12 Science and technology for the people, environmental protection and the right to healthy food and water

Final Resolution for Workshop 12
Approved by the Plenary of the ILPS First International Assembly
25-27 May 2001
Zutphen, The Netherlands

Science and technology for the people, environmental protection and the right to healthy food and water

Throughout the ages, human societies have created the bases of survival, sustenance and advancement using natural resources through science and technology. The main interest of these societies’ dominant economic and political force dictates the allocation and use of resources and, thus, shapes the development process.

The advent of private property, gender-based discrimination, stratification of society into classes and castes, and its transformation into monopoly capitalism has intensified the above dynamic into one that sacrifices people, environment, science and technology, in favor of profit. Monopoly capitalism has allowed exploitative classes to arrogate unto themselves control over ownership, utilization and appropriation of natural resources on a worldwide scale through technology.

The environment has been reduced into one huge source and dumping ground for mass production under monopoly capitalism. The ecosystems are under great pressure to generate energy and raw materials required for mass production. Logging operations are systematically despoiling forests of trees all over the world. Mining corporations strip the earth’s lands and seas to generate minerals. Due to corporate farming, traditional varieties of crops and livestock are becoming extinct in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere of the world. Toxic substances as an input in farming find their way into the soils, surface and groundwater tables creating immense pollution of drinking water. The massive generation of energy for capitalistic production is depleting the fossil fuel reserves at alarmingly unsustainable levels. Similarly, mega-dam projects for power generation to run transnational factories are a further source of displacing human civilizations and destroying the ecosystem.

At the same time, the ecosystems has become the dumping grounds for the wastes generated by mass production. Extremely taxed, nature’s systems could no longer absorb or process these wastes which end up to further negative impacts on the environment. The remaining forest cover is not sufficient to process the carbon dioxide and other gases released into the air, which heat up the atmosphere. Industrial and military activities generate toxic wastes that are beyond the capacity of the natural systems to handle.

The plunder and pollution of the environment instigated by monopoly capitalism has made victims of poor communities many times over. Large-scale use of pesticides have resulted in the poisoning of workers, peasants, and their families, who barely have the means to protect themselves from their hazardous effects. These same communities are most vulnerable to environmental backlash, which come in the form of floods, droughts and other occurrences triggered or heightened by imbalance in the ecosystem. Nuclear tests have wreaked havoc on the sea beds and other areas of the earth. Women and children shoulder the greater cost of these circumstances because of wider risks to their health, and added complications to their productive and reproductive functions.

Monopoly capitalism has succeeded in conscripting science and technology to creating new products and processes to gain super profits. To this end, capital creates unnecessary “wants” through media and commercialist culture to develop the markets for such products thereby furthering intense competition in the corporate world.

The basic aim and logic of capitalist production to accumulate profit rather than secure egalitarian interests mainly molds the development and accomplishments of science and technology. Science and technology is increasingly alienated from society. It openly discriminates against indigenous knowledge systems, which are only tapped, as in the case of medical science, when there is an obvious advantage of profit.

Capitalism has used science and technology to intensify the exploitation of the toiling masses of the world, especially women and children. Automation has pushed down wages and has been used to swell the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed.

Under the regime of monopoly capitalism, science and technology has turned its sights on the next frontier: biotechnology and the life sciences. In the name of increasing productivity, scientists have succeeded in genetic manipulation and are applying this on a large-scale to food and agriculture. Despite lack of scientific consensus and in the face of public clamor to apply the precautionary principle given many unresolved issues, multinational corporations have gone ahead with the production and commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). With its poorly defined sense of public accountability, these instruments of monopoly capitalism put at risk not only the consuming public but also the environment with its careless pursuit of genetic engineering in food and agriculture. Many communities are already raising opposition to GMOs.

With the decoding of the human genome, monopoly capitalism is already including humans in the realm of intellectual property rights. Coming in the wake of IPR are biopiracy and other schemes to put resources and knowledge heretofore of common access and use under the disposition of big business for resale to the very communities from which they had been stolen.

The decoding of the human genome typifies another milestone in humanity’s fundamental knowledge and fundamental understanding of nature. The irony of these achievements is that they have not redounded into concrete benefits and real development for majority of the world’s peoples. Over two billion people live each day on only US$1. While the level of agricultural productivity can more than feed the world’s population, almost two billion people go hungry and 160 million more are malnourished.

Great advances in information technology, robotics, genetics, agriculture, and medicine are not applied towards solving problems of humankind, such as the breakdown of health systems, famine and hunger, ecological destruction, and social decay and disintegration. Monopoly capitalism — which controls science and technology — is the cause of all these tragedies and has wedged the profit motive into any equation for their solution.

