Minnesota Bolt Weevils Attack Novartis Research

From the Bioengineering Action Network

Harvest came early this year at the Novartis Corporation’s Seed Research facility on Hwy 19 in Goodhue County, Minnesota. Several thousand stalks of corn from research plots ajoining the Northrup-King (Novartis’ Seed Division) facility were trampled and crushed in the pre-dawn hours of Wed. September 1 by the Bolt Weevils. Simultaneously in a northern Twin Cities suburb, another strain of Weevils glued and jammed the locks at Novartis/NK Seeds’ Corporate offices at 7500 Olson Memorial Hwy, to prevent another day of profiting off the dirty business of genetic engineering.

Reviving the namesake of the MN farmers who toppled NSP power lines in the 1970s, todays Weevils targetted one of the largest “life sciences” conglomerates in the world. Created in Switzerland in 1997 by the merger of two major pharmaceutical and agriculture firms (Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz/NK Seeds), Novartis is one of many companies seeking to commercialize and expolit the most basic biological process- genetic evolution.

Much of the corn attacked by the Bolt Weevils was labelled as genetically modified with Bt (Bacillus thuregensis), a bacterial insecticide sprayed topically by organic and small scale farmers as a last resort to control problem insects, but now increasingly genetically engineered directly into the DNA of corn, cotton and potatoes, to make plants express the pesticide throughout. Ecologists, farmers and corporate executives alike agree that such widespread exposure to the toxin will eventually create Bt-resistant “super pests”, rendering small scale use of the bacteria in spray form obsolete. Novartis and other companies producing Bt seeds respond to this prediction by suggesting “refuges” of non-Bt crop be grown amidst transgenics to slow adaptation by insects. This rationale ignores the reality of cross-pollination, and could unleash irreversible genetic pollution on plants and insects.

Additionally, recent research has revealed that Bt pollen has a similar fatal effect on the intestines of the Monarch butterfly as on the corn borer, and scientists have shown that engineered Bt accumulates in the soil and could disrupt soil ecology irreversably.

Decades of farm policies designed to boost profits for agricultural chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow and Dupont has left the rural farm economy in shambles, with suicide rates among desperate farmers on the rise. Intensive industrial agribusiness has severely degraded, eroded and poisoned the American heartland. Now these very same companies are creating new ways to profit off industrial agriculture, promising farmers “improved” genetically altered seeds that will boost production and help them compete on the world market.

Rapid industry consolidation has centralized control over the research and development of powerful genetic technologies, allowing the industry to control market forces. This trend spells disaster for the global food supply, from agrarian third world communities to rural America. Family farms won’t survive without a new approach to farm economics and a turn to ecological farming practices. There is abundant knowledge of such agricultural methods, as evidenced by the growing organics and permaculture movements, and more importantly, by the ancient breeding and seed saving traditions still used in indigenous cultures. Why have these practices taken a back seat to agribusiness?

The Bolt Weevils’ harvest is meant as a WARNING to the entire “life-sciences” industry that opposition to its sinister plan is far more widespread than they think, and growing exponentially. Though the true natures of this industry are hidden behind slick PR campaigns, people all over the world are exposing and attacking it on many levels, most dramatically in the fields and greenhouses where research and breeding occurs.

Our fellow weevils in Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Maine, Vermont, and California, have set the stage for a full scale underground attack on the roots of this threat to the future of life on earth. Unsurprisingly, government agencies like the USDA, FDA, EPA, and state departments of agriculture have acted as collaborators with the biotech industry, and should also be targeted. This action should be seen as an incitement to join the biotech resistance by taking direct action against this menace in all its forms.