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                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #108     A Publication of The Nature Institute          July 6, 2000
              Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    NetFuture is a reader-supported publication.
    Editor's Note
    Golden Genes and World Hunger (Craig Holdrege and Stephen L. Talbott)
       Let them eat transgenic rice?
       Re-thinking the World as Information (Michael Curry)
    Announcements and Resources
       Techno-Eugenics Newsletter
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    The effort to rehabilitate the public reputation of genetic engineering is
    well under way.  The idea is to focus on applications that seem
    unassailably beneficial for mankind.  Weird (fish genes in strawberry
    plants) is out; overcoming nutritional deficiencies, increasing world food
    output (for example, with engineered salmon that grow five times as fast
    as normal), and "pharming" for precious drugs are all in.
    If this spin-control effort succeeds in soothing the public's fears about
    genetic engineering, it will only be because the public has lost sight of
    the issues that were the core of concern from the very start.  As part of
    an effort to place these issues in a clear light, Craig Holdrege and I
    take a look here at the new, genetically engineered "golden rice".
    I mentioned in the last issue some difficulties that were making it nearly
    impossible for me to keep up with email.  You can now add to those a case
    of pneumonia and, on a more ongoing basis, the sudden, unexpected
    responsibility, devolving upon my wife and me, for the care of an elderly
    woman requiring round-the-clock attention.  NetFuture's schedule will
    therefore remain extremely uncertain this summer, and I will be making
    almost no effort to deal with email.  For important business, please feel
    free to contact me at 518-672-0116 or send a fax to 518-672-4270.
    Goto table of contents
                                  Craig Holdrege
                                 Stephen L. Talbott
    One of the casualties of technology-dominated life has been the tradition
    of conversation around the dinner table.  Whatever words we do exchange at
    mealtime are more likely aimed at the minimal coordination of our
    centrifugally driven lives than at sustaining the richly patterned
    textures of meaning conversation can evoke.
    But our abandonment of conversation extends far beyond the dinner table.
    Our broader social relations, and also our dialogue with the natural
    world, have contracted toward mere informational exchange, leaving us
    bereft of larger patterns of meaning.  When you lose the shifting,
    multiply-focused, metaphoric, and life-supporting qualities of
    conversation, what you have left is the attempt -- useful as far as it
    goes -- to formulate well-behaved problems susceptible to well-defined
    solutions.  To do this you must employ the narrow, precisely formed
    language of manipulation and control -- a language we have come near to
    perfecting.  While this language may offer little in the way of
    understanding or meaningful engagement with the other, it does bring the
    very real satisfaction of more or less effective power.
    If the impressive drive toward effective power has taken special hold in
    any one scientific discipline, surely it is genetic engineering.  And if
    this drive can display beneficent potentials, how better to do it than by
    placing a daily bowl of genetically engineered "golden rice" on the dinner
    tables of millions of Asian children, thereby saving them from immense
    This hope, many researchers believe, is now nearing fulfillment.  But a
    full conversation around that envisioned bowl of rice has yet to occur.
    And until it does occur, we will have no means to assess the technical
    achievements represented by the bowl.  In what follows we venture some
    preliminary contributions toward such a conversation.
    Beyond Frankenfoods
    Transgenic golden rice does not yet fill the bowls of hungry Asian
    children.  But the possibility that it will is the bright hope of
    scientists and biotech companies beaten down by the consumer backlash
    against the rapid and largely covert introduction of genetically modified
    organisms into global food supplies.  The advertisement for golden rice,
    widely broadcast, is that it avoids all the pitfalls associated with the
    ill-fated "Frankenfoods" that so unsettled the buying public.
    What lends this new, experimental rice its golden color is the presence of
    beta-carotene within the part of the kernel -- the endosperm -- that
    remains behind (normally as "white rice") after milling and polishing (Ye
    et al. 2000).  Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A; the human body
    can use it to form the vitamin.  This is important because millions of
    children, especially in Asia, suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which can
    lead to blindness.
    By most accounts the virtues of golden rice are many:
    ** It is not the product of profit-seeking biotech companies.  The
    research, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swiss government, and
    the European Union, was performed at Swiss and German universities.
