Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead - Robert Brockway (2010)

CURRENT THREATS

A lot of speculation about the apocalypse is based in the worries of an uncertain future: Will that meteor hit us? What new threats will technology bring? What crazy diseases will we fight in the future?

But there’s no need to wait to get that sick fear-fix you so desperately desire!

There’s plenty of shit going down right now that may already be wiping the human race off the face of the Earth as we speak! Don’t dwell in the future or the past, friends! After all, the reason they call it “the present” is because every day is a gift! A terrible gift that you most certainly should not unwrap. (If you shake it, it sounds a lot like genocide.)

Chapter 3. FRANKENCROPS

GENETICALLY modified foods are all the rage, and recent advances in technology have us doing some pretty crazy stuff, like splicing antifreeze fish genes into tomatoes, hamster genes into tobacco, or even chicken genes into potatoes! And while fish tomatoes and hamster cigarettes sound a little disturbing, who can’t see the appeal of a chicken potato? They put peanut butter and jelly into the same jar; why not apply the same thinking to KFC? If you ask me this is just a case of science doing stoners a solid, but some killjoys decided to start looking into potential side effects of these pimped-out foodstuffs, and to the surprise of nobody, they’ve found that we’re already completely fucked to the gills … much like a fish tomato.

In general, genetically modified crops tend to be thought of as a slowly developing problem at worst. Considering that if you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can currently find organic pretty much anything, natural food is still readily available for any and all takers—provided you hate disposable income like it killed your father. But just because organics are available to elite folks in industrialized nations doesn’t mean that’s true for the developing world. When you also consider that the entire worldwide agrochemical market is owned by just ten companies—the entire thirty-billion-dollar-a-year market—you start to see signs of a future monopoly. Two companies in particular seem ripe (zing!) to govern a dystopian future straight out of science fiction: Novartis and Monsanto. Novartis is the less worrisome of the two, and—considering that they’re a single massive corporation that controls the creation of plants, the distribution of food crops across the world, and the medicines that keep you alive—being “less worrisome” is really saying something for the terror factor of their rival global-domination food company, Monsanto. See, Monsanto doesn’t seem content with meager ambitions like ruling the world’s food and medicinal supplies—they’re aiming to control the very nature of food itself, with something they have not-so-comfortably dubbed “Terminator Technology.”

Really.

That’s not a nickname made up by their opposition; Monsanto themselves named their product “Terminator.” It’s like they’re flaunting their potential supervillainy! In the realm of terror-inspiring corporate decisions, that’s right up there with naming your headquarters Death Mountain, and awarding Employee of the Week to Hitler’s-Brain-in-a-Robot. Terminator Technology isn’t just an unfortunate name, however: It really is every bit as worrying as the moniker implies. It refers to genetically modified plants that produce only sterile, dead seeds, and so cannot ever reproduce naturally. Monsanto hopes to eventually replace all of its agricultural seed sales with this technology, thus forcing all farmers to purchase new seeds from Monsanto yearly, since they’ll be unable to simply plant the seeds gathered from the previous year’s crop. The benefits to farmers using Monsanto’s new seeds must be enormous, right? Not so much! Lower prices and a slightly more stable crop. That’s pretty much it.

Better Names for Sterility-Based Plant Products

·        Red Barren

·        Infertile Foliage

·        Impotent Potables

Oh, but the perceived benefits to Monsanto? Nothing less than the complete ownership of plant life. That sounds like the plot point to a fucking Captain Planet episode; surely it could never come to pass! The government surely must be watching and making sure that no one single private corporation could own an entire fundamental necessity of life, right? That’s like Microsoft buying “air,” or Walmart owning the patent for “shelter.” It’s so absurd that there’s no way it can slip by the authorities. And it hasn’t.

The government knows all about it.

They’ve heard about it from Michael Taylor, for one, an attorney and proponent for Monsanto as well as a current employee. He told the government all about Monsanto’s sinister plans … when President Obama appointed him to the Food Safety Working Group in 2009. Or maybe they first heard about Monsanto’s bid for domination when Michael Taylor was Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the Food and Drug Administration in the early 1990s, or maybe when he was Administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in the mid-’90s. This guy is currently one of the central points of control for the government’s oversight of genetically modified foods, and he is working for the company that wants to own the very concept of food.

So yes, the feds are well aware of Monsanto’s aspirations, and they think that’s just awesome. They probably wish they’d thought of it first, if anything.

Terminator Technology is particularly worrisome because it forces farmers to pay for next year’s seed every year. So if there’s any fluctuation in a farmer’s income—due to drought, infestation, or other unforeseen circumstances—and he can’t pay, Terminator Technology basically functions as a guarantee that there will be no crops to make up for it the following year. It’s like a ticket to go fuck yourself next season!

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But hey, if you don’t buy this shit because you, like a sane person, are not exactly enthusiastic about a corporation renting your own belly out to you, then surely it doesn’t affect you….

