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Beware of the Robobee, Monsanto and DARPA

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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 Micro-Robotics 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 bee's 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.

These corporate giants apparently expect the RoboBee to come online 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 worldwide 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 President Barack Obama, drone warfare's most famous fan. The RoboBee is a DARPA project and needs to be a part of Harvard's burgeoning divestment movement.

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.

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