    ** The researchers stressed that, once the rice proves viable in field
    plantings, it will be freely distributed.  No patents will block access to
    the rice by third-world farmers.  (Just recently a slightly revised
    version of this promise has emerged:  the scientists announced that they
    had reached a licensing agreement with the giant pharmaceutical company
    AstraZeneca and a smaller German company, Greenovation.  The companies
    will donate seeds to developing countries and sell seeds to developed
    countries.  Donated seeds will be distributed to government-run centers
    that will pass the seeds on to farmers.  As long as the farmers do not
    earn more than $10,000 annually from the sale of golden rice, they need
    not pay any royalties.  See Financial Times, May 16, 20000; Associated
    Press, May 16, 2000)
    ** Rice naturally makes beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which are
    present throughout the plant -- except in the endosperm.  The genetic
    manipulation producing golden rice is simply designed to extend this
    natural production of beta-carotene into an additional part of the plant.
    In her commentary on this research in Science, Dartmouth biologist Mary
    Lou Guerinot suggests that the fears of most opponents of genetically
    modified foods will be allayed by the new rice (Guerinot 2000).  After
    all, it's a far cry from transferring fish genes into plants.
    ** Unlike with many of the current genetically modified organisms, golden
    rice poses no risk of increased pest resistance to herbicides or
    ** And, of course, the primary virtue of golden rice is its announced
    potential for solving problems of hunger and malnutrition in developing
    nations.  Such a purpose hardly seems gratuitous or grasping.  Who could
    possibly object?
    So golden rice, as we now hear the story, looks rather like a "silver
    bullet" -- a one-shot, almost magical solution to a major problem.  It
    turns out, however, that the situation is much more complex than the usual
    story allows.
    The immediate challenge for researchers is to develop hardy strains of the
    transgenic rice, and then to convince Asian growers to plant the new
    strains.  But this is barely to touch upon the conversational complexities
    the researchers must negotiate if they wish to enter constructively into
    the modern contexts of hunger and malnutrition.  Here, briefly, are a few
    of the themes that need taking up.
    If You Grow the Rice, Can You Deliver It to Those Who Need It?
    The sobering fact is that "nearly eighty percent of all malnourished
    children in the developing world in the early 1990s lived in coutries that
    boasted food surpluses" (Gardner and Halweil 2000, p. 17).  The Green
    Revolution in Asia brought about a shift toward intensive cultivation of
    fewer crops like wheat and rice, which are often grown for export.
    Traditional diverse polycultures have yielded to large monocultures.
    At the same time -- and at least in part due to the Green Revolution and
    other technology-driven change -- hundreds of millions of people have
    migrated from rural to urban areas in Asia during the past few decades.
    Mostly poverty-stricken, these transplants take up residence in the ever-
    expanding slums around cities.  Their problem is that they can't buy the
    food they need.  Golden rice will do them no good if they can't afford it
    -- and if they can afford it, then it is not clear what the new rice
    offers that would not be offered better by a more traditional and diverse
    Every green part of a plant contains beta-carotene.  When Indian scientist
    and activist Vandana Shiva was asked what alternative she saw to golden
    rice, she cited "the 200 kinds of greens we grow on our farms".  (See also
    Shiva 2000.)  Traditional cultures never subsist on rice alone.  In
    addition to the many different types of greens grown in India, wheat,
    millet, and various legumes are cultivated, not to mention the wild greens
    gathered from the countryside.  Such polycultures develop differently in
    each region, but all allow, as long as there is enough food, for a
    balanced, life-sustaining diet.
    It needs recognizing that what we in the western world embrace as export-
    driven economic growth has contributed to the problem of hunger in
    developing nations (Lappe et al. 1998).  Golden rice can be seen in part
    as a one-dimensional attempt to "fix" a problem created by the Green
    Revolution -- namely the problem of diminished crop and dietary diversity.
    But the fix offers no direct help to those who have been displaced by the
    revolution and who cannot buy the food they need.
