action (largely by the Truman administration and the UN in 1949) with the purpose of spreading Western economies and institutions in the context of the cold war. Postmodernly, Development refers to forms of subjectivity fostered by this discourse, through which people came to recognize themselves as developed and underdeveloped. Little d development as the uneven development of global capitalism.
Resources during several controversies involving corporate funding of research and questionable rejections of academic publications threatening corporate interests. Familiarity with these issues allowed me to probe the various opinions of faculty and researchers through my experiences in lectures, seminars, interviews, and publications. Frank discussions with researchers and students allowed us to get our values onto the table until it was clear where we all coming from when we took a side on these issues. All of the geneticists I spoke to were friendly, helpful, and excited about their work. Though this paper may point to ignored effects of their research, it is not to diminish the intent of their work. I feel it is important to share an honest understanding of the broad social and political structures I have been privileged to encounter as an interdisciplinary student amongst the contemporary collapse of less profitable university fields. The best way for students to give back to universities is to question and challenge the institutions that helped us think analytically in the first place. Controversies over the sciences should not be polarized and polemics should not be reduced to asserting a glorified science or a despicable science.21 It is more telling to learn from the roots of various perspectives within the conflict. Thus, I am building upon my own vivid interest in GMO issues to make an ethnographic inquiry into the social understandings of various Agbiotech researchers I heard from as a student in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. It would by hypocritical of me to behave as if I had no opinion on the matter, nor will I try to hide it from any of the readers of this paper. However, the purpose of this paper isnt to convince you of my opinion on the issue of GMOs, it is to convince you that the production of Truth is inevitably linked to21
Laura Nader, Naked Science p. 21
systems of power. I will make this connection through my research of Agbiotech on the UC Berkeley campus.
[Chapter 1: Legitimation of Scientists Authority to Manufacture Truth] In this chapter, I will explore the technical and social reasons that the specific intellectual is enlisted produce knowledge, and how that knowledge is shaped by deceptively political versions of Truth. I begin with the rise of the specific intellectual in todays economic-political climate. Next, I compare two specialized intellectuals, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, and Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution. I describe how the knowledge produced by these two brilliant experts was manipulated by politicaleconomic interests. Applying some of Foucaults principles of specific intellectuals to my own research of the subsequent Gene Revolution, I will examine the effect of placing the manufacture of Truth in the hands of those in highly specialized fields. Rise of the Specific Intellectual Western intellectuals are instilled with specific roles in society. Their purpose, knowledge and understandings change as the subjects of their study change. In Truth and Power, Foucault differentiates between the universal and the specific intellectual. He describes the universal intellectual as the jurist or notable, and finds his fullest manifestation in the writer, the bearer of values and significations in which all can recognize themselves. The specific intellectual derives from quite another figure the savant or expert, in a person that has accrued status through specialized knowledge in one field. Foucault contrasts the transition of intellectuals from universal to specific over the past two centuries amongst social, political and economic climates.22 An earlier discussion explored the social influence of/on Darwins ideas.22
Foucault 1980, p.20
Foucault presents Darwin as the point of inflection in the history of the Western intellectual in which the social ripples of a scientific concept reach far beyond the specialized field in which it was developed. Next, he traces scientific experts/specific intellectuals and the social environments they influence -and are influenced by- to Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb. He purports that as technologies become more specialized, more expensive, and more expansive in their impacts, the power of those who develop that technology increases. This power is linked with its creators understanding of Truth. Its with Darwin or rather, with the post-Darwinian evolutionists that this figure [of the specific intellectual] begins to appear clearly... Perhaps it was the atomic scientists (in a word, or rather in a name, Oppenheimer who acted as a point of transition between the universal and the specific intellectual. Its because he had a direct and localized relation to scientific knowledge and institutions that the atomic scientist could make his intervention; but since the nuclear threat affect the whole human race and the fate of the world, his discourse could be at the same time be the discourse of the universal..23
Reign of (and Reins on) the Specific Intellectual The example of Oppenheimer embodies the diabolical effects of powerful technology in the hands of specialized experts: those who have been trained to focus inward instead of outward, who know more and more about less and less. Oppenheimer recruited a team of specialized experts explaining that the U.S. government needed their help to defeat Communism and save the world.24 These scientists were isolated in a jovial environment in Los Alamos, New Mexico while23 24
Foucault 1980, p. 21 Else, The Day After Trinity, 1991.
