Personally if I ever find myself with the same belief as someone who is clearly uneducated, bigoted, flaky or just plain stupid; I think to myself: “Hmmm… I better go check my facts.” If I then went to check my facts and instead of finding facts found only anecdotes, or papers that no scientific journal will touch with a barge-pole, or an infinitesimal number of papers that were published by some half-baked journals and then discredited by every other scientist who ever read them, or endless websites trying to look credible without citing any peer-reviewed science, or a lone TED talk that somehow slipped through the net and then drew criticism from every scientist or expert who ever saw it; I wouldn’t form the opinion that the entire scientific community and every related profession was involved in an enormous conspiracy – I’d begin to think that my opinion was wrong. I know! Shocking huh? Then I’d start to read more and learn more, and I’d seek out the opinions of people who are experts in their field, instead of hippies, concerned moms, people trying to sell fad diet books, or organic food advocates.
So now Neil Young is apparently jumping on the bandwagon by writing an entire album dedicated to anti-Monsanto rhetoric. Here’s the track list:
1) Rockin’ in a GMO Free World (Slight Return)
2) Spider Genes in my Jeans
3) Food Allergy Blues
4) Monsatan Gave my Mammy Cancer
5) Monsatan Gave my Baby Autism
6) Food Babe’s Heart of Gold
7) The Devil’s Seed is in Me
8) I Gots No Truck with the Star Buck
9) Lord I Hate Gly pho sate
10) Kiss my Ass Monsanto
11) Whole Foods Hoedown
12) Pseudo Science Years
13) All the Bees be Dyin’
For anyone who cares, I’ve done my research. GM food is safe to eat. There are some issues around GM crops leading directly to the existence of glyphosate resistant weeds, there are issues of anti-competitive behaviours and monopoly power, there are issues of “contamination” of non-GM crop fields. GM food however, does not cause cancer, or autism, or unknown food allergies, or obesity, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or ADHD. It is not nutritionally inferior to organic food. GMOs are not, as some would like us to believe, the end of the world as we know it.
There is no good and evil here. Organic food and GM food are not opposing products, but different products serving different markets. However, having watched this issue closely for several years now, I can say that by far the bulk of the really sickening behaviour that I have seen is coming from the anti-GMO types, along with most of the falsehoods, the irrationality, the death threats, and the shaming and accusing – meanwhile in the background, a burgeoning organic food industry is quietly reaping the benefit. It sickens me to hear educated middle class people berating lower-income moms for feeding their kids GM foods that are scientifically proven to be perfectly healthy. I despise the constant attacks on the scientific process that are bandied about by privileged, often educated people who are wilfully ignorant, lazy or just too downright biased to take the time to understand how genetic engineering actually works.
If someone is just scared, because GMOs make them feel icky for some reason that they can’t quite put their finger on, and they have no idea what the truth is but they just really don’t want to eat GMOs, that is absolutely their right. In fact, I can even garner some respect for someone who will stand by their convictions even though they can establish no obvious motive for them. It suggests a deep trust of one’s intuition. But what I can’t abide, is someone who has no idea whatsoever of why they don’t like them or what alleged harm they cause, but instead of admitting this, goes onto Google and looks for something that supports their position, then waves around the first bit of pseudoscience they find while screaming: “AH HA! Look! Look! I knew GMOs were bad!” Your intuition is not fact – you don’t get to tell others what to do on the basis of your intuition…except your own kids, and even then only until they’re old enough to think for themselves.
And calling for GMO labelling I’m sorry to say, is nothing but a blatant attempt to demonize a perfectly legal and scientifically proven safe and healthy product. What a boon for the organic industry that would be! All their work done for them! They don’t have to bother advertising their own product, or proving that it’s healthier than the GM product; they can just rely on a mandatory label on their competitor’s product that scares the shit out of everybody! How can any rational person not see this for the ruse that it is? If you choose to eat organic food even though there’s no science to show that it’s better for you; even though it’s (conservatively) 30-60% more expensive than conventionally farmed food, and even though there’s a strong argument to say that you’re financing an industry that is largely profiting from irrational fear, then good for you; but don’t expect support from everyone else, especially not from those less privileged than you who genuinely can’t afford it.
Having said that, here’s something that may surprise you: I love organic food! I like the prettiness of boutiquey little organic markets; I like the ideals of it; I like supporting smaller, independent farms. If I’m completely honest, I like the idea that it may be more healthy in some way, even though I believe that any health benefit is almost certainly caused by the placebo effect. I realise that I am in a privileged position to be able to make the choice to buy and eat organic food when there is no necessity for it whatsoever. I am privileged because I can afford it. For this I am profoundly grateful. I’ve made a choice; a choice that is not supported by science, and I do not have the right or the desire to shove my ideology down other people’s throats.