    There are alternative approaches that do more justice to the complex
    geographical, historical, social, political, and economic issues.  In 1993
    the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, collaborating with
    nongovernmental organizations such as Helen Keller International, began a
    program to help poor people in Bangladesh grow a diverse array of plants
    to combat vitamin A deficiency (reported in Koechlin 2000).  In areas
    where people have at least small plots of land, families -- usually
    mothers become the driving force of such projects -- were introduced to
    different carotene-rich varieties of fruits and vegetables and they
    learned cultivation methods.  Landless families were shown how they could
    plant vines in pots on outside walls.  They then planted beans and
    squashes that can grow up the vines.
    When women noticed the positive health effects of their new diet, news
    spread by word of mouth, and now approximately 600,000 households (about
    three million people) participate in this project.  This is, relatively
    speaking, a small number, but the project is promising because it can
    become part of cultural tradition.  It empowers people instead of making
    them dependent on western aid.
    Scientists evaluating the project found that the general health of the
    participants improved and that even small plots can provide sufficient
    vitamin A in the diet.  Moreover, the more different kinds of fruits and
    vegetables people ate, the better the uptake of carotene -- an
    illustration of the inherent value of natural variety in the diet.
    After assessing a number of such projects, John Lupien of the Food and
    Agriculture Organization concludes:  "A single-nutrient approach toward a
    nutrition-related public health problem is usually, with the exception of
    perhaps iodine or selenium deficiencies, neither feasible nor desirable"
    (quoted in Koechlin 2000).
    If You Deliver the Rice, Will They Eat It?
    "We must not think", writes Jacques Ellul, "that people who are the
    victims of famine will eat anything.  Western people might, since they no
    longer have any beliefs or traditions or sense of the sacred.  But not
    others.  We have thus to destroy the whole social structure, for food is
    one of the structures of society" (Ellul 1990, p. 53).
    Billions of Asians subsist on rice, which they mostly consume as white
    rice.  To obtain white rice you must first remove the husks from rough or
    paddy rice, leaving the brown rice kernel.  Then you must remove the
    embryo and bran layers by milling and polishing.  These discarded,
    nutrient-rich layers happen to contain carotene.  What is left after
    polishing is the shiny white endosperm -- mainly starch.
    This raises the obvious question:  why not solve the problem of
    nutritionally inadequate rice by getting people to eat brown rice,
    containing protein, carotene, and various micronutrients?
    The issues, again, are complex.  Brown rice does not keep well in the
    humid South Asian climates, which is the reason scientists usually cite
    for Asians eating white rice.  But while most rice is milled and sold as
    white rice, the rough rice kernel -- still enveloped by its husk -- can in
    fact be stored for long periods.  The agronomist Heinz Bruecher observed
    that "the small farmer in Asia proceeds differently and avoids polishing
    by husking only as much rice as he needs at a time.  In this way he always
    has a nutritious grain in storage" (Bruecher 1982, p. 58).  Perhaps this
    practice could be encouraged.
    But we must also reckon with the cultural traditions related to white
    rice.  In Asia rice is not just something that is ingested like we eat
    french fries.  It is steeped in thousands of years of culture and
    tradition.  Different shapes, sizes, and cooking consistencies are
    preferred, depending on the context:  everyday rice, rice for special
    occasions, rice for flour, rice to accompany other specific foods, and
    rice for ceremonies.
    The whiteness of rice also has spiritual connotations:
       There is more to eating than merely ingesting nourishment to survive,
       more to living than merely surviving.  Confucius in 500 BC knew this
       well as he preached the gospel of a virtuous, yet graceful life.  He
       was a stickler for excellence and ceremony at the table and insisted on
       the pure whiteness of rice in sheer, elegant porcelain bowls as a
       background for light emerald-green vegetables picked at their succulent
       zenith, golden brown stir-fried morsel of duck, pork or fish, and deep
       red jujube dates.
       "Come eat rice with me" is the most gracious greeting in Chinese
       hospitality.  In old China, families kept two crocks of rice, a large
       one of gleaming, white polished rice for the family, a smaller one of
       coarse brown rice for seeking one more day of existence.  (Gin 1975)
    The sensory symbolism of "pure whiteness", or "emerald-green" shows how a
    religious culture judges food as a spiritual-physical reality.  The diet
    Confucius recommends is, in more prosaic terms, nutritionally balanced.
