( ASCII text )Links to the complete 128-page PDF report described below are included at the bottom of this file.
RAFI News Release
April 11, 2001
The "ETC" Century
Transformation, and Corporate
Concentration in the 21st Century
New report warns that after Terminator, `Generation 3' biotech, and the Gene Giants, will come Nanotechnology, Neural manipulation, and the looming `Binano Republic'.
Jointly published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation (Uppsala, Sweden) and RAFI (Winnipeg, Canada), the 128 page study by Pat Mooney looks at three major forces that will shape the 21st century -- Erosion, Technological transformation, and Corporate concentration -- `ETC'. The `ETC' Century goes beyond RAFI's normally broad mandate in biodiversity, biotechnology, and genomics, to explore a panoply of other corporate and technology developments affecting our planet.
Divided into four parts, The "ETC" Century is filled with up-to-date data and historic perspectives drawing from RAFI's 24-year experience. Although the publication is being released in April 2001, for technical reasons the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation's journal, Development Dialogue, bears the date 1999: 1-2.
In section one, the forces eroding our eco-systems, human cultures, and equitable societies are analyzed. In one-third of Latin America there are no indigenous languages spoken. Almost half of the world's languages disappeared in the last century and half of those remaining will vanish with the current generation. The report argues that with the erosion of language comes the erosion of our knowledge of the eco-system and our capacity to adapt to climate change and other environmental pressures. "Our generation is the first generation in the history of the world to lose more knowledge than we gain" Pat Mooney insists.
As the critical elements for human survival (our biological environment and our cultural diversity) collapse, powerful new technologies are being brought forward to manipulate our world. The second section examines current strategies in biotechnology including biological warfare. Accessing confidential military documents, the report notes that 1000 kg of the chemical sarin gas used in a Tokyo subway can only kill 8000 people, a one megaton hydrogen bomb can kill 1.9 million people and a 100 kg Anthrax "bomb" dropped over a city from a helicopter can kill three million people. Biowarfare, including agro-terrrorism and ethnically targeted "bombs" are so inexpensive, anonymous, and effective that they will be used.
Nanotechnology (the construction of both living and non-living materials from the atom up), informatics, robotics, sensors, aerospace, material, and neural sciences are also discussed in Section Two. Announcing the "dawning of the Age of Liliput" the report describes nanotechnology as the logical declension or move "down" from genes to atoms as the critical unit of commerce in the 21st century. OECD governments are now spending over $1.5 billion per annum on nanotech development. From no nanotech patents at all ten years ago, the U.S. Patent Office is granting more than 150 a year now. The key barrier to nanoscale manufacturing was thought to be the inability of machines to self-replicate. In 2000, more than a dozen patents were issued for molecular self-assembly to such powerful research institutions as the U.S. Navy, and major aerospace, computer, car, and drug companies. The report documents the power of nanotechnology and suggests that nanotech in 2001 is in the same stage of development as biotech in 1987. "Except that information technologies make the pace of progress enormously faster with nanotech than with biotech," Pat Mooney concludes.
Looking at the full set of inter-related new technologies coming onto the stage, Mooney argues that biotech and nanotech will merge and that nano-scale technologies will spell the "death of dissent" as sensors, biocomputers, and miniscule robots render privacy impossible. "The `right to privacy' and `freedom of information' will be inverted into the corporation's right to privacy and its right to have access to our information," Mooney suggests, "most scientists have been `social somnambulists' -- avoiding the social impact of their research while benefiting from commercialization."
In its third section, The "ETC" Century identifies corporate concentration as a major force. The erosion of the resource base (including human resources) and the assent of new technologies (purported to compensate for this erosion) will compel a level of corporate mergers and alliances cutting across traditional industrial sectors. In the food sector, input and output enterprises (life sciences and food processors) may merge with commodity retailers such as Wal-Mart. The health care industry is already merging the drug makers with medical service providers as companies recognize that their economic future lies in making well people dependent rather than making sick people independent. Further down the road the report conjectures that nutriceuticals and farmaceuticals could cause a total merger of biochemistry-based enterprises dominated by the insurance industry. "No one gains more from knowing and controlling genomics than your insurance company," Mooney says. "What happens to genetic privacy when your doctor is also your insurance agent?"
Returning to the theme of cultural erosion, this section also poses the merger of the information and entertainment industries with communications hardware and software firms -- `conduit' and `content' become one industry. Even today, five companies dominate global news, music, cinemas, and entertainment. The "ETC" Century also concludes that before the year 2030 nanotechnology will bring about the transformation (or elimination) of mining and heavy manufacture. The new economic order created by nanotechnology will amount to a `Binano Republic' in which everything from Big Macs to GameBoys will be created and controlled by a corporate oligopoly.
In its concluding section, the report outlines a series of initiatives for civil society organizations (CSOs) to begin now to address the "ETC" Century. Pat Mooney, if not entirely optimistic, ends by offering some hope that the future predicted can still be averted. To encourage debate on the trends analyzed in The "ETC" Century , the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and RAFI will hold a seminar focusing on new technologies at the Foundation's centre in Uppsala June 25-29, 2001, titled, "What Next in Technological Transformation?" The seminar will bring together an invited group of 35 activists, scientists, and academics from around the world to explore the socio-economic and scientific implications of nano and other technologies. Following this global gathering, the two organizations will also work with partner organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to convene regional workshops on the same themes. The Asian workshop is expected to be held in September 2001 in conjunction with SEARICE (Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education based in Manila, Philippines). The Latin American workshop scheduled for November, will be led by CET (Centro Ecologia t Tecnologia based in Temuca, Chile). Details of the African workshop are not yet finalized.
Copies of the publication
One to five copies of The 'ETC' Century are available at no charge from the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. If you order more than five copies, you will be charged for mailing and handling costs, and if you order more than ten copies, an additional fee of U.S.$5 per copy will be charged.
Ask for Development Dialogue 1999:1-2, The "ETC" Century, from:
A PDF version of the full text can also be downloaded from RAFI's website at http://www.rafi.org/documents/other_etccentury.pdf. (Since the publication of this news release, the Rural Advancement Foundation International has been renamed, "ETC Group - Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration" (www.etcgroup.org).)
For further information:
Pat Mooney, Executive Director
110 Osborne St. S, Suite 202
Winnipeg MB R3L 1Y5
Phone: (204) 453-5259