they enthusiastically assembled the most murderous weapon in human history. Dissent of some scientists upon the realization of this technologys actual potential was cast aside and considered unpatriotic and nave. It was easily silenced by military officials eager for results. Only after witnessing a thing of terror conceived in a moment of beauty did many scientists feel what consequences originated from their fingertips.25 Some never did. Under the rubric of [his work], which concerned the entire world, the atomic expert brought into play his specific position in the order of knowledge. And for the first time, I think, the intellectual was hounded by political powers, no longer on account of a general discourse which conducted, but because of the knowledge at his disposal: it was at this level that he constituted a political threat.26 Examination of the social understandings of the people responsible for the atomic bomb provides a good background from which to analyze how subsequent specific intellectuals have put their knowledge to powerful political ends. I would add Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution to the list of scientists that list universal principles as the purpose behind their work. Borlaug aimed to fight world hunger and improve agriculture of developing countries in the 1950s. His Green Revolution focused on increasing average yields of crops through use of Western agricultural methods including certain pesticides, exported capital and scientifically developed dwarf varieties of subsistence grain crop varieties. The Green Revolution was a substantial part of a larger international project to develop decolonized countries following World War II. The Western impetus for25 26
Quote from a Manhattan Project scientist: Jungk, 1954, p. 262 Foucault 1980 p.22
development was largely an economic competition in the struggle for political power during the Cold War. Many critiques of Borlaugs Green Revolution exist.27 Most point to the disastrous effects of exporting Western techniques of agriculture that aimed at maximizing yields and industrial development instead of supporting smaller yield, diverse subsistence and local trade crops.28 The Green Revolution often led to fatal levels of soil and groundwater pollution, soil degradation, species loss, deforestation, and watershed disturbance.29 Critiques also point to the social consequences of displaced farmers freed up to work in urban factories, the loss of traditional location-appropriate methods, crop variety, and cultural starvation. Borlaugs ideals of aid through technology is blemished by the neo-colonial rhetoric of development that is inseparable from the political, economic and social conditions that helped to enslave decolonized countries by exporting capital-heavy, chemical intensive technologies in the name of agricultural transformation.30 Like Oppenheimer, Borlaug had the best of intentions. Both scientists worked with the U.S. government to develop technologies that were used to various strategic ends. Both scientists at a specialized nexus found it difficult to conceptualize the consequences they created in the less familiar areas they affected: political economies and non-Western societies. The political forces encouraging their research made no effort to examine these consequences because it wasnt in their best interest. Thus, these experts were isolated intellectually from various discourses. They were encouraged and supported by political and27
Friedmann (1982), Kloppenburg (1988, ), Barraclough (1991), Constantino (1988), Johnston & Kilby, 1975), Rothschild (1976), Shiva (1981, 1989, 1993), Lappe & Collins (1993), Swaminathan (1983), Myers (1979), U.S. Department of State (1982), Yeatman et al. (1985), Wolf (1986). 28 Freidmann, S260 29 Kloppenburg, 1988, p.40-41, Barraclough, 1991, p. 20-39; Conway, 1995, p. 87-96. 30 For an examination of current neo-colonial legacies in world agriculture, see the Good Science, Good Development chapter.
economic entities that emphasized the charitable aspects of the knowledge they produced, but steered away from questioning the uneven political terrain in which these technologies were actually used. At all events, biology and physics were to a privileged degree the zones of formation of this new personage, the specific intellectual. The extension of technico-scientific structures in the economic and strategic domain was what gave him his real importance He, along with a handful of others, has at his disposal, whether in the service of the state or against it, powers which can either benefit or irrevocably destroy life. He is no longer the rhapsodist of the eternal, but the strategist of life and death.31 Borlaug and Oppenheimer worked in specific, elite fields. Both scientists tried to put their expertise to work for the well-intentioned, universal goals. However, their efforts had significant effects on people who never have had input or access to the decision-making process, from the victims of Hiroshima to the taxpayers funding the research being done within national borders.32 I believe that this silence from below was interpreted as consent, a misunderstanding that continues today. As specific intellectuals become more specialized in technological fields, they are necessarily distanced from dialogues with the lay public. The impetus to use necessarily elite technology is traceable to funding put into research & development for the war effort and increasing University-Industrial Relations -UIRs in the 20th century.33 The specialized intellectual greeted new technologies pushed in to institutions. Through increasing possible outcomes and products, work31 32 33
Foucault, 1980 p.21 Miller, 2003. p.180-207 Noble, America by Design, p. 167-170
styles changed and often required more lab time. Expertise and specialization led to diversification of technical roles- also known as compartmentalization. There were two comforts of assembly-line workload. Firstly, there was the idea of purpose, of membership to some larger effect aiming to help something (though that something and its consequences are increasingly distant). The second comfort was of status, of holding public trust as an elite specific expert; an identity as a uniquely literate specialist with universal values, a seeker of Truth, a stoic man of faith in the Wests modern religion of Science, Technology and Progress. While many similarities exist between Oppenheimer and Borlaugs constructions of Reality and purpose, there are a few telling differences between the two, some of which evidence changes in the institutions that housed both scientists. First, of course, is the nature of their creations. An atom bomb is visually much more evident of destruction than a corn field. Hiroshima and Nagaski killed a specific number of people and was a singular event in history. The global adaptation of Western agriculture is a subtle and linear process, though no less a signifier of the use of science in power systems. In one case, technological expertise was convened by the military in the name of patriotism. In the other technological expertise was commercialized by industry in the name of Development. I have no authority to say that atom bombs and GMOs are equally destructive. What I am questioning is who does. Who would or would not make this comparison and why? Our answers to these questions place us on scales of faith in Objectivity and in Science and how immersed we are in Western ideologies. Conclusion: From the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution Experts use technology to delve deeper than ever into atoms and 24
molecules, but as a consequence may understand less of the largescale impacts of their tinkering. Specific knowledge and a working ignorance of political and economic strategy can leave experts vulnerable to be controlled by themes of patriotism, aid, and overtones of a universal good.34 We see bits of social influence adding gusto to important decisions of these experts, but questions of purpose in scientific discourse have become swept up in the language of Progress. On the Agbiotech giant Monsantos website, Dr. Norman Borlaug states,The green revolution and now plant biotechnology are helping meet the growing demand for food production, while preserving our environment for future generations.
Today, the Green Revolution is commonly described as the root of the Gene Revolution. The Gene Revolution is viewed as the next technological step in to improve agriculture. Justification follows similar discourse of aid for developing countries and has adopted an added bonus of being better for the environment by reducing chemical pesticide use.35 Again, two camps of evaluation exist. People either think that both G. Revolutions were/are beneficial or they were/are terrible.36 Some dialogue has occurred between these two fields, but again falls into disputes of method and specificity, of which kind of science can tell us the Truth the best.37 Experts in conflict over the fields they affect but have not mastered throw up their hands, say they are arguing different points, and by doing so, agree to disagree. They both proceed with their own agendas and values, parallel in the goal of34
Nader, Controlling Processes, Naked Science, Barriers to New Thinking About Energy 35 Reduced exterior pesticide & herbicide use is attributed to a Monsanto GM technology called RoundUpReady in which an ecologically benign chemical (glyphosate) is sprayed and kills any plant that had not been genetically modified to be ready for RoundUp. www.monsanto.com 36 Shiva (1989, 1996, 2002), Conway (1995, 2003), Serageldin, (1995, 2000), Visvanathan, (1997) 37 More on sound science and who defines it in The Name of Science chapter.
public good, but opposite in the road they believe will take the public there. The predominant Agbiotech sciences support the Gene Revolution. Currently, scientists are courted by (or married to) Agbiotech industry as the link to distributing the agricultural biotechnologies they create. Specific intellectuals have now been almost completely absorbed into a system of modern global capitalism. It is often seen as the only way to continue their research and distribute its results. The processes involved in the creation of such a world-view will be the subject of the next three chapters.
