Green symbolism in the genetic modification debate

  • Scott I
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The character of the current controversy over genetically modified (GM) agriculture, typified by protesters' use of emotive symbolism, has been largely inspired by the Green movement's non-governmental organizations and political parties. This article explores the deeper philosophical and spiritual motivations of the Green movement, to inquire why it is implacably opposed to GM agriculture. The Green movement's anti-capitalism, exemplified by the hate-symbol status of Monsanto as the company pioneering GM crops, is viewed within the wider context of alienation in the modern era. A complex of meanings is seen in Frankenstein as the focal symbol of GM protests, including perceptions of risk, fears of the remixing of living identities seen in genetic engineering, and resentment at the spiritual nihilism of the reduction of life to the digital code of DNA. By contrast, Robert Goodin's Green Theory of Value, which postulates the deep psychological importance of nature in locating the self in a meaningful context larger than ourselves, can explain the power of the Green symbol of the threatened environment, Gaia. The advent of GM agriculture seems to imply that capitalism and technology can now enframe nature itself, leaving a world devoid of natural myth or meaning, with no escape from the alienation and nihilism of modernity. The central question posed for protagonists of the GM debate is whether their agenda is based on these powerful but mythical conceptions of the environment, or whether preservation of the real environment is their primary ethic.

Author-supplied keywords

  • agriculture
  • delivered a lecture now
  • frankenstein
  • gaia
  • genetic modification
  • goodin
  • green movement
  • green opposition to gm
  • heidegger
  • in 1953 martin heidegger
  • jung
  • marcuse
  • monsanto
  • nietzsche
  • sartre
  • titled the question

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