Thursday, September 10, 2009
We're paying a return visit to the Center for PostNatural History, this time for Permitted Habitats, their infographic on genetically modified organisms allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for field tests since 1987. This map shows where these neo-florae have been released into the environment, which institutions have applied for the permits to conduct the experiments, and what enhancements these organisms have been engineered with, for instance, drought tolerance and fungal resistance.
Having taken many joyrides over the years throughout Illinois, which according to the map has hosted many of these real world trials, we may have driven past by one or two of these plots. But we wouldn't know. Some protocols may have been set up so that no rogue environmentalists will come and uproot the plants, say, electrified fences or surveillance sensors, but perhaps the best form of quarantine is anonymity and apparent ordinariness. One passes by them oblivious, because they are as unremarkable as the next hundreds of thousands of rows of corns. But of course they're not. To once again borrow from Trevor Paglen, these are genomic dark spots in the landscape, fully alight with the Midwestern sun.
One of the things we like about this map is how the icons pop in and out, sometimes massing together and swelling to shroud an entire state before desiccating gradually. Quiet passages of solitary icons here and there, then a massive pileup; transgenic thunderstorms developing over some skies somewhere, possibly flooding an uncontaminated gene pool with a deluge of foreign DNAs. It's like watching the time-lapsed maps of The Weather Channel.
Or the as yet uncommissioned The Transgenic Weather Channel. Instead of actual meteorological events, it will track these genetic fringes, these dark topographies shrouded in secrecy by Big Agro, Big Pharma and their patent lawyers, for any signs of quarantine breaches. When something jumps over the fence, periodic bulletins will be issued.
High 70s. Clear in the a.m. Thick fog of insulin pollen in the p.m.
Sirens will blast across the whole county.