How Does your Cyber Garden Grow? With Corporate Giants or Slow Food Snails...
This paper looks at the representation of plants and gardens in the context of biotechnology. The prevalence of genetically-modified foods, high-level residues of chemicals and additives and branded crops have generated a range of responses. These include increased demand for organic food, calls for explicit labelling, and campaigns such as the international Slow Food Movement. The Slow Food Movement recuperates 'the quiet material pleasure' of eating local, fresh and regional cuisines and is dedicated to 'the case for taste' and sensual enjoyment as a defence against the 'contagion' of frenzy, that 'insidious virus: Fast Life'. The Official Slow Food Manifesto, approved at its founding conference in Paris in 1989, contains in its first principles the opposition to a civilisation that 'first invented the machine and then took it as its life model'. The symbol of the Slow Food Movement is an earth-bound snail. However, there is also a view which sees food-stuffs as the medium of fast-acting, enhanced 'super-foods' or 'nutraceuticals' (a 'pills-in-a meal' as opposed to the 1960s version, meal-in-a pill). The garden as the long established site of the contest – or alliance – between nature and science is considered in the light of two theorists: Donna Haraway and Michael Pollan. Haraway's 'The Cyborg Manisfesto' (1985) is well known for claims such as: 'the cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden'. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire (2001), while less celebratory than Haraway has been of 'transgenic border-crossings', acknowledges that his Monsanto NewLeafs are like 'us'. 'One way to look at genetic engineering is that it allows a larger portion of human culture and intelligence to be incorporated into the plants themselves.' Reference will also be made to literary texts, including: The Day of the Triffids, Virtual Light, and White Noise.
Keywords: gardens and technology, Slow Food Movement, Globalisation and bio-technology, representation of cyber gardens, transgenic border-crossings
Dr Shelley Saguaro
Deputy Head, School of Humanities/Principal Lecturer, School of Humanities English Field, University of Gloucestershire