Biotech and the facade of U.S. altruism (4/8/2007)

Era of the Bourgeois Romantic: The facade of US Altruism, the biotech industry & those that buy into it
Jessica Long

Those in favor of globalization please raise your hands! Does this include you? If it does there is good reason to believe that you are indeed a bourgeois romantic. What is a bourgeois romantic and why should you care? In the era of globalization, bourgeois romantics serve as the propellants of international corruption while operating under an altruistic facade. The ingenuity of the bourgeois romantic paradigm is that the individual is often unaware that he/she falls into the category at all. As of late, bourgeois romanticism has evolved as a social trend. Hollywood stars, politicians, NGO workers and civilians of all sorts propagate the system fully unaware of its adverse effects. Its popularity stems from its appeasement of both liberal "hippie" movements and corporate/political interests. Liberals and Conservatives are both subject to its seduction. So what truly defines a bourgeois romantic? And what are the tell-tale signs that you might be one? Let us take a look at the definition a little more thoroughly.

Bourgeois romantics are neo liberals who emphasize free market methods in lieu of a better global civil society. They envisage a global market composed of different ethnicities and cultures in which all will be able to trade and share resources in a mutually beneficial manner. They are the CEOs who give a portion of their profit to Southern aid programs. They are the corporate industrialists who argue modernity and technology will enhance Southern economies. They are even the so-called "humanitarians" that coerce third world markets into the global market arena promising to ameliorate mass poverty. They are everywhere. They exist in all forms, colors, professions, religions and political spheres. In short, a bourgeois romantic is a hypocritical capitalist: one whose intentions are socialist but whose priorities are capitalist. They are the "good intentioned" proponents of free trade.

What they refuse to acknowledge is that free trade is anything but free. Although it allows the global North free market range, it leaves the global South in shackles. Free trade is a modern euphemism for unrestricted global capitalism. We call it free trade when national and corporate interests unite to increase their profit margin while simultaneously manipulating international trade pacts. We call it free trade when established institutions like the IMF or World Bank, whose sole purpose is to aid the poorest of nations, operate under the biases of wealthy nations.

However, it is not just the WTO, IMF and World Bank that attempt to blur the line between corporate and humanitarian interests. The biotech industry is one of massive concern for the global community and definitely worth taking a look at. However, it is not surprising that very little dialogue regarding the issue exists within the U.S. This is largely due to the fact that humanitarian efforts are being used to shield the ploy of corporate profits. Corporations view the global South as an "untapped" market, whose dependency on foreign aid makes them convenient need-based consumers. Many aid and development programs, under the guise of federal governance, are largely aligned with corporate initiatives. Monsanto, the world's leading chemical company, invests millions each year by creating GM foods resistant to their best-selling weed killer, Round-Up. The super objective of Monsanto would be to make pesticides commonplace among agricultural production and consequently maximize their product sales. The problem now is that Monsanto has found a market in hunger and starvation. In attempts to play off the humanitarian sympathies of other nations and individuals, Monsanto launched an aggressive publicity campaign (1998) in Europe featuring the slogan, "Let the Harvest Begin." This campaign promoted the research and utilization of GM foods to feed the famished nations of Africa. The response by the global South was one of outrage!

Why? After all, from a bourgeois romantic's perspective: food is food! Especially for the starving and impoverished peoples of Africa! Ah, but a closer look at the true effect that these multi-national corporate interests have on developing economies explains the severe resistance to GM crops. The Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP) addresses three destabilizing factors that posit GM foods as a threat to the global South. These include 1) corporate welfare schemes, 2) the denial to the right of information, and 3) an inappropriate response to hunger.

Corporate welfare schemes are funds established to assist the poor, but in turn, serve the pockets of the corporate multinationals. The IFDP asserts that "taxpayer dollars are being used to turn countries in the South into alternative markets for GE products, particularly through foreign assistance programs." While USAID and the World Food Program continue to bask in the facade of altruism; they vehemently oppose the labeling of GM crops. In 2004, excessive US trade sanctions cost Thailand $8.7 billion US dollars - forcing them to begin the integration of unmarked GM crops.

The mass quantities of shipped food are not labeled "organic" or "genetically engineered" making it difficult for farmers and sustainable communities to survive. The patent rights of GM crops promote a dependent domestic economy. If a farmer attempts to plant GM seeds without consent, s/he is essentially violating the patent rights on Monsanto’s GM seeds. In some cases, GM seeds have blown over into independent farms and put farmers at legal liability to compensate the corporate patent-holders. Not only is this a legal and economic stress, but it contaminates organic farming methods. Therefore, patent rights are viewed as an adversary to sustainable progress and economic stability in developing countries. This theory relies on two very false premises: that hunger is caused by insufficient food and that potential health benefits of GMOs outweigh that of their risk. However, research shows that the world pumps out more food per person than ever in history. It is definitely not an issue of food shortage. Thus, the problem is not the production of food, but the ability for the impoverished to access it.

Development programs continue to exploit the famished and impoverished countries of developing countries by coercing them to perform actions against their will: the acceptance of "aid" that counteracts the sustainable development process. Once GM food crosses the borders, developing countries will be unable to escape the financial power of corporate imperialism on their agricultural economy. Africa, is one example, in which a collective group of developing nations stand united in its opposition to the biotech industry and its exploitation of struggling nations. Catherine Bernini, Executive Director of the WFP exemplified the capitalist ideal when she said, "Food is power. We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize." Meanwhile, the rest of us sit at home- complacent with the idea that our tax dollars are doing what we cannot- assisting those that really truly need it.

The fact is there are two casualties in this "foreign aid" facade: one being the exploited economies of developing nations and the other being us, the citizenry. However, we are only casualties in our convictions- equally exploited to serve, in turn, as the advocates of such misleading "foreign aid" and "assistance" programs. How do we escape such false convictions? The American people, complacent in their isolationist views of the world, rest assured that their government (one of the people, by the people and for the people…or so they say) is taking care of the "bigger" issues at hand. It is far past the time to re-educate ourselves. Not on just the issues pertaining to our own government and the big issues of war and conflict - but even in our international role as "humanitarians." Foreign "aid" programs are no more than misleading titles that alleviate the capitalist guilt of our citizenry while surreptitiously building entire markets on the strife of the third world. Do you still wonder why the rest of the world holds so much contempt for America? Bourgeois Romanticism has permeated past Foreign Aid efforts and even covertly into our non-profit sectors and religious missions. So, before you rest morally appeased on your stance with globalization, ask yourself: Have you escaped the deception of the Bourgeois Romantic? Or are you, like so many others, merely one of them?

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