It seems to me that what must now be taken into account is in the intellectual. whose specificity is linked, in a society like ours, to the general functioning of an apparatus of truth.38
Foucault 1980, p.26
[Chapter 2: The Apparatus of Truth] Scientific workplaces are useful contexts for understanding how science culture operates to legitimate vested interests of industries, utilities, banks, mining companies, and governments. Laura Nader Much of the Agbiotech research put to use commercially is produced at public universities. As state-funding has steadily decreased, the function of the university has transitioned to often-conflicting roles. This trickles down into the structure of science research on campus. As funding dwindles the non-commercial sciences are hardest hit but the profitable research fields have an opportunity to secure private corporate funding. With this opportunity come many questions and even more conflicts. While the most overt criticism of private funding is corruption of research, the example of Oppenheimer shows that government funding also comes with a particular agenda. This chapter explores how privatization of university research creates vertical and horizontal change for the specific intellectual- vertical movement in their role of creating profit, patents, publishing, and specialization, and horizontal movement across their links between Truth and Power. The purpose of this chapter is to describe some of the professional everyday experiences of Agbiotech researchers and how they affect constructions of reality. I use my interviews, lectures, and experiences as a student to question the changing subjectivities of university scientists in their pursuits of Truth amongst changing social, political, bureaucratic, and economic climates. The Current University Climate In America By Design, Noble traces the rise of university-industry 27
cooperative programs at the turn of the 20th century. Often arising in the engineering fields, the ideal of the college was linked to the real of the factory through programs, internships, info-shares, and funding.39 University administrators applauded the transition of educational focus to develop not only the mentality but also the character, personality, and physique of its students. We are anxious to prepare them for the conditions as they are, so that they will waste as little time as possible in adjusting themselves to the needs of industry.40 The technical expertise required of graduates by industry became the goal of university education. Since, technology has become only more and more specialized, standardized and expensive. Majors for the highly technical and engineering fields have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, social majors and institutions have struggled to stay afloat during university budget cuts and direct political attacks while attempting to retain students. A current example is the UC Institute for Labor and Employment which carries out "an array of applied and policy research and outreach programs addressed to critical contemporary problems of labor, employment, and the workforce in the 21st-century California economy."41 The ILE had its budget slashed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after being accused for having union ties.42 "The ILE has a right in a free society to promulgate its anticapitalism views," railed the free-market think tank Pacific Research Institute, "and to fund research that strikes at the heart of a basic39
Stated by Magnus Alexander, director of educational programs of the Lyn works of GE, 1908.40 41 42
Stated by A.A. Potter, Dean of Purdue University, 1902. Statement by former director of the ILE, James Lincoln 3-22-06
Among the activities that raised conservative ire: a 2001 research paper on uniononly agreements for construction projects; a 2002 grant award of $19,973 for a study on "Making People Pro-Union: Exploring Social Movement Dynamics in Labor Organizing"; reports on living-wage laws and the bottom-line costs of Wal-Mart workers' reliance on state safety-net programs; and a range of workshops, conferences, and other forms of leadership training.
economic freedom in America the right of employers and employees to freely negotiate compensation. But why should taxpayers be forced to bankroll ILE's pro-union agenda?"43 Clearly, pro-industry, not prounion agendas are whats considered acceptable for the UC. With this conservative turn on university campuses, the environment of open dialogue is outsourced for study time, grades, and resume-building. Student fees increase each semester, sending students in search of jobs and internships to get through school and into the high-paying job many families expect the student to return with.44 Beggars Cant Be Choosers Former Chancellor Robert Berdahl euphemizes the loss of state and federal funding as the university becoming a state-assisted institution. Public funding for universities is at an all time relative low, which leads to a need for funding from sources independent of the state.45 This affects university research budgets in several ways. Faculty members receive less department funding, and have to spend more time searching for grants, and often choose research topics most likely to be funded. Much of the research of the faculty I spoke to was funded by the National Science Foundation, though several faculty complained that since the war in Iraq began, NSF funding for plant biology has weaned.46 Grants are sometimes described as a faculty members obligation to the department. At UC Berkeley, one PMB researcher explained, As long as I bring in bread grants- the department loves me. Same thing as papers, dont bring them in, loose status and respect. See, the labs43
Pacific Research Institute, 2003 press release UC student fees have increased every year for the past 6 years. Data from UC Office of the President. www.ucop.edu; Also see Robert Dynes comment on mid-year budget cuts. 45 National Science Foundation statistics available in Appendix A and Bibliography 46 P. Lemaux, discussion. See Appendix A.44
are all based on money. Department cuts to research budgets have led to the creation of Fundraising Teams that utilize University Extension Cooperative Programs and search for multiple sources of funding. This money is used administratively, academically, to keep research competitive with private universities, and (in the case of the College of Natural Resources, CNR) even for building updates and retrofits. Deals with private funding sources at the department level have been rippled with controversy.47 In November of 1998, Novartis (a Swiss biotech giant) signed a 5-year, $25 million deal with the Plant & Microbial Biology department of CNR at UC Berkeley. In exchange for funding 1/of the departments research, the company would gain two of the five seats on the Research Committee and first rights to patents and licenses resulting from the departments research.48 Then-Dean Gordon Rausser explained the necessity for funding at CNR, Without modern laboratory facilities and access to commercially developed proprietary databaseswe can neither provide first-rate graduate education nor perform the fundamental research that is part of the universitys mission. As Truths manufactured by Science become dependant on technology and specialization, ailing university facilities must step beyond the safety of state funding to continue. Uproar began regarding demands for faculty not to speak to the press about the deal, the lack of student and faculty input, and the general increase in privatization of research at UC Berkeley. Later, Rausser was met with vegan pies at a press conference when he announced the deal. The controversy polarized the staff of CNR between those to sought to47 48
Eaton: 2004, 165-190; Washburn: 2005, p. 4-6. Washburn: 2005, p. 3.
