Commodification of the Commons: Bottled Water, Seeds, and Vaccines

I watched a video clip a few years ago of a small group of First Nations people facing off across a river against a couple of suited up pipeline executives.  The executives were carrying cases of bottled water, held up like a peace offering.  An elder woman told the men they weren’t welcome on the sovereign First Nation territory. Later, the elder spoke to the camera of her outrage and sorrow at the ignorance and arrogance of any who would think that bottled water could ever make the pollution of their rivers acceptable.

First Nations people are not the only ones pressured to trade good water for the plasticized product.  Fracking and pipeline companies in the U.S. don’t admit that their operations may contaminate ground water and wells, but offer a solution to calm fears. Don’t worry! We’ll make you whole!  If you can prove we damaged your water, here’s a life time’s supply of water buffalos!  They really seem to not have any grasp of why anyone would feel that losing their fresh, abundant, regenerative well water would be a loss.

The substitution of an inferior product for the real thing nature provided for free isn’t surprising or new.  Within our modern ideology of productivity and progress, inherent or intrinsic value has been purposefully overshadowed by the narrowly defined “value” conveyed when something can be bought and sold.  This commodification of what was once free to all fuels corporate economic dominance and the concentration of power and wealth.  Further, by intimating that that which has not entered the market has no value, the machine invites the pillage of the commons, whether held collectively or individually, as there can be no theft where there is no value.

While this phenomenon isn’t new, it is accelerating as commodification moves into more realms integral to life, like food.  Historically, farmers saved seeds from their crops to plant the next year.  With the advent of GMO seeds in the 1990’s though, farmers had to sign contracts that they would not keep any seeds to plant – because the corporation owned the patent on them.  The green revolution and the 2006 launched Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa included the replacement of indigenous and community seed varieties that were self-perpetuating with proprietary seeds that require small farmers to buy anew each year.

The process of commodification has been on my mind throughout the covid crisis, since I noticed very early on the world-wide dominant narrative that the only way out of pandemic restrictions would be an effective vaccine.  Vaccines, obviously, are a product that is sold to us, in this case via our tax dollars, to replace natural immunity, which is part of the invisible, implicit commons, a birthright that has no monetary value.  Covid vaccine mandates, particularly, commodify natural immunity and replace it with a product we have to buy, regularly, for life.

We know now that the covid vaccines require boosters.  The U.S. just approved them for the elderly, immunocompromised and “front-line” workers.  Israel has gone so far as to classify those without their booster shot as “unvaccinated.”  These measures are being taken, ¾ of a year since the first shots began going into the first arms because vaccine efficacy in terms of infection and transmission, especially, is waning.  It’s not entirely clear whether efficacy is waning due to Sars-Cov2 mutating with the “Delta” variant or just as a matter of time.  Either way, there is every reason to believe that the trend will continue – boosters will be needed perpetually, just as they are with the flu vaccine.  Different kinds of viruses mutate at different rates.  RNA respiratory viruses, including all coronaviruses and the flu, mutate relatively quickly, whereas measles, for example, mutates slowly, making it a better candidate for control through vaccination. Flu vaccines are updated every year, and their effectiveness still wanes by 50% over the course of a single flu season. 

An obvious major benefit of vaccines compared to natural immunity is that in order to obtain natural immunity, you have to be infected, and not everyone survives the process.  However, covid risk is not distributed evenly across the population, but rather varies very strongly with age and a few comorbidities, the most important being obesity. Such differential risk should obviate mandates apriori because risk-benefit calculations should always be central to all medical decisions.  For those in high-risk categories, vaccines may indeed be the best option, but for those at low risk of severe illness, natural immunity is superior to vaccination because it is free, robust and reliable.  It also is a “limited time offer” as it is best relied upon when young and in good health as that is when our immune systems function optimally. 

Natural immunity is safer than relying on an endless stream of booster shots in several ways.  Obviously, no matter how small a risk is, as long as there is some risk, multiplying exposures through lifetime use will increase the risk.  In the case of covid boosters, each time they are reformulated to deal with mutations or tweaked for efficacy, new potential short and long term effects are possible.  Given that the original EUA’s were granted after a mere two months of follow up and 6 months down the road the placebo group had been eliminated, only an extremely naïve optimist could imagine that the safety profile will be carefully analyzed moving forward.  Also, statistically speaking, the more reformulations, the more potential for serious unexpected side effects to occur.  Repeated exposure to the ingredients in the vaccines also increases the risks for allergic reactions. We know that PEG, an ingredient in both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, causes allergic reactions in the susceptible.  Since repeated exposure to a drug can sensitize the immune system and cause allergies or make existing allergies worse, it is clear that repeated injections increase this risk.

While the covid vaccine aims to maintain efficacy in spite of mutations and waning immunity due to time through boosters, natural immunity does the same through repeated exposures to the virus over time.  In general, our immune systems have multiple parts and layers of defenses. These different parts don’t all swing into action for every threat, but rather get involved in a tiered approach.   Generalized defenses engage first, and only if those fail to neutralize the threat do more specialized defenses come into play.  Mild illness engages less of your immune system and results in a shorter period of immunity than more severe illness.  However, even though immunity wanes and viruses mutate, frequent re-exposure to a virus provides prolonged immunity.  Re-exposure provides the immune system the opportunity to “update,” refreshing immune memory for the virus and taking into account any recent mutations.  As long as the next encounter with the virus happens before immunity fades to zero, immunity may “update” to include the new mutation and set the clock back on the immunity time line while causing much milder or even eliminating symptoms compared to the initial exposure.  This carry-over protection from previous year’s respiratory viruses to new variants is called cross-reactive immunity.

