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The Oakland Institute:Communities Versus Pharmaceutical Conglomerates:How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology's Promise

MARCH 29, 2007
1:06 PM

CONTACT: The Oakland Institute
Anuradha Mittal, (510) 469-5228;

Communities Versus Pharmaceutical Conglomerates:
How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology's Promise

(Oakland, CA) - A new policy brief from the Oakland Institute, How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology's Promise, exposes how pharmaceutical conglomerates are using the agricultural sector to underwrite their research and development efforts as they work to transform plants and animals into drug and organ factories to further their profits.

While there are over 30 protein-based medicines in the market and an additional 371 in the research and development phase, using single cells to produce biotech drugs, also known as biologics, is a complicated and time-consuming process. This has pushed the pharmaceutical industry to invest heavily in biotechnology and begin "pharming" - a term combining farming and pharmaceutical - whereby genetic material from a foreign species is inserted into a plant or animal with the intent of extracting novel pharmaceutical products from the resulting tissues, fluids, and organs.

"Ancient alchemists dreamed of transmuting base metals into gold, discovering a universal cure for disease, and indefinitely prolonging life. Biotechnologists are now promising to convert soil and sunlight into the building blocks of human life," said Michael Heimbinder, Oakland Institute Fellow and author of the policy brief. "This experiment, unprecedented in human history, masquerades as a humanitarian effort directed toward growing more food and feeding more people. In reality, these claims are a smoke screen for the development and monopolization of proprietary biotechnology platforms that ultimately will be deployed towards more profitable ends than growing more corn."

"GE crops have little to do with growing food and feeding people," said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, publisher of the policy brief. "Agricultural biotechnology has been financed by the promise of future profits from products unrelated to food. Food is merely the conduit through which the pharmaceutical conglomerates hope to develop and monopolize the basic technologies that promise profits far exceeding any imaginable from high-yielding crops bearing vitamin-fortified food."

The policy brief also exposes how taxpayer dollars have supported the failures of biotechnology. The industry has increased the demand for GE seeds through government supports, subsidizing their supply through public research, and crafting a regulatory framework in which these products might receive society's stamp of approval. "All this has been done in the name of creating a more productive agriculture, when the 'Gene Revolution' simply represents the latest frontier in the laboratory's struggle to subject farms and farming to the logic of capital," said Michael Heimbinder. "The space wherein the productivity of agriculture will be enhanced - the genome - is inaccessible to farmers even though it exists in their fields and sheds."

The policy brief warns against using resources earmarked for agriculture to shore up the finances of the pharmaceutical industry and recommends several online resources for readers to take action to reverse this trend.

How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology's Promise is a publication of the Oakland Institute, a think tank for research, analysis, and action whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues.

Download the Policy Brief (

Take Action: Support AB 541, The Food And Farm Protection Act (>


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