disembed the missions of public universities and private interests and others who believed that the deal did no harm to academic integrity and improved the quality of research. Said one PMB researcher, The Novartis deal per say was the most benign, innocuous UIR [University-Industry Relation] Ive ever encountered, and I have had other contracts that were much more defined. It was so noninvasive! They never did anything, they never said anything. It was great, we were free. She continues, It was what people tell me scientific research used to be like. Youd have some wild idea and then just say, hey I want to do that, and youd just go do it. Now, if you apply to any government agency you have to have your work practically done and then go in and apply and hope. [The Novartis deal] was great, because you could do whatever you wanted and nobody ever said you cant do that. The Novartis thing was an anomaly. Several researchers insisted they were in full control of their research, even when their research is privately funded with specific stipulations. An anonymous researcher put it like this: Sure. Ill take Monsantos money. Ill sign whatever they want. And then you know what I do with the contract? I rip it up and throw it away. And theyve never said a thing. What are they going to do about it, sue me? Indeed many geneticists expressed skepticism that their work was relevant or even highly profitable for corporations, even when specific contracts were signed. In some scientists realities, they are the ones in control of their research, pimping corporate funding for their own sassy interest. Corporate money (especially from the Novartis deal) meant not having to refine topics to what is more likely to receive a grant from NSF, etc. Corporations were purportedly throwing money at 31
the public sector. Other researchers opposed to private funding point out conceptual discrepancies in this benign interpretation of corporate funding. They compare the fierce, corporate model of Monsanto with its black-suited legal armies and iron-gripped private labs to some university scientists interpretation of Monsanto as a bumbling giant that tosses out funding like Mardi Gras beads to any geneticist who will accept corporate funding. One of only three scientists in PMB to refuse Novartis funding called the contract a a contract with the devil.49 It is difficult to measure the direct and (especially) indirect impacts of private funding based on what is or is not said in contracts, though this can sometimes be the issue itself. The researcher who praised the Novartis deal claimed, I think at a place like Berkeley, we can set whatever we want to do and get a company to agree to it. But I do have concerns about small universities. They might be willing to agree to anything They have to put things in their agreements we would never do here. In terms of publication, someone having control over whether you publish or not. UC Berkeley would never do it. I mean, you can see the diversity of opinion, people say whatever they want here. It has never been an issue in anything Ive been involved in. Yet, when I asked her why a company would delay publication, she said, For patent issues, and I think this was true with Novartis too, we would make a disclosure, their legal people would have 30 days to decide if they wanted to put a patent on it. Then after that you could do whatever you want, publish, or whatever. Other49
Kaplan, Donald. Statement, January 2003.
contracts may have 60 days. I never had this happen, but people say if you do something that gets an answer that they dont want the university said you cant publish that. There is pressure not to publish things. It is interesting that Lemaux, seemed to feel so safe in the deal, even though publication delays were in fact part of the deal. A general sense of the benign nature of the Novartis deal may be related to the analysis of only direct impacts of private funding. Igncacio Chapela explained the indirect impacts of outside funding as limit creavitity and freedom to research controversial topics, such as those that can upset industries funding research: Over here in microbial biology, it is important to look at where money is available first, and then decide what you are going to do. It is important to keep up with what is fashionable, that is what gets funded, what gets published. You can publish a fashionable paper immediately but if you publish a controversial paper than it is orders of magnitudes more difficult to publish, to get funding, to attract students to help with the research. So in many ways it is harder to be creative, to be original. In 2004, a Michigan State University sociologist led an external review of the Berkeley-Novartis deal.50 The report found that the worst fears of corrupted research were unrealized but that Novartis (now renamed Syngenta) hopes for the patents and royalties were viewed as disappointing. Not surprisingly, Syngenta did not renew the deal. Busch, the MSU report leader, commented on the changing and conflicting roles of universities, "There's been a mission creep that has occurred among public universities as they see all kinds of funds declining. University roles may vacillate between an engine of50
An internal review was completed by the Vice Chancellors Office for research in January 2003. It was conducted by many of the same actors who brokered the deal in the first place.
growth, a source of societal betterment and a generator of new knowledge." Busche concluded, as would Noble, that the predominant model at UC Berkeley was the engine of growth. Patent or Perish Even that innocuous deal between Novartis and PMB allowed a delay on publication to prioritize patents. Intellectual property has steadily grown in universities since the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 paved the road to profit from patents. It allowed universities to enact intellectual property rights (thus, licensing royalities) on research results from federal funds. Money-strapped UC has been at the front lines of the University-Industry Relation (UIR) patent field. One researcher put it plainly, University scientists want to offer their patents up because they get money for it. Its a source of income. Social controls of prestige, possibly salary increase(was insinuated by some faculty but officially unavailable), office/lab space, and competition push faculty to publish, patent or perish. Inc. Magazine recently praised UC Berkeley as one of the Five Universities You Can Do Business With. The article begins, To look in on university research is to see the subatomic structure of modern entrepreneurial capitalism. You just have to read this Despite the traditional symbiosis between markets and academia,however, university research is not flowing today as fast as it should to entrepreneurs who are eager to embrace and exploit new ideas. Only a handful of universities produce a steady stream of inventions with commercial potential. Fewer still have a track record of working well with businesses to bring these ideas to market. Just five schools, in fact, constitute the elite of the technology transfer world. They are Berkeley, Caltech, Stanford, MIT, and Wisconsin. The list
of universities reporting new discoveries changes from one year to the next, but each of these five schools consistently garners around 100 patents per year. Not every patent becomes the basis of a business, of course, but some do. And what is remarkable about the five schools above is that, in addition to producing new ideas, they consistently rank at the top of the list of universities in terms of how many businesses are built around technologies created in their labs. Along with teaching and doing research, they seem to be in the business of inventing companies. In contrast, many schools with great research reputations never seem to turn anything into a business. So what do the prolific schools do that's special? First, they treat businesspeople as allies and equals. Researchers at these schools are generally open to and ready for interaction with companies (even startups) so long as the entrepreneurs are capable and serious. They also encourage students to think about the business potential of their academic research. Faculty support is vital because students are in a better position than tenured professors to follow an idea out of a lab and to a start-up.
