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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #74       Copyright 1998 Bridge Communications          July 9, 1998
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Quotes and Provocations
          Garbling the Seeds of the Future
          The Teacher Is Central, but `Teaching' Is Not
          What Is Balance?
          Are We All Petty Bureaucrats?
          Complex, Emergent, Self-organizing Nonsense
    *** Correspondence
          When Search Engines Are No Longer Independent (Kevin Jones)
    *** Announcements and Resources
          Making Education Whole
    *** Who Said That?
    *** About this newsletter

    What Readers Are Saying about NETFUTURE

    It's funny that I should find your NETFUTURE newsletter now, when I'm hitting my head against the overwhelming emptiness of my career connecting people with computers. I find here eloquent expression of what have been formless and nagging doubts .... So what is a person to do when all her skills are tied to computers? Start over at McDonalds?

    (For the identity of the speaker,
    see "Who Said That?" below.)

    *** Quotes and Provocations

    Garbling the Seeds of the Future

    Anyone who thinks new technologies are "only tools", which we can selectively use in whatever way we want, should look at the continuing transformation of agriculture. A few relevant developments:

    ** The United States has been quarreling with Europe regarding the export of genetically altered seed and food products to European markets. European agencies have insisted on labels so that concerned citizens can choose, while U.S. officials bluntly state their own concern: "Strict adherence to labeling requirements would do damage to our trade" (Timothy Galvin, Department of Agriculture). The sooner the transgenic products get inextricably mixed up with conventional products in the enormously complex food industry, the happier these officials will be.

    ** They needn't wait for long. "Our genes are incorporated into approximately nineteen million acres around the world -- covering an area larger than Switzerland and the Netherlands combined", according to Tom McDermott of Monsanto. And that's just one company. Further, no laws and regulations can prevent insects from carrying pollen from one plant to another; the problem of determining what is transgenic and what isn't may eventually become insoluble.

    So when the seed companies complain of vagueness in the labeling requirements, they have a point. There's also the question of second and third-order effects. Should milk, for example, be labeled if the cows producing it h