    People who use white rice experience it as being lighter and easier to
    digest, and find that it allows the taste of other foods to come to the
    fore.  It is prepared in many different ways.  In the context of a varied
    diet, white rice is an integral part of Asian cuisine.
    Only the beggar receives the more nutritious brown rice -- but without
    anything else -- allowing him to eke out one more day.  So it is that
    white rice can become a symbol for high social and economic status in
    Asian cultures.  When the poor emulate the rich by consuming white rice,
    they are actually putting their already precarious health in greater
    danger.  In this way social inequality accentuates nutritional problems.
    It would be reasonable to encourage the use of brown rice throughout Asia,
    but any such program must reckon with deeply rooted cultural traditions.
    Certainly the new golden rice will bump up against these traditions, and
    it is not at all clear how the resulting conversation will play itself
    out.  If we wish to engage in the conversation at all, the question is
    whether it makes more sense to push the one-dimensional "solution" offered
    by golden rice, or instead to cultivate the potentials of a traditional,
    diverse diet, possibly in conjunction with greater use of brown rice.
    If They Eat the Rice, Will It Do Them Any Good?
    If golden rice replaces white rice in the Asian diet, can we be sure this
    will solve the vitamin A deficiency problem?  That is, leaving the social
    issues aside, will the silver bullet at least strike its immediate, narrow
    Not necessarily.  It is a naive understanding of nutrition -- encouraged
    by a habit of input-output thinking -- that says you can add a substance
    to food and the body will automatically use it.  Beta-carotene is fat-
    soluble and its uptake by the intestines depends upon fat or oil in the
    diet (Erdman et al. 1993).  White rice itself does not provide the
    necessary fats and oils, and poor, malnourished people usually do not have
    ample supplies of fat-rich or oil-rich foods.  If they were to eat golden
    rice without fats or oils, much of the beta-carotene would pass undigested
    through the intestinal tract.
    Moreover, fats and also enzymes (which are proteins) enable carotene and
    vitamin A to move from the intestines to the liver, where they are stored.
    Proteins are bound to the vitamin in the liver, and enzymes are again
    required for transport to the different body tissues where the vitamin is
    utilized.  A person who suffers protein-related malnutrition and lacks
    dietary fats and oils will have a disturbed vitamin A metabolism.
    In sum, carotene uptake, vitamin A synthesis, and the distribution and
    utilization of vitamin A in the body all depend on what else a person
    eats, together with his physiological state.  You can't just give people
    more carotene and expect results.  There is no substitute for a healthily
    diverse diet.
    Who Will Grow the Golden Rice?
    Of the many thousands of rice varieties grown in Asia, most are local land
    races.  Despite the introduction of high-yielding varieties in the Green
    Revolution, Indian farmers still use traditional varieties in over 58
    percent of the rice acreage (Kshirsagar and Pandey 1997).  These varieties
    serve their desire for different types of rice, while also providing the
    diversity needed within local ecological settings.  The number of
    varieties a farmer grows tends to increase with the variability of
    conditions on the farm.
    For example, when they don't irrigate, farmers in Cambodia plant varieties
    with regard to early, medium, and late flowering and harvesting dates;
    eating qualities (such as aroma, softness, expansion, and shape);
    potential yield; and cultural practices (Jackson 1995).  In India a farmer
    might have high, medium, and low terraces for planting.  The low terraces
    are wetter and prone to flooding; they are planted with local, long-
    growing varieties.  In contrast, the upper terraces dry out more rapidly
    after the rains, so farmers plant them with drought-resistant, rapidly
    maturing varieties.  Altogether a farmer may plant up to ten different
    rice varieties -- a picture of diversity and dynamic relations within a
    local setting (Kshirsagar and Pandey 1997).
    This multiformity has evolved locally and regionally over long periods.