Cross-reactive immunity provides protection not only for variants of a virus caused by mutation but also to related viruses.  Ninety percent of us, for example, have some cross-reactive immunity to Sars-Cov2 from exposure to related coronaviruses, which may explain why many people only experience extremely mild or even asymptomatic infections to this “novel” virus.

The long term cross-reactive protection provided by repeated exposure in natural immunity is more robust against mutations than vaccines, and also contributes more to cross-reactive immunity for “novel” related viruses (Sars-Cov3 anyone?).  Whereas the covid vaccine teaches the immune system to recognize only one aspect of Sars-Cov2 – the spike protein, the immune system learns about the whole virus through a natural infection– making it much easier to recognize similar strains.  Natural immunity will also always be there for you, unlike the boosters, which could fail to arrive due to technological, political or economic problems.  The efficacy of boosters, furthermore, will depend on how well the scientists have been able to predict mutations – a good guess will yield greater efficacy like it does for the yearly flu boosters, which are formulated anew each year in advance of flu season.  In addition to the problem that the covid vaccines involve a life long subscription to a pharmaceutical product that you may not need or want and may have side effects, they may also cause dependency, such that once you start, you may not be able to stop. 

The booster as life support could occur in two ways.  First, as mentioned, natural immunity is a limited time offer.  Each year of your life that you depend on the boosters instead of your natural immunity increases the potential that your immune system will fail to overcome Sars-Cov2 in natural infection, as youth and good health are paramount to defeating covid.  Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) represents a second potential eventuality that could lead to dependence.  ADE occurs when vaccines work just well enough to train the body to recognize a virus, but not well enough to destroy it.  In this case, the immune response triggered b y the vaccine actually increases the potential of the virus to infect and sicken the host.  ADE occurs as vaccine efficacy wanes due to mutations and time and some evidence suggests it is already occurring for the covid vaccines.  Scientists warned about the potential for ADE from the beginning of the pandemic, as it has been a well-known problem in vaccine research for coronaviruses. ADE, in fact, was responsible for the previous failure of all earlier attempts to make such a vaccine. If ADE occurs you are worse off than if you never had a vaccine – which makes you more dependent on a new “improved” vaccine or other pharmaceutical because your immune system is less likely to be able to overcome the virus naturally.

from a “Future Human” article.

The commodification of our immune systems did not begin nor does it stop with the covid vaccines.  Today, multiple labs are working on covid combo vaccines, to include ALL coronaviruses and/or flu-covid combos, chillingly heralded as “one shot to rule them all.”  People in poor health, for whom the common cold could be deadly, may want these vaccines.   However, given the ubiquitous bio-security zeitgeist, might they be mandated for all?  Because coronaviruses mutate frequently and easily, it doesn’t seem likely that there could ever be a vaccine for them that could provide “sterilizing” immunity to actually prevent infection, versus just mitigate severity.  But if scientists were to accomplish this feat, coronaviruses would change for humanity from the “common cold” to deadly killers, as the vaccines would prevent the common re-exposure that make this class of viruses relatively benign.  Because coronaviruses have animal hosts and can jump to humans, they could never be eradicated and sterilizing vaccines against them would simply leave humans in perpetual pharmaceutical dependence. 

Similarly, vaccines that simply greatly decreased the number and frequency of circulating coronaviruses could have detrimental effects for those “break through” infections that did occur.  The grave consequences of preventing frequent exposure to viruses has been demonstrated recently as children throughout the world are experiencing unseasonal and especially severe respiratory viruses.  Experts are blaming “immunity debt,” or the absence of threat-induced immune system training, built up from too much isolation through 2020, as the culprit.  As news releases proclaim the promise of more and more vaccines to prevent or treat illnesses once considered mere nuisances, it would be very reassuring to see broader discussion of long term implications and complications like this.  The total absence of such discussion is very disturbing.

Governments are imposing a long term agenda on the population with vaccine mandates which could have significant effects on life as we know it, without acknowledging that they are doing so, nor clarifying the long-term implications.  This type of top down restructuring of society is a familiar consequence of commodification, often hidden in the language of “progress.”  Products are introduced at first as voluntary benefits, but they have far ranging effects on our economic, social and political structures.  These effects are exacerbated as regulations and coercive tactics replace the voluntary nature of the product. Looking back, we can see this process with the “Green Revolution.” Were the first genetically engineered seeds sold with an entire vision of corporate control of the food supply, mass urbanization, globalization, lifetime dependence on chemical inputs and multinational corporate concentration of wealth and power all written up in the language of equity and sustainability in a glossy corporate prospectus?

The saturation of known markets with traditional products means that new aspects of life need to be brought into the marketplace for the current players to maintain their empires. New “products” can be hard to spot, because we just think of them as parts of life, like DNA and our immune systems, but if we want to move in a direction we choose, rather than being herded into a corporatist future half-asleep, we need to look out for commodification.  As incredible as it may seem, people around the world are ringing alarm bells about the commodification of human beings ourselves as human capital, ripe for investments to impact our health, education, and behavior in ways that can be measured, bet on, bought and sold in human capital bond markets.  Look for these themes in future blog posts on the Great Reset and the Fourth Industrial Revolution but if you want to know more now, this blog and this blog provide great introductions.