Who’s the goon in Pigoons?
After a 2005 reaming by Greenpeace, food-archvillain Monsanto pulled out of a pig gene-marker-patent endeavor, selling their subsidiary company, Monsanto Choice Genetics, to Newsham Genetics LC. The perfected porkers–or more precisely, the research about them–found a haven in Des Moines, IA. Obviously, Atwood’s novel responds to developments in molecular biology given her “compound” setting, but the pig-human genetic splice in the novel–pigoons–seem to be in dialogue with the Monsanto/Newsham g.m. pig market (or do they foretell it, since Oryx and Crake was published in 2003?).
Rooting around on Newsham website reveals some interesting discourse intersections:
1. The potential of translating/”mapping” pig bodies into data: “Leveraging genomics with proprietary molecular genetic analysis methodologies, the value of the swine genome map is really just now beginning.” (from “Genomics” in the R&D section). First, the site never says what “R&D” stands for. Any clue? Second, this comment deploys “value” in terms of economic utility, but what critique can we muster against this hogwash utilitarianism? Or maybe, what is more valuable than genetic mapping/economic profit? What critique is Atwood levelling in her novel?
2. Views and descriptions of the “product,” touted as trademarked “sires” and “maternal choices”:
His close-out data confirms that progeny have excellent carcass yield.” (CARCASS YIELD!?!? Is he already dead?)
3. Related to our ongoing analysis of race/gender/class in environmental texts is the absence of racial (genetic?) diversity in the Newsham staff. On the one hand, we might expect a white cast of characters from Iowa, but on the other hand, what’s at stake when white people have access or control over genetic technologies? Where is race in Oryx and Crake?
P.S. A fascinating freakish pig-ad from 1562.