    Since the Green Revolution, more and more farmers plant, in addition to
    land races, high-yielding varieties.  The price they pay for this progress
    is dependence on irrigation, fertilizers, and herbicides.  The use of
    insecticides has become widespread, although they have been shown to be
    ineffective (Pingali et al. 1997, chapter 11).  (Sometimes the highest,
    if also most mindless, recommendation for western, industrial-style
    agricultural practices in the third world is that they're "modern".)
    The locally evolved land varieties, in contrast, tend to be more drought-
    and pest-resistant.
    Imagine transgenic golden rice in this context.  Currently this rice
    exists only in a laboratory variety.  The next step is to make transgenic
    varieties that can do well under field conditions.  Then large-scale seed
    production could begin and also interbreeding with other varieties.  If
    bred into high-yielding varieties, golden rice would be grown primarily on
    large, export-oriented farms.  In this case the rice would do little to
    alleviate Asia's food problems -- and, who knows, it might even end up
    being exported to America and Europe.
    If, on the other hand, the golden rice DNA is introduced into varieties
    that small farmers use, then these new, transgenic varieties will be
    subject to local practices and conditions.  What started out as an
    isolated laboratory variety would gradually intermix and change, probably
    looking very different in different places.  Whether the genetic
    alteration would prove stable in the midst of this flux is a real
    question.  Although no one can say what will happen, one can say:
    things will change.  It is unrealistic to think you can simply introduce a
    new plant and that it will then produce carotene on demand.  Genetically
    engineered plants are not immune to context.
    What Will Rice Make of Its Golden Genes?
    The fundamental problem with genetic engineering from the very beginning
    has been the absence of anything like an ecological approach.  Genes are
    not the unilateral "controllers" of the cell's "mechanisms".  Rather,
    genes enter into a vast and as yet scarcely monitored conversation with
    each other and with all the other parts of the cell.  Who it is that
    speaks through the whole of this conversation -- what unity expresses
    itself through the entire organism -- is a question the genetic engineers
    have not yet even raised, let alone begun to answer.
    But without an awareness of the organism as a whole, we can hardly guess
    the consequences of the most "innocent" genetic modification.  The analogy
    with ecological studies is a close one.  Change one element of the complex
    balance -- in an ecological setting or within an organism -- and you change
    everything.  It is a notorious truth that our initial expectations of an
    altered ecological setting often prove horribly off-target.  And the
    possibility of improving our discernment depends directly upon our
    intimate familiarity with the setting as a whole in all its minutia and
    Certain herbicides kill plants by bleaching them -- that is, by disrupting
    carotene metabolism and blocking photosynthesis.  When scientists
    genetically altered tobacco plants to give them herbicide resistance, some
    of the plants indeed proved resistant to an array of herbicides (Misawa et
    al. 1994).  Unexpectedly, however, leaves of the transgenic plants
    produced greater amounts of one group of carotenes and smaller amounts of
    another group, while the overall carotene production remained about
    normal.  In some unknown way the genetic manipulation affected the balance
    of carotene metabolism, but the plant as a whole asserted its integrity by
    keeping the overall production of carotene constant.
    Such unexpected effects are typical, expressing the active, adaptive
    nature of organisms.  An organism is not a passive container we can fill
    up with biotech contrivances.  Even when scientists try to change the
    narrowest trait of an organism, the organism itself responds and adapts as
    a whole.
    When tomatoes were engineered for increased carotene production, some
    plants did make more carotene, but often in places where they wouldn't
    normally produce much of the substance -- for instance, in the seeds, the
    seed leaves, and the area where the tomato breaks off the stem (Fray et
    al. 1995).  In addition, the plants produced more and different kinds of
    carotene than expected.  More surprisingly still, the plants were dwarfed.
    The more carotene a plant produced, the smaller it was.  Because a
    substance that normally stimulates growth in plants (giberillin A) was
    reduced thirty-fold, the scientists assume that the carotene increase
    interfered with giberillin production.
    This is not an isolated example of how genetic manipulations can affect
    the vitality of a plant.  In the first successful alterations of rice to
    produce precursors of vitamin A, half the transgenic plants were infertile
    (Burkhardt et al. 1997).  Of course, infertile or markedly dwarfed plants
    are left by the wayside, while the researchers select the most desirable
    specimens for their breeding stock.  But unexpected effects are not always
    as apparent as dwarfed tomato plants.
