Franken-cows and farm bots 


From kitchen tables worldwide you can hear a chorus of parents chastising their children with the same refrain: “Stop playing with your food.”

Children aside, this rebuke needs to be loudly directed at the profiteers of industrial agriculture. They keep toying with the very nature of food, not to benefit consumers, family farmers, workers or the environment — but to fatten the profits of Silicon Valley tech giants, food monopolist and Wall Street financiers.

Meet Recombinetics, Inc. It’s a high-tech, gene-manipulation corporation with bio-engineers in its labs remaking farm animals. Pigs, for example. Recombinetics wants to mess with the very DNA of Mother Nature’s oinkers to make them produce bigger litters to supply the pork factories of brand-name marketers. It is also genetically altering milk cows to withstand hotter weather, so climate change won’t reduce the output of huge dairy corporations.

Of course, this corporate-government collusion to build Franken-animals faces a high hurdle in the marketplace, for consumers have shown they don’t want their food tampered with. The tamperers, though, have a solution to that problem: Secrecy. The industry is lobbying to outlaw any requirement that milk and meat produced from genetically altered animals be labeled as such.
Meanwhile, a robot is toiling away on an indoor hydroponic farm programmed by a multimillion-dollar Silicon Valley start-up named Iron Ox.

The farm bot wheels around an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in a San Francisco suburb, lifting, moving and handing off pallets of produce to another robot. The human overseers of this robotic animal farm wear clean-room hairnets, apparently to prevent anything organic from contaminating the edibles or the bots.

Started by a Google engineer, Iron Ox hopes to install duplicates of its faux farm in metro areas across the country. “If we can feed people using robots,” he says, “what could be more impactful than that?” How about this: Reconnecting our food system to nature, a democratic economy and humans? The roboticists brag that local warehouses can provide fresher lettuce than the mega farms ship from thousands of miles away. But wait — local farmers markets do that, and the consumer dollars stay in the community.

The robotic indoor farm hucksters quietly concede that their real business plan depends on “sidestepping” the cost of human labor and local farm owners. These industrializers are not out to make food better or more affordable for us, but strictly to make it more profitable for them.

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