Wrong again! Man, it seems like every rhetorical question you ask this book turns out to be wrong. It affects everybody, according to experts like Camila Montecinos, a Chilean agronomist, who says:

We’ve talked to a number of crop geneticists who have studied the [Terminator] patent. They’re telling us that it’s likely that pollen from crops carrying the Terminator trait will infect the fields of farmers who either reject or can’t afford the technology. Their crop won’t be affected that season but when farmers reach into their bins to sow seed the following season they could discover—too late—that some of their seed is sterile.

So if you, as a farmer, live near anyone who buys Terminator Technology, well, Terminator Technology then comes for you. And like Kyle Reese (who is no biologist but does have a doctorate in starring in the movie Terminator)says: “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

Don’t tell me Kyle Reese isn’t an expert. The same principles from the movie apply to this situation: Just replace the robot with a modified gene, Linda Hamilton with all plant life on Earth, and your life with, I don’t know, that biker Arnold murders in the beginning. You don’t last long, is the general point.

OK, so even assuming all of this is going down like I said, it’s not like corporations are inherently evil. We’re all human, after all, and even the largest corporation has to have some sort of good in them. Well, if you’re still willing to trust in the moral equilibrium of a company that names its products after death machines from the future, here’s a fun fact for you: Monsanto started out manufacturing artificial sweeteners, but eventually started taking on government contracts, where they developed Agent Orange, the poorly tested, hastily deployed herbicide-turned-chemical-warfare agent used in the Vietnam War that poisoned and killed thousands of enemy combatants and civilians as well as sickening our own troops.

Who better to govern all food on the planet than a corporation previously versed in plant-based warfare? The only people who don’t realize that’s a sarcastic question are apparently running the U.S. government.

But what if all plant life on Earth doesn’t want to just quietly die off? It may well take the other track: genetically modified foods that destroy the world through aggression and growth. In Alberta, Canada, there are canola, or rapeseed, plants that have become resistant to all three of the most commonly used herbicides. This has forced the farmers to use a chemical called 2,4D, an extremely powerful pesticide, just to keep everything even, basically starting an arms race against Mother Nature, and she’s bringing her A-game. Could this be the first worrying step in the rise of a sentient plant army, immune to conventional weapons and fueled by a vicious hatred of mankind that borders on genocidal insanity? Some experts say yes.

They’re experts in Crazy, but that still counts as an expert (to crazy people).

All joking aside, though: Plants are going to murder your family.

Wait, no, for real this time: This increased immunity to herbicides is actually our fault. The biotech engineers modified the rapeseed crops on purpose with immunity to all three of our major pesticides in the hope that it would protect the crops from the harm done by pesticide spraying. The only worrying part? Unless you’re specifically trying to grow rapeseed, it’s one of the most virulent weeds around, and now it’s damn near impossible to get rid of it when you want to grow something else, like, say, food. Anything without a genetically modified advantage like the rapeseed has gets, well … raped.

Crazy Experts Consulted

·        Ray “Alley Meat” Johnson

·        BORGO: ALIEN SUPPLANT

·        Gary Busey

That’s perhaps the clearest example we have of the unintended consequences of gene manipulation, but there’s something more disturbing to consider. The term “gene flow” refers to the transfer of modified genes to unmodified plants. If a wild weed is closely related to a modified food crop, the genes from the altered plant can naturally flow via pollen and interbreeding into the unaltered weed, theoretically causing superresistant strains that, in turn, will naturally transfer the artificial genes through further cross-pollination to other relatives again. Eventually, introducing a pretty-much invincible plant could end up rendering everything remotely similar in genetic structure practically invulnerable as well. And this is not strictly a theoretical scenario. These “invincible” plants are being bred right now. There’s a company named Ciba-Geigy that manufactures “Maximizer Corn,” a crop that produces insecticide in every single cell. Every single cell is a tiny, deadly badass, burning through insects like action heroes burn through henchmen. What if that gets into crop-destroying weeds, or worse, harmful or even poisonous plants? I’m not saying you could end up losing a fistfight to a shrub, I’m just saying you may want to be working the bag a little, just in case.

But medicinal advancement works both ways: That simple boost in immunity can start screwing over plants exactly the same way that it does us. We start overusing antibiotics and as a consequence we start to see the evolution of superviruses that cannot be stopped. Similarly, we boost plant immunity, and new superbugs start ravaging crops and we have no defense against them. We’re basically teaching plants how to use biowarfare against themselves … and it’s about goddamn time! Why should corn live in peace when we must live in terror? Fuck you, corn. We’ll genetically engineer you to feel fear if we have to.

We’ve genetically modified millions of plants that are currently crosspollinating totally at random and completely out of our control; who knows what monstrosities will emerge from that? When you think about it, it’s really only fair for us to screw over the plant world. Even if we did start this disturbing battle, unleashing biblical plagues on plant life is practically self-defense now. It’s not a matter of if, but when the chicken potatoes come for you, and may God have mercy on your soul should they find you with your fryer cool.