    The transgenic golden rice plants were reported to be "phenotypically
    normal" (Ye et al. 2000).  This statement needs to be read:  "no visible
    modifications were noted".  The researchers evidently didn't undertake a
    biochemical analysis of the kernels to see how their overall content might
    have changed.  What doesn't a golden rice kernel produce as a result of
    the plant's breaking down excessive amounts of carotene?  What new
    substances does it produce?  And what are the changed balances among
    substances normally present?  The more one learns about the flexible and
    dynamic nature of organisms -- demonstrated so clearly by genetic
    engineering experiments themselves -- the more one comes to expect the
    unexpected and to realize that we cannot know what subtle effects a
    manipulation may have.
    How many genetic engineers have pondered the remarkable fact that rice,
    despite the myriad varieties that have arisen over thousands of years,
    never produces carotene in the endosperm of the kernel?  The rest of the
    above-ground plant makes carotene, and the endosperm should (according to
    prevailing conceptions) have the genes that would allow it to produce
    carotene.  But it never does so.  Certainly that should give us pause to
    consider what we're doing.  Might the excess carotene in the seed affect
    in some way the nourishment and growth of a germinating rice plant?  What
    does it mean to force upon the plant a characteristic it consistently
    avoids?  Can we claim to be acting responsibly when we overpower the
    plant, coercing a performance from it before we understand the reasons for
    its natural reticence?
    Organisms are not mechanisms that can be altered in a clear-cut,
    determinate manner.  The fact is that we simply don't know what we're
    doing when we manipulate them as if they were such mechanisms.  The golden
    kernels of rice almost certainly herald much more than a novel supply of
    A Disproportionate Interest in Silver Bullets
    We often hear that biotechnology is merely doing what high-yield breeding,
    industrial agriculture, and nutritional science have done all along -- but
    now much more efficiently.  In one sense that's exactly right and also
    exactly the problem:  we don't need more of the same.  What we need is to
    overcome an epidemic of abstract, technological thought that conceives
    solutions in the absence of organic contexts.  We need a refined ability
    to enhance life's variety rather than destroy it.  And we need to realize
    that the problems of life and society are not malfunctions to be fixed;
    they are conversations to be entered into more or less deeply.  The more
    deeply we participate in the conversation, the more thickly textured and
    revelatory it becomes, reacting upon all the meanings we brought to the
    The engineering mindset that tries to insert individual traits into rice
    by manipulating particular genes is closely allied to the long-standing
    agricultural mindset that tries to improve crop yields in a purely
    quantitative sense by injecting the right amounts of NPK (nitrogen,
    phosphate, and potash) into the soil.  On this view the soil offers little
    more than a structural support for the roots.  At the same time, it is a
    kind of hydroponic medium into which we place the various "inputs" that we
    can identify as requirements for plant growth.
    What this approach overlooks is ... well, just about everything.  Fixated
    upon inputs, outputs, and uptake mechanisms, it loses sight of the
    unsurveyed, nearly infinite complexity of life in a healthy, compost-
    enriched soil.  The truth of the matter is that whatever we can do to
    enhance the diverse, living processes of the soil will likely improve the
    quality of the crop, and yet an input-output mentality proceeds to destroy
    the life of the soil through simple-minded chemical applications.  Our
    silver bullets, much too narrowly targeted, rip through the fabric of the
    life-sustaining context.
    Sponsors of the green and genetic revolutions are not inclined to ask what
    is lost when input-intensive, high-yield monocultures replace the kind of
    local diversity that results in thousands of local rice varieties
    throughout Asia.  We have never heard a biotechnologist venture the
    thought that local varieties may actually -- through their long history of
    co-evolution with the people who bred them -- be uniquely adapted to the
    nutritional needs and dietary complexities of the local population.
    The adaptation is not hard to imagine when you consider beta-carotene.
