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ISIS - Institute of Science in Society

In 1999, I co-founded the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) of which I am Director. I-SIS is a not-for-profit organisation, promoting socially and ecologically accountable science and the integration of science in society. I-SIS also represent a group of scientists around the world (currently 364 from some 40 countries [457 scientists from 56 countries as of Sept 2001]) who have co-signed a World Scientists Statement and Open Letter to All Governments, calling for a moratorium on environmental releases of GMOs on grounds that they are unsafe, and to revoke and ban patents on life-forms and living processes, on grounds that they are unethical.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, 26 Oct 2000 Witness Statement at the Chardon LL
(a GM "line" [Aventis -- T25 Maize], approved for animal feed) Hearing in London


 Dr. Mae-Wan Ho values Carl Jung's contributions to seeing our selves and our modern world wholistically and thus to apprehend the formidable forces of light and dark that make us both what we are and what we can be. We collectively owe a debt of gratitude to those like Mae-Wan who employ their wisdom, intelligence, and creativity to make science once more accountable to life. Only in this way can we, as a species, successfully grow beyond our adolescent reductionist and mechanistic phase that promotes commercial gain as the paramount goal of scientific exploration of our world and universe.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho warns that further indulgence in GMOs will severely damage our chances of surviving the food crisis and global warming; organic agriculture and localised food systems are the way forward. genetic engineering in agriculture and medicine We must actively connect the genetic engineering debate with holistic, ecological sciences. It is the most effective way to recapture the agenda from the corporations.


Science in Society magazine 


The debate on genetic engineering biotechnology is dogged by the artificial separation imposed between "pure" science and the issues it gives rise to. "Ethics" is deemed to be socially determined, and therefore negotiable, while the science is seen to be beyond reproach, as it is the "laws" of nature. The same goes for the distinction between "technology" -- the application of science -- from the science. Risk assessments are to do with the technology, leaving the science equally untouched. The technology can be bad for your health, but not the science. In this article, I shall show why science cannot be separated from moral values nor from the technology that shapes our society. In other words, bad science is unquestionably bad for one's health and well-being, and should be avoided at all costs. Science is, above all, fallible and negotiable, because we have the choice, to do or not to do. It should be negotiated for the public good. That is the only ethical position one can take with regard to science. Otherwise, we are in danger of turning science into the most fundamentalist of religions, that, working hand in hand with corporate interests, will surely usher in the brave new world.

--Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, The Unholy Alliance, 1997

I am making a case for organicist science. It is not yet a conscious movement but a Zeitgeist I personally embrace, so I really mean to persuade you to do likewise by giving it a more tangible shape. The new organicism, like the old, is dedicated to the knowledge of the organic whole, hence, it does not recognize any discipline boundaries. It is to be found between all disciplines. Ultimately, it is an unfragmented knowledge system by which one lives. There is no escape clause allowing one to plead knowledge `pure' or `objective', and hence having nothing to do with life. As with the old organicism, the knowing being participates in knowing as much as in living. Participation implies responsibility, which is consistent with the truism that there can be no freedom without responsibility, and conversely, no responsiblity without freedom. There is no placing mind outside nature as Descartes has done, the knowing being is wholeheartedly within nature: heart and mind, intellect and feeling (Ho, 1994a). It is non-dualist and holistic. In all those respects, its affinities are with the participatory knowledge systems of traditional indigenous cultures all over the world. . . .
        The organism maximizes both local freedom and global intercommunication. One comes to the startling discovery that the coherent organism is in a very real sense completely free. Nothing is in control, and yet everything is in control. Thus, it is the failure to transcend the mechanistic framework that makes people persist in enquiring which parts are in control, or issuing instructions; or whether free will exists, and who choreographs the dance of molecules. Does "consciousness" control matter or vice versa? These questions are meaningless when one understands what it is to be a coherent, organic whole. An organic whole is an entangled whole, where part and whole, global and local are so thoroughly implicated as to be indistinguishable, and each part is as much in control as it is sensitive and responsive. Choreographer and dancer are one and the same. The `self' is a domain of coherent activities, in the ideal, a pure state that permeates the whole of our being with no definite localizations or boundaries, as Bergson has described.

--Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, The Biology of Free Will, 1996

Sustainable agriculture is predicated on a holistic, ecological perspective anathema to reductionist mechanistic science. Mechanistic science has been thoroughly discredited in the course of the 20th century. Mechanical physics went first of all with relativity and quantum physics. Biology was the last to go with the new genetics.
        The new genetics is radically ecological, organic and holistic. That is why genetic engineering, at least in its current form, can never succeed. It is based on misconceptions that organisms are machines, and on a denial of the complexity and flexibility of the organic whole.
        The challenge for western scientists is to develop a holistic science to help revitalise all kinds of non-corporate sustainable agriculture and holistic medicine that can truly bring food security and health to the world.

--Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Taking Science Seriously in the GM Debate, 16 Apr 2000

Many remarkable individuals and local communities are indeed changing their own lives and the world around them for the better. They all do so by learning from nature and recognizing that it is the symbiotic, mutualistic relationships which sustain ecosystems and make all life prosper, including the human beings who are active, sensitive participants in the ecosystem as a whole [44].
        The same organic revolution has been happening in western science over the past thirty years. Jim Lovelock’s Gaia theory, for example, invites us to see the earth as one super-organism [45]. Even more remarkable is the message from quantum theory: that we are inseparably entangled with one another and with all nature, which we participate in co-creating [46]. It is this holistic, organic perspective that can enable us to negotiate our path out of the moral maze of genetic engineering biotechnology. It provides the basis of a new ethic of science that can reshape society and transform the very texture and meaning of our lives. Seattle has shown us that things can be different. Society does not have to be ruled by the dominant culture. Science can transcend the dominant status quo to reshape society for the public good, which is also the private good. We begin to appreciate how the purpose of each organism and species is entangled with that of every other. Our humanity is a function of this entangled whole, and we cannot do arbitrary violence to one another, nor to the nature of other species without violating our own. The ethic of science is no different from that of being human.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Towards a New Ethic of Science, 16 Mar 2000

What's New with My Subject?


  • World Scientists Statement

    Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments
    Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

    - signed by 454 scientists from 56 countries, as of August 2001.


    • The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle.

    • They are opposed to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world.

    • They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.

    • They want more support on research and development of non-corporate, sustainable agriculture that can benefit family farmers all over the world.

    We, the undersigned scientists, call for the immediate suspension of all environmental releases of GM crops and products; for patents on life-forms and living processes to be revoked and banned; and for a comprehensive public enquiry into the future of agriculture and food security for all.



Works by Dr Mae-Wan Ho