I would never be able to give a sense of the jovial attitudes buzzing around university and industry partnerships better than this article. It so adequately echoes the optimism of the knowledge/power generated by university/industry relations traced by David Noble in America By Design. A sense of optimism, destiny, and Progress ice the article. Efficiency groupthink regarding the marriage of industry to university research gives a rosy aura to these business deals. UC Berkeley facilitates these arranged research deals through the Office of Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances. IPIRA was created in 2004 under the Vice Chancellor of Research:
to provide a "one-stop shop" for industry research partners to interact with the campus. IPIRA's mission is to establish and maintain multifaceted relationships with private companies, and thereby enhance the research enterprise of the Berkeley campus. These relationships include sponsored research collaborations, and intellectual property commercialization. The convenient IPIRA website contains a database of the research interests of every UC Berkeley faculty member, a template partnership agreement, and a success stories log. IPIRA connects the business deals which furnish researchers with the equipment used in their labs, their budgets, and often, their research topics. By buying into a reality of the marketplace as the means to diffuse the solutions brewed up in the lab, faculty surrender much of the content and distribution of the products they produce. One begins to wonder how faculty members interpret this reality. Explains one geneticist, In our fields, we cant take anything to market. We dont have the money. If you ever wanted that to go to market, youd have to partner with a company. Thats a real departure from the way agricultural crop development was in the past. It was just a matter of breeding and that didnt cost very much money, but now the regulatory costs are just phenomenal. For any one crop variety with one trans gene in one place, [bringing that crop to market costs] a half million to 3 million dollars. So you can imagine going to your dean with this The university doesnt have that kind of money. The reality for this faculty member is shaped by the fact that anything they create that they want to distribute/take to market will have to go through an extensive patenting and licensing process, even if that innovation/product was made with entirely public funding. Since the 36
Bayh-Dole Act, University administrations have compensated for declining public funding by securing licenses and patents. In doing so, they have chiseled down perspectives of how to distribute the the public good to the marketplace.51 Often, what is researched is sought to be a profitable process or product or at least commercially relevant. Then, start-ups, licensing, or royalties can help to ensure funding for the researcher. Both abstract discovery research and applied research are steered enthusiastically into product development or end up there.52 This commodified perspective has various effects on the specific intellectual. Intellectual property implies that the specific intellectuals purpose is to create specific intellectual property. This is a subtle but significant departure even from the previous scavenge of specialized knowledge by the military-industrial complex. Here it becomes clear that it isnt simply corporate dictatorship of laboratory research that affects the scientific process, but the process of commercialization of the university and the commodification of Knowledge at large.53 Knowledge (production) The production of Knowledge becomes a regulated, segmented, and quantified process as it begins in the researchers mind. The process has a specific purpose, a direct outcome, and a clear path by which to arrive at that Knowledge. That path is laden with bureaucratic hoops, contracts, and Western paradigms of property, political economy, and Truth. Walking along this path requires faith that Science aids Progress and the Knowledge they produce will remain pure as it is packaged for sale first in the marketplace of ideas, and secondly (for Agbiotech)51 52 53
D. Greenburg, 2001. J. Fujimora, 1992. Interview, Mike Freeling. Washburn: 2005, 16. Also, The Kept University; D. Bok, 2003; J. Basinger, 1998;
in the global marketplace of seeds. This marketplace is seen more as a structuring of reality than a structure of Power. Faculty certainly acknowledge the power of the corporations, and often express their frustration with the entire apparatus. However, a prevailing/conditioning attitude that there is no alternative has left many faculty hopeless to alternatives, but determined to assert their individual agency as a specific intellectual in reforming the process. Some faculty members are resisting certain constraints on Knowledge (translated to capitalist terminology as Intellectual Property). One biotechnologist who had been in the field since the 1980s reiterated her support for PIPRA: Public Intellectual Property Resources for Agriculture PIPRA is like a public sector toolbox. Dont patent the tools. Let the tools be used by everyone. Patent the product. Thats whats hampered the whole thing, people dont have the freedom to operate without all the tools. She emphasized the scientific importance of sharing tool technology, the processes that aid the creation of products. Weve developed transformational technologies. So in California, we dont particularly care about soybeans or corn because there are not major crops here. PIPRA says, ok, give that away but keep it for persimmons, artichokes, and [smallacreage crops] like that because the companies are never going to do that stuff anyway, its too small. Theyll never make their money back. This model is fascinating because it is giving away information profitable for companies in order to preserve patents researchers create working on local, less profitable crops. Not only has the language of profit permeated the scientific process from its inception, 38
it dictates the creation and ownership of Knowledge. Power as exercised for profit widens democratic discrepancies, and researchers are engulfed by a reality of dependency upon patents for profit in order to sustain their research. Researchers are controlled by laws and regulations which dictate what Knowledge they can create (by whether or not they can find funding), who will own that Knowledge, and how that Knowledge will be used. McDonaldization of The Lab Agbiotech scientists I spoke to often referred to their relationships with the technology used in their work. As with most machine-dependant work, the model of division of labor prevails. Agricultural biotechnology has distinct research tasks that are easily steered into specific problems and focus areas. Sequencing, one of the most common jobs in genetics labs, is seen as easy and monotonous. One researcher explained, Genome sequencing is a lot like working at McDonalds. Everything is routinized and scripted. You repeat an identical process and try not to fall asleep until they fire you. This often leaves laboratory workers distant both geographically and conceptually from the fruits (or grains) of their labor. The effect of research compartmentalization has been outlined in great detail by George Ritzer and others.54 He describes several dimensions of the McDonaldization of the workplace, including: emphasis on efficient performance of simple tasks, task time quantification, predictable work, and extended use of nonhuman technology. I found that, although there is rigorous competition for genetic sequencing jobs (and very little to flip burgers), many effects of the standardized workplace were the same. The process is scripted, and workers are trained to repeat a process they didnt develop. One notable difference for Agbiotech is in the exclusivity of the field. Because of the elitist nature54