    Plants make many different types of carotene; beta-carotene is only one
    member of a large family of substances.  Each species of green, squash, or
    brown rice produces its own unique array of carotenes, with different
    types and amounts arising in different tissues depending on changing
    conditions.  Numerous species-specific carotenes have scarcely been
    Similarly, human beings need different kinds of carotenes, and, as long as
    a reasonably diversity of crops is available, each individual will draw
    out of his food what he needs.  But what if, in the name of this or that
    specific "input" abstracted from the complex, nutritional matrix of life,
    we proceed to destroy the matrix?  The disproportionate hope placed in
    golden rice, together with its salesmen's casual disregard of biological
    and social context, suggests the likelihood of precisely such destructive
    There are no silver bullets in any profound conversation.  There is only a
    progressive deepening of meaning.  Or, if we prefer the satisfaction of
    unambiguous bits of information, then -- whether we conceive those bits as
    genes or NPK or the dietary inputs of Asian children -- we abandon the
    wholeness and coherence of the conversation altogether.  We can, in this
    case, certainly proceed with our narrow programs of manipulation and
    control, which are what we have left when we give up on conversation.  But
    the results will be no more satisfying than a diet of rice alone.
    (Craig Holdrege, the primary author of this paper, is director and Stephen L.
    Talbott is senior researcher at The Nature Institute in Ghent, New York.
    The Nature Institute is dedicated to pursuing a science of nature rather
    than of mechanisms assumed to lie behind nature.  This is a qualitative
    science, contextual and holistic in spirit, and ethically informed in
    immediate practice rather than in afterthought.  The Nature Institute also
    promotes humane uses of technology rather than mechanical uses of humans.
    Email: nature@taconic.net.)
    Related articles:
    ** "The Tyranny of the Gene" by Craig Holdrege in NF #80.
    ** "Is Genetic Engineering `Natural'?" in NF #75.
    ** "The Trouble with Genetic Engineering" in NF #31, a review of Craig
       Holdrege's Genetics and the Manipulation of Life: The Forgotten Factor
       of Context.
    ** "Finding Wholeness in a Pile of Manure" in NF #79.
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    Frankfurt am Main: Waldemar Kramer.
    Burkhardt, P. et al. (1997).  Transgenic Rice (Oryza sativa)
    Endosperm Expressing .... The Plant Journal 11:1071-1078.
    Ellul J. (1990).  The Technological Bluff, translated by Geoffrey
    W.  Bromiley.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
    Erdman, J. et al. (1993).  Absorption and Transport of Carotenoids, in
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    Fray, R. et al. (1995).  Constitutive Expression of a Fruit Phytoene
    Synthase Gene .... The Plant Journal 8:693-701.
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    Re-thinking the World as Information
    Response to:  "Mark Pesce's Earth Toy" (NF-107)
    From:  Michael Curry (curry@geog.ucla.edu)
    I found your piece on Mark Pesce's Earth Toy really interesting.  I share
    your unease.
    I've been working for a number of years on issues related to geographic
    information systems, including issues about privacy and more generally
    about the relationship between the GIS model of the world and the ways in
    which people think about the world, and the environment.
    Pesce's piece strongly echoes a talk Gore gave in L.A. a few years ago, on
    what he termed "Digital Earth."  Gore promoted the idea as an educational
    tool -- pick up the digital earth and manipulate it.  He of course saw it
    as a tool for increasing environmental awareness; my own rather more
    pessimistic view is that it is yet another means for rethinking the world
    as simply information.  And that "picking it up and manipulating it" is a
    model for thinking about the earth as something that one can truly
    That talk was picked up by the GIS community as a sort of rallying cry,
    and has been often cited as a justification for amplifying the ties
    between GIS and digital libraries.
    At the same time, Gore's talk looks backwards toward Gelernter's Mirror
    Best wishes,
    Michael R. Curry Professor, Department of Geography 1255 Bunche Hall
    University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 90095
    Voice   310-825-3122 Fax     305-425-0724 Web
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       This newsletter is intended to alert and inform concerned individuals
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    Edited by Dr. Marcy Darnovsky, the newsletter contains reviews, news,
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    subscribe, send an email request to Marcy (teel@adax.com).
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                              ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
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    Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #108 :: July 6, 2000
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