Politics of the Apocalypse

Spectacular claims

Excerpts from Turning Point biotechnology advertisements in The New York Times:

"The genetic structures of living beings are the last of Nature's creations to be invaded and altered for commerce. Now they're being seized for corporate ownership. Nothing will ever be the same, and we approach the gravest moral, social and ecological crises in history."

"The industry says some of these experiments may save lives, but so far there are few successes. There's a greater or equal chance for terribly negative consequences."

"Over the next few years, the biotechnology industry will dump hundreds of thousands of genetically engineered plants and animals into the environment. This brings grave risk of destructive - and irreversible - genetic pollution. It's time for an immediate moratorium on this practice."

"Decades of chemical pollution have left us with such hazards as global warming, the ozone hole, and toxic waste. Now, with the growth of the biotechnology industry, a new kind of pollution threatens entire ecosystems: genetic pollution."

"There is no compelling public need for any genetically modified product to be released into the environment. There is, instead, a compelling public need to screen all such products for biosafety. Meanwhile, it's only common sense to propose a five-year moratorium on new releases, and develop appropriate global protocols."

"Earth's four-billion-year genetic legacy is at stake."

Fight or flight

So far, the U.S. biotechnology industry's response to challenges posed by activists has been minimal, at best. A year ago, when BioCentury began warning that the