Collaboration with Cole Orloff
This project is a series of performative explorations of the future of seed sovereignty and corporate ownership of the food supply. In each iteration, this speculative design project aims to bring awareness and a novel sense of understanding to the complex issues behind seed patent law, and the potentialities we face in the future if certain trends, particularly of corporate ownership of plant genetic material, continue.
We find that the conversation about GMOs (genetically modified foods) is often focused on their safety and their health. Unfortunately, this is an area in which we are doubtful to find certainty in the near future, and the research is non-conclusive. Furthermore, we believe that the real issues lie in the ethics of companies patenting and distributing GMOs, and how their actions have taken a toll on the environment, developing countries, food security, and citizens' rights to their food supply.
In the work, the dystopian corporation MonoGen Agriculture is the antagonist in a vision of a future postulated on a continued lack of public ownership over the food supply. In this future, MonoGen owns the patent to many heirloom varieties, in response to their growing value in food culture. Through lobbying, they manage to secure rights to patent plants purely for sequencing their DNA, without major modifications to that DNA. Private citizens found to be growing MonoGen owned varieties of produce are subject to copyright infringement law. The first installtion of MonoGen was a collection of evidence of an FBI raid on a Heirloom-Resistence dinner party, where evidence of copyrighted vegetable material, and the dishes made from it, were taken in for analysis. The dishes, made with 'patented' beets, sunchokes, and radishes, were prepared for viewers, highlighting the lack of ownership over some of our most beloved flavors.
An accompanied performance of MonoGen took place at the 2015 NYU Interactive Telecommunications Spring Exhibition, where we posed as MonoGen marketing representatives at the start-up GMO company, explaining to visitors our revolutionary and far-reaching patents. In conversations, we emphasized the financial potential of patenting heirloom plant varieties that already exist in the food system, and the strategy of enforcing our exclusivity through litigation.