Ritzer, 1998. p.122
of Agbiotech jobs, turnover rates are lower since necessary training is more extensive and pay is higher. Sequencers explained they are more willing to stick with routine tasks because they want to be able to work for a good company that provides high salaries and benefits. I observed in labs and from my interviews include a general optimism of working for a good cause, a sense of achievement to be selected to work in a lab (and a resume boost for a looming competitive job market), a camaraderie with lab partners in a common fascination in the process and alchemistic nature of transgenics, but a marked distance spatially and experientially from the place and conditions from where their results are used. Most geneticists are indeed aware of the elitist nature of technological expertise, though it was often referred to with positive connotations, most often as an achievement. I gathered varying degrees of excitement from students regarding the actual topics being researched. But In nearly all of the responses I gathered to questions about earning a living in the field, I was told, This is where the money is, and There are a lot of jobs that I can get with this degree. Groupthink patterns of success, financial stability, and a vague sense of paternal aid bear a direct relationship to the behaviors ingrained into a Molecular and Cellular Biology/Pre-Med student at UC Berkeley. Many students in this field have agonized over perfect grades, strong test scores, and becoming memorization machines for the past four years. The major emphasizes competition over open-ended analysis. Students are taught to sacrifice personal growth for the later gratifications of a secure, high-paying job at the end of the road. The social and humanitarian importance of students training is discussed in courses, but seldom holistically or with socio-political grounding. McDonalds Labs Off-Campus 40
I spoke with several Agbiotech scientists who had experience working in private research labs, outside of the university. There were interesting similarities, and a few telling differences. Agbiotech scientists explained that in private labs, the direction is clearer. The development of a product is the goal. Ignacio Chapela, an outspoken university scientists that formerly worked in the private sector of Agbiotech made this comparison: In some ways, being an employee (at least back in my day) was simpler, it was much clearer. There was no doublespeak. You are there, you know why youre there, who know who youre working for, you know what their interest is: producing revenue for the owners and stockholders of the company. There aren't questions about it, nobody raises an eyebrow over that. Its making money. A researcher in a private Monsanto lab in Davis, California told me that the hierarchical, top-down process is very efficient. There are different constraints on ethics, topics are already selected and equipment is provided. A Monsanto representative described how in their labs, scientists are put into teams that work in big comfortable spaces. We encourage a lot of walking, and talking between teams. The camaraderie of the private workplace is seen as more open than the universities because there are no needs for secrecy of research due to competition for patents, publication, and status that is commonly complained of in university settings. One private-sector sequencer explained, As a Monsanto scientist, the knowledge I produce is owned by Monsanto. I dont have to worry about patents, or publishing for that matter. This Monsanto scientist enjoys being liberated from paperwork and negotiation that wastes time that could be spent in the lab. Chapela compares this to the university, where researchers write grant proposals and couch it in some kind of public good terms, but in many cases its really empty. You really simply want 41
to do what brings money to you, which is producing more papers, more publications, getting more prestige. Knowledge (Reproduction) The distribution of Knowledge to students varies with teaching style. Usually, a professors politics, methods, research interests, and views on the university at large become clear to students over the course of a semester. Dialogue and critical thinking is welcomed in most classrooms, if not highly encouraged. I have observed several classes at UC Berkeleys College of Natural Resources that support widely divergent views on GMOs and Agbiotech. Each of these courses has been structured in a way to provoke criticisms in different areas, thereby reproducing and restructuring what we accept as Reality. In every instance, the political and personal relationship of the researcher to GMOs is departed as their Truth, with varying degrees of reflexivity. Criticisms and opposite views/realities are always mentioned in a context of decide for yourself though all PMB professors I spoke to insist their students know the science before they do so. Steps Ahead to Feed the World In Environmental Science, Policy and Management 100, a course required for all Conservation & Resource Studies majors at UC Berkeley, guest speakers rotate each lecture, speaking about their related work and the joys and challenges thereof. Students are encouraged to ask questions, to find specific areas of interest and to understand the complexities of environmental problem-solving. I was enrolled in ESPM 100 on October 13, 2005, when two PMB geneticists, Peggy Lemaux and Jaswinder Singh gave a lecture entitled, Steps Ahead to Feed the World.55 Professor Singh began the lecture by55
The mentioned slides from this lecture are available in the Appendix
