Two things go together in the public mind: GMOs and Monsanto. I haven’t been a major crusader for GMOs, but whenever I’ve mentioned them (and my positive views toward them), I get emails accusing me of being a shill for Monsanto…but I detest the greedy corporate giant. If I were giving talks on GMOs, there’d be lots of disavowals of Monsanto, and I’d be begging people to not confuse the two.
Kavin Senapathy has been much more active on the GMO front, and she also wrestled with this problem. Now she explains all the ugly contradictions of dealing with Monsanto.
Everything I’d written and said in support of GMOs was factually correct, but my approach had been all wrong. It’s impossible to have a constructive conversation about GMOs without acknowledging that underlying the unscientific claims made by many GMO opponents is a legitimate desire for trustworthy behavior from the companies that dominate the agricultural marketplace.
For instance, I had dismissed the Non-GMO Project’s ever-present butterfly labels as an annoying tactic based on pseudoscience. But the label’s popularity showed that something in the Non-GMO Project’s narrative was resonating with the North American marketplace: The labels play to people’s desire for transparency, to their underlying lack of trust in the food system, and to their desire to have some say in the way our food is grown and made.
Yes! Every organism is genetically unique (almost) and has undergone some modifications — that we’ve moved from trial-and-error reliance on chance variation to directed modifications does not make the technique “bad”. What is bad, though, is the domination of agriculture by corporations that aren’t shy about using unethical skullduggery to maintain that position.
Senapathy is right. What needs to be done first is isolate capitalist villain Monsanto, hold them accountable for their behavior, and then, I think, GMOs will become a non-issue, as they should be.