Third World science and technology is generally stunted, backward and underdeveloped as neo-colonial trade relations have kept their societies largely agrarian. Their underdeveloped industrial sectors are limited to assembly, packaging or labor-intensive reprocessing for re-export which, under MNC/TNC control, have not resulted in any real transfer of technology. The WTO Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS further ensures MNC/TNC control over science and technology through regressive patent regimes. Patent systems already perpetuate MNC/TNC control and ownership over technology and life as these monopoly capitalist corporations control research and development.

Monopoly capitalist control extends to and is perpetuated through international instruments and institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the Bretton Woods institutions and even the United Nations system. For instance, the Rio Summit has succeeded in shifting the blame for the global environmental crisis to the nebulous concept people and away from the extractive and pollutive activities of the of he elite, and national and international pseudo non-governmental organizations. Aside from benefiting from the deodorizing effect of massive “greenwashing”, business has even found a new niche and has appropriated and tossed “green products” into the tide of mass consumerism.

No less objectionable are the mindset and kind of environmentalism that fixate on single-issues, isolate the environment from economics, politics and culture, and cut off environmental action from peoples’ struggles against all forms of reaction.

Science and technology for peoples needs and care for the environment best thrive in a social set-up committed to responsive and constantly evolving social planning which would achieve the fulfillment of people’s needs while utilizing the best use of natural and human resources.

In these days of rabid of monopoly capitalism, humanity’s greatest and continuing challenge is how to consciously redefine and redirect progress for the benefit of humankind and the sustainability of the environment.

We resolve to:

  1. Join in the struggle to challenge and end monopoly capitalism and other forces that concentrate control over the means of production in the hands of a few. For as long as monopoly capitalism and feudal forces control and dictate the use of the environment and science and technology worldwide, poverty, underdevelopment and the degradation of the environment will continue and intensify.

  2. Assert peoples’ control over the development and use of science and technology for their needs and all-rounded development. The high level of science and technology provide people with the knowledge and tools to judiciously use the material environment for appropriate and sustainable development.

  3. Promote environmental mindset and ethics that integrate the care and management of the environment with the advancement of the well-being of communities that most depend on them.

  4. Work for the re-orientation of the views and attitudes of the science and technology community of the world to free them from being “appendages” of monopoly firms, and prevent corporate misuse of science and technology for ecological, social and ultimate human destruction. Motivate and instill dedication of scientists and technologists to serve the people and participate in struggles against modern imperialism, and establish a world that is free, socially just and progressive.

  5. Demystify science to allow people the opportunity of applying knowledge systems and technologies for their benefit and not for the generation of profits of a few. In addition, promote the value of indigenous and local knowledge and its role in the development of technologies to benefit the peoples of the world.

  6. Work for a moratorium on the commercialization of genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture pending the resolution of scientific, social and ethical issues.

More specifically, we will:

  1. Establish/develop linkages and cooperation with individuals, institutions and organizations to launch campaigns to expose and oppose the control, mis-orientation and mis-use of the environment, and science and technology by monopoly capitalism

  2. Establish/develop linkages and system of support/assistance of science and technology institutions, environmental groups and organizations with peoples organizations, and alliances

  3. Monitor and document developing environmental, scientific and technical issues and concerns and set up a system of information exchange and dissemination

  4. Conduct in-depth studies on issues of the environment, science and technology confronting the world

  5. Hold conferences and other venues to discuss, come up with common analysis and position, and draw up concrete plan/programs of actions

  6. Launch and coordinate campaigns on specific science and environmental issues highlighted through the Rio Summit, including that on pesticide poisoning, mining, GMO releases among others.

Members of the Workshop

Name Organization Country Proposed Commission Member

1. Ochie Baes

AGHAM

Philippines

 

2. Saro Rengam

PAN-AP

Malaysia

yes

3. Azra Sayeed

Roots for Equity

Pakistan

yes

4. Ces Quimpo

KALIKASAN-PNE

Philippines

yes

5. Pong Tip

RRSA

Thailand

 

7. Crispin Barranco, Jr.

AGHAM

Philippines

yes

8. Hans Shoep

NPSA

Netherlands

 

9. Theo Droog

NPSA

Netherlands

yes

10. Gani Tapang

AGHAM

Philippines

 

11. Pons de Leon

 

 

 

12. Bong Corpuz

Minewatch-AP

Philippines

 

13. Mark Jones

NISPOP

USA

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