Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.
The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.
But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.
After one of our singing rituals at the laboratory, a public relations man named Paul followed us out proclaiming, "But we have nothing to do with colony collapse, and we're sorry that the honey bee is dying…" And yet the RoboBee project's top goal, as stated on their website, is to achieve mechanical pollination. So Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al – the Big Ag companies whose agricultural chemicals are driving the honey bees die-off, must be very interested in this honey bee drone. How couldn't they be waiting in the wings? A robot bee would be invaluable as a pesticide-proof pollinator.
Planning for a Honey Bee Extinction
These corporate giants apparently expect the RoboBee to come on-line just in time for the real insect's extinction, since there is no evidence that they are reducing sales of the main suspect in the case of the vanishing bees, the neonicotinoid pesticides. (Which must be a very profitable item, one third of the pesticides used world-wide this year will contain neonicotinoids.) Every scenario for the death spiral of the bees involves these neuropathic chemicals. The beekeepers report that pollen-laden honey bees cannot find their way to the home hive, their navigation systems short-circuited by neonicotinoids carried in their bodies.
Let's go to the stage-mother of the fake bee: the drone-maker, DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the well-known drone designer that projects American power as a deadly buzzing sound in the sky above the villages of the mid-east. While American air-power always used the aerodynamics of falcons, ospreys and eagles – DARPA is teaching Pentagon futurists to dream of the quick turns and sneaky camouflage of bats, insects and hummingbirds.
The RoboBee's public relations flacks argue that the military has nothing to do with the RoboBee. However, we have tapes of the lead scientist at the RoboBee's lab, Dr. Rob Wood, publicly thanking DARPA for early financing of the project. He is a "DARPA Young Fellow," a million-dollar award given to researchers whose work reflects the "values of the Department of Defense." The RoboBee proponents have made a tactical to use Harvard University and the National Science Foundation for a veneer of non-drone prestige.
But there are smoking drones everywhere. Military awards have been pinned to Rob Wood's chest by the Navy and Air Force. This wunderkind of nano-technology has even received a citation from that the President Barack Obama, drone warfare's most famous fan. The RoboBee is a DARPA project and needs to be a part of Harvard's burgeong divestment movement.
Marriage of Corporate and Military Power
The flight of the RoboBee gives us a revealing map of how this marriage of executives and generals envision our future. It shows us the interlocking techniques of the military and industrial GMO agriculture. Monsanto's factory farms have evolved toward the Pentagon's approach to terrorism. The chief chemist of Agent Orange wants to cover the world's surface with mono-culture cash crops, where a single strain of, say, corn, is all you see to the horizon. Pesticides and herbicides select and eliminate living things that are not contributing to profitability.
There is collateral damage in this kind of farming. Any living thing that we would call "wild" – is at risk. Honey bees from apiaries can be killed outright by the toxins, but also may not survive the Monsanto environment of dead wild plants and low-nutrient industrial crops. People living in rural areas are exposed to these toxins. Most tragically, indigenous people are swept aside by local bribed militia who present the leaders of traditional villages with rigged evictions and transfers of land title to the giant agriculture concerns. This is going on now in Africa, the so-called "Green Revolution," directed from the offices of Monsanto and the White House.
With its agricultural theory of overwhelming force, Monsanto has joined the Pentagon's presence in most countries. The two are rulers in the new corporatized planet. Monsanto and the DARPA's child, the RoboBee, fits this nightmarish Philip K. Dick future perfectly. If one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, then the out of control meandering of the honey bee is unacceptably inefficient. The vast mono-cultures that these executives envision require "Smartbees," computer-directed mechanical pollinators that go straight to designated flower targets.
But as James Brown once sang, wait a minute. Anthropologists date our partnership with bees back into antiquity. We've participated with the bee in its meandering brilliance for thousands of years. We've loved the flight of the bee as it disappears headlong into the flower. We love the taste of honey. Wait a minute, does the RoboBee make honey? Or is this robot bee in essence is a little bomber, taking off not from hives but from runways, heading out on its mission for American interests?
The Honey Bee is a lover, a honey-maker, a lyric in erotic songs, an endearment we give each other. The RoboBee, on the other hand, is a drone being financed by the government. This is weaponized nature. The RoboBee is a killer.
This article originally appeared at revbilly.com. Rev. Billy Talen is a New York City-based performance artist, activist and author.