Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Story of Robert Chandler

--fictional account follows--
Robert Chandler was a father, husband, and valued friend. He was killed in a car accident two days ago, March 27, 2073 when his car was driven off a cliff near Tansen, Nepal. The driver survived with only minor injuries. Robert will be greatly missed and is survived by his son, age 9, and loving wife.

The following document was found on the desk of Mr. Chandler after his death.

I am laboring under an enormous weight. I refuse to carry this burden any more. I must write down my story, although even a clear account in my journal must be risky to my personal safety. I can no longer keep this a secret.

For the past three years my son has been suffering from a skin disease which we are unable to diagnose. This past Easter he died of liver failure. I can't help but feel a connection between my work and my son's death.

My name is Robert Chandler. I'm a agricultural researcher for Corporation M. For the past 15 years I have been in charge of a research project which I proposed.

The goal of our company is to control the world food supply. In 2058 I was working in a laboratory testing genetically engineered foods when we discovered that some of our corn was extraordinarily susceptible to a variety of diseases. As if it had almost no resistance of it's own.

I began to formulate in my mind a way to apply this discovery. A simple proposal suggested itself to me almost immediately:

If we could engineer a corn which spreads its pollen all over the world and weakens the immune system of all corn that it cross-pollinated with, then people would need to purchase our chemicals to provide a sort of artificial immune system protection.

However, there is more. If we were able to sufficiently weaken plants, then, instead of providing chemicals to protect them expose the plants to a particularly voracious disease, then we could destroy all of the corn in the world. We could then move into the market by presenting the only corn that can still survive the now ubiquitous disease.

In the beginning, our genetic infection technique was my focus. But actually, the idea of the disease was perhaps even more powerful. We could genetically engineer just one resistant type, one immune-sytem-destroying type and one special disease. With a small product set we could dominate the world wide market. Everyone could be within a 5 minute walk of a Coke, and a 2 minute walk of some of our corn.

We decided to start with corn, then move on to rice, wheat and soybeans in that order.

We decided to focus on corn because we could focus in some of our most controlled territory; the United States. Also, because the pollen from corn is spread in the wind, we could combine the genetic infection with our new disease and thereby have a two-pronged strategy. It was an easy win, compared to other crops. Wheat, for example, would have to rely heavily on only one prong, our disease, since genetic infection to weaken the ability of wheat to resist disease is more difficult to perform on wheat. Wheat is not wind pollinated which means we cannot easily infect the wheat from the outside. The same applies to rice.

My team and I began purchasing land around the world to found research stations. We purchased over twenty farms and began building. Within two years we had completed our basic laboratory facilities in all of the sites and our work had begun in earnest. We decided to have a broad geographic distribution for our research so that we could produce a disease that would function well in every climate. In some regions we would mutate/tweak the same disease to make it applicable, and in some we would create entirely new strains.

Within five years of beginning our work we had our first disease and paired resistant corn. We had also perfected the infection corn. For the disease we actually chose three different agents in order to have a variety of angles to attack with. Our most dramatic and effective was a stalk rot caused by the fungus Colletotrichum graminicola. We could attack the entire plant (stalk and leaves) with one effectively designed organism. Because it typically causes damage after corn pollination, the crop failure would be more dramatic. A disease which strikes earlier gives people more time to cope. We wanted people to receive a shock. We wanted peopl to experience hunger so that they would not hesitate to adopt our technology. We were able to develop a weaponize the fungus into a tough spore which could survive transport and provide a high infection rate.

As part of our development of the disease we searched the world for resistant varieties, to destroy them. The literature of the conservation movement was very helpful in this, having documented the arcane species that still exist. The records of seed banks were also useful, telling us who was given seed so we could track it down. We conducted some "accidental herbicide releases". People mourned the loss of these varieties and hit back in small ways but in general did not understand the significance of what what was happening.

The corn loses it's resistance after two generations; in this way we protected our technology from theft. More diseases, for other crops, were in the research pipes but were not ready for reliable release.

We began to launch the project.

The first year, we planted the corn itself on our own property, and carefully protected it's growth with a variety of chemicals and netting since it is unable to protect itself. We used wind generators to place the pollen well into the atmosphere. Twenty release sites were more than we needed, but it was easy and we wanted to make sure that we achieved full coverage.

The next year we released our disease. Genetic infection only affects the child of the infected corn, so it was necessary to wait one year until the infected child was planted. We released the spores starting in January, 2068 in Guatemala. According to the seasons we released in each of our sites at the appropriate time; in Nepal, India, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, Egypt, Tanzania, Norway, Britain, and Sweden. We set up auxiliary distribution sites in Spain, Turkey and organized airplane distribution over many areas.

It was more successful than we ever imagined. People starved. They were desperate. Powerful countries like the United States lost their entire crops. People came to us and begged for a solution. For years we had been preparing people that GM foods were potential solutions to diseases. They quickly looked to us for help. We told them that we could help and they thanked us with all their heart. I remembered the story of the naked bird. This bird who huddled for warmth in the hand of Stalin, who had plucked the bird's warm feathers off himself.

We sold our corn at a greater rate than even we had anticipated. The psychological effect of the dramatic failure made people so insecure that they clung to the only hope they could find; our product. They over-purchased seed. In the first year we did not have enough seed to meet demand. We apologized and promised more seed next year to those who were the most loyal customers.

That was about five years ago. It became clear that our strategy had worked; we owned corn. Not only from a legal, but also from a technological point of view. Nobody else was able to produce seeds at all. Some small groups dissented, and blamed us, coming close to the truth of what was going on. But for the most part we were hailed as heroes who saved the day. Governments looked to us to provide protection in the future, and gave us enormous amounts of money and support to develop further "improved, resistant plants" with our GM techniques.

My company moved from being a large multinational company to being a deeply entrenched, needed, socially valued institution. I was well rewarded.

By completely dominating the corn market and excluding all competitors we made more money than we had ever made before. Next, we moved on to rice. With our new-found social and economic power we colud shut down competitors and were better able to create the diseases we needed. Again, we had enormous success, this time dominating the East. Our wins in corn had previously focused on the West.

One by one we continued in this way, our main limiting factor being the production of our new varieties. We expanded aggressively.

We are in the process of creating a new strategy for our next step. This strategy is old now and were it not for the front companies and public information campaigns that we carefully maintain, it would be obvious to people that we have deliberately conducted the situation. We must change our strategy for future. Or, at least that's what some of my superiors say. I am convinced that the bird is so cold and unable to think that it will never realize what is going on. Part of me just didn't think this would work. Now that it has, what I have done transfixes me with horror. I have been naive, foolish. A boy with genetic toys who taught something to the Beast.

Approximately half of the world's food now belongs to us. It future we expect over 90% of it to belong to us. When we reach a threshold of 96% then we will begin to consolidate our political power and move from our current form into more of a government role. We will develop our own international military and co-opt the police functions of the countries we operate in (every country).

Before I close, I should clarify that I live and work in Nepal and am using the Buddhist calendar. The year in the roman calendar is 2018; our first release was in Jan., 2012.

Under threat of death I have never written such a frank, and open record of my life's work. But I feel driven to it now. Seeing the slow and painful death of my son, which all the money in the world could not stop, I have, for the first time, wondered if what we are doing is not too big for us. If this sort of activity is not too big for men entirely. I wonder if we have foolishly played God.

Robert Chandler."

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