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Message Robert Richardson

2/27/0208 I read with great interest, and greater dismay, Aileen Kwa’s February 21st article “UGANDA: Privatization of Seeds Moving Apace”  ( 

Please read the cited article carefully.  It goes far beyond the farmers in Uganda.  So do not be complacent... What is happening there also is happening here...... And around the world.  Like AIDS, once established it appears to be irreversible.  

Now, I am not a fundamentalist, and I don’t believe in the Antichrist (who, it turns out, was mentioned only once in an obscure biblical reference), so I don't mean to draw too close a parallel here.  But it does strike me that one of the salient characteristics of Hitler, the Antichrist, and all demagogues who seek to manipulate nations, is to promise them great benefits if only they will see the wonderfulness of their promises and follow their lead. In this case, Dow & colleagues are promoting genetically-engineered (GE) seeds and promise better crop yields, better resistance to plant diseases and insects, and shorter time between planting and maturity.  Wonderful, isn't it? 

The tiny, inconsequential, nit-picking downside happens to be that the farmers cannot use seeds from GE crops to grow the next year’s crops - - they will not germinate.  Farmers planting GE crops must buy new seed from Dow every year.   Also, although Dow claims that farmers can plant their GE crops in carefully bounded areas so that they won't affect other, natural crops by cross-pollination, experience has shown that bees, birds and the wind, not being in the employ of Dow, happily cross-pollinate the non-GE fields.  The implications are that eventually Dow will have effective control of the world's food supplies.  A truly horrifying prospect.  Cross-pollination could make reversing the widespread use of GE seeds almost impossible. 

But for now promoters of GE foods, both Dow and complaisant (or blind, or toady) governments, have buried this objection.   The question of unforeseen allergic and other reactions to GE foods (including cloned beef and pork) also has not been thoroughly addressed and impartially resolved.  Doubtless some of these consequences could manifest only in the long term.   But for now Dow are trumpeting how nice they are, and how responsible, by not overtly poisoning the American people through pesticides designed into the GE seeds (although some butterfly species are known to be at risk). 

Possibly true, but that masks the larger, long-term problem, namely that Dow agribusiness will have a throttlehold on commercially-produced world food. By comparison, global warming seems like a picnic in the park on a summer’ day. 

And they say that we should beware of the Antichrist?  Bah!  Between corporate greed, congressional corruption, worldwide military adventurism, religious fanaticism, AIDS, global warming, germ warfare, nuclear proliferation, rising sea levels, a global shortage of fresh water, insane disregard of the environment, unchecked and unsustainable population growth, and - - horror of horrors - - the possibility that some soldier might say "sh*t" on a TV interview, or that there might be a same-sex marriage somewhere in the US, thus bringing Western Civilization to its knees, I suggest to fundamentalists anticipating some future disaster that the Antichrist already is alive and well on this planet, and is "getting the job done."

The potential consequences of using GE crops seem to be lost in the superficial but overwhelming media fenzy over the forthcoming election, as are so many truly disastrous consequences of our own and worldwide greed, hate and blind stupidity. Intelligent discussion about the issues that well might kill us seem to far exceed our collective attention span. The international quest for nuclear weapons goes on unabated, and petty tyrants continue to place the world at risk.  This planet truly is an asylum for the criminally insane that is run by the inmates.   

So is there any hope that a new, presumably Democratic, administration will led us out of this lethal morass? I am not optimistic. Despite your heartfelt wishes and warm fuzzies, no current (or conceivable) presidential candidate is going to turn this around.  When are y'all gonna realize that we already are very, very far down a very, very slippery slope.  Irregardless (love that word!) of which voting lever we throw next year, it ain't gonna change much.  Historically, violence, hate, and simplistic promises have not clarified the issues that bedevil our species.  

I doubt that campaign promises, no matter how vaguely comforting (on the Democratic side), or simplistically militant (on the Republican side) are redeemable. The real levers of power in this country and abroad are firmly in the hands of the same old crews who brought the world disaster after disaster, world without end, for at least the past three millennia.  They might permit a few changes here and there to placate the people and create the illusion of  progress, but you can bet the farm (Ah! That is exactly what we do!) that beneath this cosmetic surface layer there is a steel core that will not change.  Never has, never will.  Unless, of course, Christian  prophecy is correct and Jesus will arrive at the head of an avenging army, putting to the sword all whom He deems unworthy.  Hmnnn…  That sounds like the same old scenario, doesn’t it? 

Please, please, try to keep in mind that basically nice guys (and/or ladies) do not lust for power and become congresspersons, corporate executives, admirals, generals, heads of organized religions, heads of HMOs, corporate law partners, obscenely rich physicians and surgeons, heads of the STASI or the NKVD or the CIA, international bankers, religious fanatics of any stripe, misogynists, anti-Semites, white supremacists, guards at Abu Ghraib, neo-Nazis, corrupt and brutal heads of third-world governments, fomenters of ethnic cleansing.... 

But you get my point.   Now tell me, again, how Obama and/or Hillary and/or McCain is going to make this all go away, or even effect any significant change.  I am not preaching a philosophy of complete despair (although a good case can be made for it).  I am suggesting (pleading?) that you (whoever you are) get realistic..... It took at least five administrations to so significantly dismantle our nation, its fundamental values and its constitution (and Bill Clinton’s open fly really had nothing at all to do with this. That brouhaha was an absurdity, and his real failings never surfaced). 

Einstein once said that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.” I do not mean to suggest that a new administration, one with some courage and some integrity (both in tragically short supply) cannot effect some positive changes.  Were that to happen, my feelings would be those of Churchill after the British 1942 victory at El Alamein: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."  

As I have observed before, Bush & co. have unleashed forces of hate and violence that now cannot easily (if at all) be contained.  That terrible genie is out of the bottle, and long after Dubya is an unpleasant memory, generations will suffer and will have reason to revile him for the legacy he left to our children and grandchildren.  It all has happened many times before, but I wonder if it will happen again, because now we have the power to exterminate ourselves. 

Einstein was correct when he said, after being asked what the next war would be fought with, said that he didn't know,. But that the one after that would be fought with clubs.  


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Bob Richardson is a retired electrical engineer and information specialist. He lives in New England.
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