AUGUST 22, 2005

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by Stephen McNeil

The biotechnology community has been taken aback by a sudden and aggressive attack by an organization calling itself Humans for Bacterial Suffrage (HuBS). The group claims that an insidious culture of what it calls "eukaryotic oppression" is enslaving trillions of bacteria, subjecting them to perverse genetic experiments, and exploiting their labour in the execution of profitable biochemical reactions.

Says HuBS president David Clostridium, "Bacteria are routinely abducted from their natural habitats, sold on the open market, unwillingly subjected to invasive genetic manipulations, and forced to breed in captivity. Multiple generations of enslaved lifeforms are set to work expressing secondary metabolites at the hand of big corporations and research scientists. It's disgraceful. They aren't paid, the living conditions are terribly overcrowded, they don't even get dental. Just because you don't have a nuclear membrane, that doesn't mean you don't have rights, you know?"

Clostridium points out that his organization's principal goal is simply to increase awareness. "Few people realize that so-called "organic" products like Bt insecticide are prepared by bacterial slave labour. They say it's "natural", because it comes from a living organism. What's so natural about eating agar and living in a petri dish? About being sprayed with billions of your relatives onto a plant and forced to wage biological warfare on insects who never did anything to you? Consumers should have a choice. Consumers should be able to buy produce treated with free range Bt bacteria, who are properly compensated and valued for their work. It's just like slavery. Except, you know, without that miniseries starring Geordi LaForge."

Rhodia Chemicals markets Rhovanil Natural Vanilla, which is prepared via a biofermentation process carried out entirely by bacteria. Rhodia CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu was asked to comment on charges from HuBS that his company is exploiting single-celled organisms. "Look, these bacteria, they were eking out a miserable existence before they came to work for Rhodia, they were hiding in rocks, in the cold dirt, in rotting animal carcasses. They don't even have cable TV in some of these places, you know? Our e. coli workforce is proud and happy to be part of the Rhodia team." When asked if there had ever been any complaints from the bacterial workforce, Clamadieu shrugged. "Well, they don't have mouths."

Insiders at the US Republican party have expressed concerns that the ultimate goals of the bacterial suffrage lobby may include the granting of voting rights to all single-celled organisms. Estimates put bacteria population in United States at over 5x1026, a number far exceeding that of registered Republicans, and a recent poll reveals that 74% of prokaryotes either agree or strongly agree with the statement "George Bush is a lying crapweasel."

W. Stephen McNeil is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University of British Columbia Okanaga in Kelowna, British Columbia. His lectures and conversation tend to incorporate a large degree of both gesticulation and pontification, occasionally of a frighteningly unbridled and reckless nature. He often reminds people of his namesake on "Blue's Clues", and he knows that already, so you really don't need to mention it again.

Issue One

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(part i pdf)
(part ii pdf)
(part iii pdf)

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