stating, Right off the bat, it is a fact that we need agriculture. We cannot survive without agriculture. The next slide listed the Green Revolution as the Greatest Contribution of the 20th Century. Slide 3 was at a Glance a Malthusian world population graph from 17502150, divided into Less Developed Countries and More Developed Countries. Food Needs of the World was divided into For developed countries: maintenance of Green Revolution products, improved quality products, healthy foods and healthy lives, develop crops for economical and less polluted agriculture, food for specific needs and For developing countries: higher quantity of major food grains and nutritionally enhanced food grains. Singhs only directly acknowledged political statement was about testing and regulation. 10-17 year time frame for variety development and testing was stated to be unacceptable, that new GM varieties must be easier to take to market. Next, the Vision of Dr. Borlaug About the Modern Technology quoted Dr. Borlaug (the father of the Green Revolution): Genetic Engineering is the only technology that must be embraced by countries whose food supply is threatened by the inequalities of the worldThe new tools of genetic engineering if scientists are permitted to use them- can permit accelerated development of food crop varieties with greater tolerance to drought, heat, cold, and soil and mineral toxicities; greater resistance to menacing insects and diseases; and higher nutritional quality levels. The rest of the lecture slides were devoted to the hows of tapping in to the power of genomics: mapping, Marker Assisted Selection, hybridization, introgression of exotic genes from unrelated organisms, gene knockout using transposable elements (first found by Barbara McClintock as she battled other tacit assumptions in science56), inducing over-expression of genes, etc. The PowerPoint presentation56
ended with Identification of value added traits has direction application in biotechnology for Food Crops: shelf life, quality, nutrition, health; All Crops: tolerance to drought, salt, disease, UV light; Synthetics: modified fiber quality- oil content/composition; and Bioremediation: removal/breakdown of environmental toxins and another slide claiming the Science Behind the Green Revolution is Under Threat in front of a picture of a farmer in a drought-parched field overlaid by a scientist using a tool to (apparently) sample or fertilize a grain. The lecture ended up being too long for the students to ask many questions, but a few were asked. Students (many from the environmental activist perspective) began to ask where this research was implemented and how it was tested for effectiveness over time. Others asked who decided that countries needed to develop. Professor Singh replied, We are doing this to feed people. I deal with the science, the hows not the whys. The discussion began to intensify. Two other students asked about who owned the technology used to produce the genome maps and if its products were licensed. Professor Lemaux spoke up about the importance of tool kits (the PIPRA concept I would later discover) and said, Look, were trying to feed those people in Africa. If you know a better way Id like to hear it. The course professor intervened to say class time had expired. Singhs reasons for genetic engineering reflect several social constructions of Reality amongst genetic engineers. The realities of hunger, of global inequality, of the increasing pressures of population and resource exploitation were employed to dispel any skepticism that GMOs were indeed necessary without ever discussing the political and economic origins of these problems. It was assumed that students accepted the Truth of GMOs capacity to increase yields, provide nutrition and food, reduce pesticide use and aid development. To 44
actually accept this Truth is a leap of faith that requires a suspension of skepticism, a surrender of evidence from beyond the laboratory environment, and a consumption of the discourse of Development. Students were expected to agree (actually, not agree, to know) that GMOs function as engineered and pose minimal risk of unknown environmental and health effects. To ground this belief in a historical trajectory, GMOs are linked as successor of the Green Revolution. Another unquestioned Truth was that of Progress as seen in Singhs division of the world into Developed and Developing countries. Development itself was never questioned as a political device or as a manifesting destiny, much less as an imperialist or hegemonic concept.57 Nor were the reasons all those people in Africa were still starving after the salvation of the Green Revolution over 40 years ago. There was a clear assumption that scientists were adequately capable of solving agricultural problems, but that political and economic structures were inefficient and skewed result distribution. Regulation was listed as the biggest problem toward getting solutions to the needy. Reform was urged to aid the spread of scientific solutions, usually through lowering testing and regulatory processes that take valuable time. Genetic Revolutions Mike Freeling has a lab in PMB and maintains that private funding for research has never affected his research whatsoever. He compares himself as a scientist to an artist, in love with ideas and discovery. Professor Freeling teachers a lower-division PMB course entitled, Genetic Revolutions. The course is aimed at providing a liberal arts approach to this technical science. In one of the classes I sat in on, Prof. Freeling asked students to go around, state their major and why57
See Good Science, Good Development chapter.
they chose to take the class. The class had a diverse mix of students of all disciplines. Reasons for taking the class included: -I think biotech is cool. -Im Christian and I want to inform myself. -I really like the liberal arts approach to science. -I have a genetic skin condition, a deathly allergy to dairy, and one short finger to which Freeling replied, All of us would be dead without modern medicine. The conversations in class often focused on a controversy around genetics. Eugenics, GMOs and RoundUpReady were some of the first topics.58 Prof. Freeling provided enthralling stories of his history in the field, including a time when he gave a paper as a grad student at a conference and was approached by a Monsanto talent scout who looked like a shark. She was dressed to kill and stood out in the conference in a black power suit and high heelsShe offered me $1million dollars and flew us back to Berkeley right then and there. Unable to broker a deal at the Vice Chancellors Office, she stormed out and didnt even look over at me waiting in the lobby. Of this tale of corporate solicitation Freeling summarized, This still goes on today. I would have taken her money and done exactly what I wanted. I knew who I was dealing with I wanted the money.59 Another enthralling Monsanto tale revolved around his expert testimony regarding gene transfer technology the corporation had stolen the RoundUpReady construct of one of their collaborators, a $68 million ruling against the company. He described being able to easily point out the fierce Monsanto lawyers that were all at least 150 pounds overweight and in all black. Except for one very skinny woman -the skinniest woman youve ever seen- also in black, who would bring58 59
Define eugenics, RUR GMO Freeling, lecture, January 30, 2006.
