The Industry Behind the Curtain

This essay by politics professor Jackie Stevens examines the behind-the-scenes influence of the biotech industry on "Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution," a multimedia art show in New York City with a Madison Avenue publicity budget. "Why fund installations and images that might frighten us -- a painting of a designer farm, transgenic frogs, even pieces criticizing the industry itself? The show's pieces, some of its artist intentions notwithstanding, have been coopted by the funder to serve the larger marketing aim of conveying the impression that genetically modified foods and people are not subject to political debate but are here to stay. Grotesque and perverse visuals only acclimate the public to their new reality. While companies like Affymetrix, Orchid BioScience, and Variagenics all lurk among the sponsors of 'Paradise Now,' the 'man behind the curtain,' as one curator called him, is Howard Stein, who has joined forces with another 'Paradise Now' sponsor, Noonan/Russo Communications, a public relations firm boasting a client list with dozens of biotech firms." Stevens also examines links between the art exhibition and Gene Media Forum, an industry-funded group that has been trying to position itself as an "objective," neutral clearinghouse for information about biotechnology.