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More than Monsanto

May 7, 2013

Remember how I just said that I was going to keep the posts on the FLB light throughout the summer?

Well the outpouring of support yesterday convinced me otherwise. I was really touched by everyone who came out of the woodwork to wish the Fussies luck in our new adventures. But we’re not leaving yet. Plus we are totally coming back.

And of course there will be a tour before I leave. She doesn’t know it yet, but I may also have Jessica R. try to pull of an additional tour in absentia of the Profussor. However, I may need to buy her a couple of beers first.

But we’ll talk more about that soon once I get a few things straightened out. For now though I’m going to switch gears and move on to a more serious rant. It’s one that usually makes Mrs. Fussy roll her eyes. However, I think even she will come around on today’s tirade about the most dreaded name in GMOs: Monsanto.

Here is what I know.

Science saves lives
And the lives it doesn’t save it certainly improves. I don’t want to live in a state of nature. I want my Advil when my head is aching. And when my back goes out I need some hydrocodone. Muscle relaxants are pretty awesome too when my back feels like it might decide to ruin my day at any moment.

Our ecosystem is vast and complex 
I’m not talking about just the minerals and molecules in the dirt. But I’m talking about the bees and the importance of the wind, and the vast web of interconnectivity of every living thing. There are those who believe that if human beings think about something long and hard enough, we can come to understand and master it. However, I believe just like one can never teach a dog to perform calculous, there are limits to human understanding.

Science sometimes gets it wrong
That’s the downside to science. And when that’s cancer science, and you end up performing what are later seen as barbaric mastectomies, the damage of the actions are contained to the afflicted and their families.

But when scientists start tinkering around with the ecosystem in profound and potentially irreversible ways, we’re asking for trouble.

Twenty years from now we’ll look back at some of today’s best science and will surely say, “That wasn’t the smartest idea.” Sure it was the best idea at the time. Except when you start creating new forms of life, it’s really impossible to contain. That was the lesson of Jurassic Park, right? That, and that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should.

Anyway, Monsanto has become the face of big agricultural biotechnology. For a few ideologues this company has become the boogeyman. And not without good reason. They don’t really fight fair.

Instead of trying to win consumers over with expensive national advertising and consumer marketing campaigns, they spend their money more wisely on expensive lobbyists who help protect their interests and significant investments from technophobes. Plus, they aggressively defend their patents and aren’t afraid to spend a lot of money on lawyers to sue farmers who may or may not be infringing on their intellectual property.

It is both a smart and effective use of their budget.

But those who would choose to fight against biotechnology are too easily painted with the brush of being crazies. The latest example is a group that reached out to me on Facebook: March Against Monsanto.

If only.

The truth is that Monsanto is just one of many enterprises engaged in the research and development of genetically modified crops. There are also DuPont, Dow, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, and more. Really, these companies owe a great debt of gratitude to Monsanto for keeping them out of the spotlight. But should Monsanto be driven out of business by an angry mob of anti-GMO protesters, there are plenty of other operators who will quickly move in to fill their place.

A stronger argument, instead of a battle cry against one of many companies involved in this field, is a unified push for GMO labeling.

For fuck’s sake, the US government thinks it’s important to label just about everything else in our food production system. We mandate a label on orange juice if it is made from concentrate. We have different standards of identity for ice cream, light ice cream, ice milk and frozen dairy dessert. Not everything qualifies as cheese or juice, and these similar products need to be properly labeled. Plus let’s not forget the labeling rules about what products can say about their use of whole grains.

These aren’t about food safety. These are about providing consumers with information about what’s in their food and how it is made.

And dammit, that’s information every consumer should have about everything they put in their mouths. From finely textured lean beef (aka pink slime) in their ground beef, to knowing the food’s country of origin, and even being told which specific pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were used in its production.

Living in the dark isn’t the answer. Neither is chasing after false boogeymen. The problem goes much further than one company, and getting distracted from realistic, actionable solutions by going on a witch hunt isn’t going to make our arguments any more credible. Nobody will have to march against Monsanto when their GMO seed operations dry up from a lack of consumer demand.

We aren’t crazies. We aren’t technophobes. We just want to know what’s in our food.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2013 9:57 am

    The GMO thing is sort of a cause célèbre among a certain set I think… It is sort of like the drone argument (killing people with scary unmanned robot thingies is somehow much worse than killing people the good ol’ fashioned way).

    The GMO issue has all sorts o’ neat stuff to easily fixate on and get riled up about. But I think people would be better served flexing their indignation muscles about other issues. GMOs are a fact of life now and in the future. Crap, we might need genetically altered crops (or bees) to survive the other dismal environmental conditions we have perpetrated on this planet.

    I kind of get the “labeling” issue, I guess. But maybe we should encourage people to stop eating stuff with so many “ingredients” in it in the first place. I am as guilty as everyone else in this regards (buying processed foods), but I dream of a day when most things that I buy regularly have precious few “ingredients” in them to worry myself over in the first place.

  2. Jessica R permalink
    May 7, 2013 1:47 pm

    I do now.
    Beers are appreciated. :-)

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