them coffee. Somehow the lawyers already knew that the judge didnt like loud ties. His distaste for the corporation was clear to students, especially when he smiled at students and stated, and it really was so much fun, getting the evil empire under the gun like that. He went on to explain the economic realities of the power of the company. The overall landscape didnt change much [after the ruling]. The stocks didnt even dropIt doesnt matter to investors whether or not their info was stolen. Freelings charming disdain for Monsanto was clear, but he also pointed out that given the Reality of his time, he would not refuse funding from them, nor would that affect his research. Regarding RoundUpReady, Freeling stressed that RoundUp taken out of context, is a truly nice, non-toxic chemical, but that you shouldnt buy it and support Monsanto. In explaining how RoundUpReady kills anything with chlorophyll, he used cultural metaphors to show an EPSPS enzyme catalyzes a reaction, this bridges them together in a fast rate, like a matchmaker in many societies. Freeling stressed the importance of knowing the Science of GM, and ended with a discussion of how a gene was found by a small company and bought out by Monsanto. Aware of social and philosophical theories of science, Freeling often would engage the class in discussions about controversies and maintain his perspective on the issue as a scientist. He discussed his views and role in the Chapela-Quist controversy at length (discussed in this paper in the In the Name of Science chapter). Freeling justified the preeminence of good science above any social controversy and exclaimed, In Science, the Truth exists. We just find it.
Conclusion In all of my interviews with faculty, I admired their fantastic interest in their subjects. However, this pull into highly specified fields has driven 47
the secondary tasks of faculty (gathering funds, grants, etc.) to take funding from wherever it can be procured to continue research. As we see with the decline of state and federal funds, private funding has become essential. University administrators is also ready to accept this reality in order to stay competitive. While they insist no direct influence has been had by corporate funding, the course of research has changed gradually toward topics that are likely to be funded, attract lab space, students, and prestige. Some comparison to private labs cast light on how the university mission of the public good is becoming confused with the language of profit as universities become more like engines of growth. We know see how the corporation has become married to the public university, not simply because of its dowry of knowledge, but because of the vows of Progress, the specialization of technology, and the devotion to the marketplace as a means of distribution of the products. Successful professors turn around and teach their strategy and version of Science to students, institutionalizing their acceptance of no alternatives to the marketplace. Dissent often comes from less specified fields that have no say in the development of Agbiotech and are steadily declining because of their unprofitability. This form of deviance is discouraged by controls including loss of professional status, funding, research grants, publication refusal and revocation, and peer disdain. Often these controversies surround what is good or bad science, the topic of the next chapter.
[Chapter 3: In the Name of Science]When scientists ascend the spiral staircase toward Truth, there are parallel steps intertwining with power. Scientists vary in their acknowledgement of subjectivity to power structures in society. They often recognize the functioning of power in the institutions that house them, in the factors that affect funding and direction of their research. But to what extent to scientists recognize the subtle exercise of Power in shaping the definitions and directions of science? In this chapter, I will examine how the concept of Science itself has been used by economic interests in society. I will look at how declarations of good and bad science are appropriated and how these evidence power systems in the linear production of knowledge, a Groupthink process described by Vandana Shiva as a monoculture of the mind. I examine how specificity of todays intellectuals has starved more holistic outlooks on the products of their research, and lastly, how the public is viewed by Agbiotech. Definition: Science vs. science Little s science is the practice of questioning, and the process of understanding. The big S labels the practice of power, of political power [through adopting industrial definitions of acceptable science].60 Bad science or bad Science? In 2001, a Berkeley professor and graduate student published a paper in Nature evidencing GMO corn contamination of native maize fields in Oaxaca, Mexico.61 The results were startling because this area of60 61
Ignacio Chapela, interview, 3-23-06 David Quist, Ignacio Chapela. Transgenic DNA Introgressed into Traditional Maize
Mexico is where maize was first cultivated ten thousand years ago. Mexico had banned GMO corn since 1998. Daniel Quist and Ignacio Chapelas paper had undergone regular extensive peer review methods, but were challenged by a group of students and professors at UC Berkeley. An all-out attack began on the basis of good and bad science. Mike Freeling, a geneticist in PMB, the department that contracted a $25 million deal with Novartis, explained on a radio program, I was part of this group that criticized Quist and Chapela because my grad student Nick Kaplinsky read the article in depth and found bad science. He said, hey, this is bad science, and I supported him as his mentor. I had no choice. He continues by stating: 22% of my lab is supported by private industry. Most of that is through a grant [from Novartis] to my college, UC Berkeley but fervently rejects that any of the sources of funding affect his definitions of good and bad science, or what he researches. In his undergraduate course, Genetic Revolutions Freeling broke down the science used by Chapela and Quist and showed the critiques of his grad student. He explained the social controversy that followed with a tone of surprise at Chapela and Quist for not admitting their scientific goof because they wanted to prove a point.62 Freeling explained this as a hiccup of the process of science. He expressed that undue concern over PMBs partnership with Novartis made those who didnt know the science believe that the Chapela case demonstrated academic freedom was in jeopardy when it actually wasnt at all. What was at stake was what we accept as good science. He said, Whole groups of people were arguing past each other it had nothing to do with science. Scientists care more about getting science right than social justice.Landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico, Nature, 414, 2001: 541-543. 62 Michael Freeling lecture
Chapela and Quist maintained that their methods were legitimate and the point was proving itself: results unfavorable to industry were disputed with personal attacks and/or attacks on the legitimacy of the science. There was no dispute over the papers first point that actual GM contamination had occurred. The disputed point was in a second finding, that the GM sequence was jumping around in the corn.63 Nonetheless, the dispute overshadowed the significance of the findings. Freelings group had actually petitioned for a full retraction of the article. Nature magazine, for the first time in its 133-year history published an editorial comment telling readers to judge the findings for themselves because the evidence was not sufficient to justify the claims. In a guest lecture in Spring 2005, Professor Miguel Altieri pointed to the last quarter of Nature magazine. It was full of ads for product, most produced by biotech corporations like Monsanto. He questioned how the helix of power cast a shadow even upon the shining staircase of Science reaching toward Truth.64 The controversy escalated when, Chapela had to file a la