May 7, 2005
RISING UP GREEN E-Newsletter
Come to Philly and Reclaim the Commons
St. Louis Student/Worker Alliance
Mommy, Is Aunt Sally in the Rice Puffs?
1. COME TO PHILLY and RECLAIM THE COMMONS
Plan to be in Philadelphia June 18-21 to participate in Grassroots Democracy by
giving voice to a different vision of local food sovereignty, fair trade,
community power, biodiversity and honest science.
BioDemocracy convergence will kick off on Saturday, June 18 with an open-air
festival to celebrate the diversity of nature and our local communities. The
festival will bring together organic farmers, community gardeners, alternative
health practitioners, artists, musicians, and families.
BIODEMOCRACY TEACH-IN AND WORKSHOPS
Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19 will feature panel discussions on Genetic
Engineering, Biowarfare and Bio weapons, Sustainable Alternatives and a special
screening of the film "The Future of Food" introduced by its producer and many
experts interviewed in the film.
Monday, June 20 will feature workshops, trainings and skill shares oriented for
activists and anyone who desires a deeper look at the problems with bio tech.
Topics will include: local victories against GE agriculture in Vermont and
California; campaigns against GE trees; nanotechnology, Lawsuits vs. Monsanto;
the patenting of life; bio fuels; the politics of alternative medicine; and the
corporate theft of the fisheries commons.
There will also be non-violence and anti-oppression trainings; and radical urban
sustainability skill shares with the Black and Green Urban Gathering.
SUMMER SOLSTICE DAY OF ACTION
Tuesday, June 21 will shine a light on the bio tech industry which will be
meeting in Philadelphia during this time.
We can't stop the earth-eating insanity perpetuated by greedy bio technology by
ourselves. We need your help. The best way, for you to get involved is by
logging on to the websites below and plan to be in PHILLY for Biodemocracy 2005.
http://www.biodev.org/ or http://www.reclaimthecommons.net/
2. St. Louis Student/Worker Alliance
On Monday, April 4th, approximately fifteen students began occupying the admissions office of Washington University in Saint Louis in support of worker justice on their campus, most especially a living wage. The admissions office was chosen partly for logistical reasons, but also because during the month of April, the school has an open house for all potential students, most significantly those who have been admitted but who have not yet chosen whether or not to attend. We hoped to show those students the flip side of what goes on at our school, namely the mistreatment of our campus workers. During the course of the nineteen day sit-in, we were forced to escalate to a five day hunger strike due to the chancellor's continued refusal to engage in productive dialogue, but fortunately that course of action resulted in the scheduling of several meetings with the chancellor. On Friday, April 22nd, we signed a deal with the chancellor, the most prominent points being (in the language of the agreement itself):
Beginning in the 2005-06 fiscal year, we have committed $500,000 annually toward improving the wages and benefits of lower-paid service workers. Also, beginning in the 2006-07 fiscal year, we have committed an additional $500,000 annually toward the same purpose. We have already begun an effort to determine how these funds should be allocated.
The University will join the Workers Rights Consortium, in addition to its present membership in the Fair Labor Association, to maintain its policy of supporting international and national efforts promoting respect for labor rights around the world.
In addition to the existing University requirement that service contractors have fair and consistent internal grievance procedures, the University will ensure that service contractors provide their employees with the opportunity to present grievances to a neutral and independent person, such as an ombudsperson.
The University will establish an advisory committee composed of students, faculty and administrators that will meet periodically to review how service contractor selections and renewals were made.
The WRC membership is a huge step, and while the money is not a living wage, it will go a long ways towards addressing the plight of the lowest paid workers. In addition, the ombudsperson and advisory committee (which will include SWA members) will help give workers a voice on campus, if only indirectly. All in all, it was a highly successful action, and we hope to build on that success
3. Mommy, Is Aunt Sally in the Rice Puffs?
by DON FITZ
Would you rather find a finger in your chili or guzzle human DNA in beer? In
the recent furor over "pharmed" rice in Missouri, something is being
downplayed: corporations are proposing to put human DNA into plants whose neighboring
cousins could end up being eaten (or drunk) by people.
"Pharming" involves inserting human or animal genes into plants. Ventria
Bioscience wants to plant 204.5 acres of rice, which would be the largest pharmed
crop in the world and would dwarf the typical pharmaceutical field of less
than an acre.
The plan provoked storms of controversy. Environmentalists charged that
pharmaceutical rice could be spread by cross-pollination, floods, birds, rice
grains in farm equipment, or human error in distribution. Risks include allergic
reactions, aggravation of bacterial infections and auto-immune disorders.
Ventria sought to reassure rice farmers that contamination of neighboring
fields is unlikely. But farmers remember that contamination caused loses with
StarLink corn in 2000, Nebraska soybeans in 2002 and pharmaceutical corn in Iowa.
The deeper side to the story has received little attention. The public is
not being asked "Do you want human genes in what you eat and drink?"
Perhaps beer drinkers are not the only ones who don't want to taste a little
bit of Uncle Fred. Maybe mommies don't want to give their darlings wee
morsels of Aunt Sally in their rice puffs before waving them off to school.
This brings to mind a problem which plagued the meat packing industry a
century ago. Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle that sometimes packinghouse
workers "…fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough
of them left to be worth exhibiting, sometimes they would be overlooked for
days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure
Most people would see eating a finger in a bowl of chili as cannibalism. But
what about the tip of a finger? If you eat food cooked with lard which
includes fragments of a packinghouse worker, is that cannibalism?
Is it cannibalism to eat food with one human gene? What about 50 human genes
or an entire human chromosome? How much human material must be spliced into
a living organism to render its products "essentially human?"
To use the language of the genetic engineering industry, we could say that
human DNA in rice is "substantively equivalent" to human flesh in hamburger
meat. Of course, there are differences. Genes are incredibly small in comparison
to boiled human flesh. But those human genes would be present in every cell
of every contaminated plant you put into your mouth.
This is not something that suddenly arose with Ventria rice in Missouri.
Researchers have been putting human genes into animals for years for medical
purposes, such as trying to make pig hearts human-compatible.
Scientists with the US Department of Agriculture put human growth hormone
genes into pig embryos to produce faster growing hogs. The project did not stop
because its originators stayed awake at night pondering the morality of what
they were doing. Rather, it was abandoned because the resulting pigs were so
deformed that some could not support their own weight.
But other laboratories could well overcome these failures and successfully
implant even more human material into plants and animals. If one gene worked
pretty well, could 20, 100 or 1000 genes work even better? In 1997, Japanese
researchers reported inserting a complete human chromosome into mice to produce
Eating food with human genes conflicts with moral or religious beliefs of
many people. Even those who do not share their views defend their right to
practice their beliefs. All genetically modified food should be labeled so that
those who choose not to consume it can do so. But the last thing you are likely
to see on beer, rice puffs, or pharmaceuticals is a statement that "This
product contains human genetic material."
If the biotech industry gets its way, there may soon be human DNA in every
rice product on the shelf. Once human genes get into a plant, they become a
permanent part of that species. When Grandpa is spliced into a pollinating
plant, he just keeps blowin' in the wind forever. His DNA becomes part of the diet
of all who eat the plant. Unlike exploding gas tanks, Grandpa's genes can't
Don Fitz is on the National Committee of the Green Party USA and is Outreach
Coordinator for the Missouri Green Party. He can be reached at