The title to this post is a rhetorical question, by the way. No, GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) are not Satan. They don’t even come close. At least the traditional Satan of Bible fame and such is pure evil. He means to be evil and to bring down creation. GMOs? Not so much.
But what, exactly, are GMOs? Are they these weird mutant plants and animals that have superpowers or something? You’d think that they were based on how some people are completely losing their minds over them.
As we were walking around yesterday, my wife and I ran into this protest. A lot of the protesters were saying things that sounded completely disjointed. Somehow, because there is a bee die-off, my grandchildren were going to be sterile. (You can see this point in one of the posters above.) There was no explanation of how this was going to happen. We were apparently expected to just accept it as gospel.
Other statements and posters were even weirder. YouTube is being used by the Illuminati to poison the minds of young, impressionable people. Because nothing poisons my mind more than “fail” videos or compilations of cats being jerks:
Yeah, that’s truly evil right there.
Anyway, back to the GMOs. The fear over GMOs is really just another example of the enormous failure in science and technology education in this country. I can understand people in places of the world where education is not readily available being scared of science and technology, but people here in the United States, where education is free up through high school? They are obviously not being taught basic genetics, or, if they are being taught basic genetics, they’re not paying attention.
The food chain “Chipotle” says it’s not selling food made from GMOs anymore. Their rationale was that some GMO plants are made to withstand pesticides, or to create their own so they can resist pests. They would rather go with more “natural” plant foods, so natural that they actually require a ton more pesticides. That’s right… YOU’RE GETTING MORE PESTICIDES IN YOUR FOOD BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING NON-GMO.
It’s all junk science. It’s plain ignorance.
It was only because my wife pulled me away that I didn’t engage some of these people. I wanted to ask them basic science questions. What’s DNA? What’s a mutation? How is a GMO different from a “natural” organism?
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a petition online to ban Monsanto and GMOs. “Unfortunately,” I told her, “ban Monsanto and other companies that do food science, and the world goes hungry.” Are these companies “too big to fail”? Yes. Do they have too much control over the food supply? Yes. Should we ban them altogether? No. Do we put into place science-based policies to make sure that food reaches all who need it at a reasonable (or even zero) cost? YES!
The thing about negotiating with your perceived enemies is that you have to negotiate with your perceived enemies. You don’t negotiate with friends. Very few of the people in the protest yesterday — or those posting petitions online — truly know their “enemy.” There are a bunch of other less ignorant ways to address concerns over how our food is being produced. I don’t mean less controversial, or less troublemaking, just less ignorant.
When you tell a reasonable person who paid attention in school that their grandchildren are going to be sterile because the bees are dying off, you lose them. On the other hand, when you tell them that the bees are dying off and that we need to research why because they play a key role in pollinating the plants that give us our food, you engage them. Likewise with the “Satan” analogy. When you say to someone who understands genetics (at a very basic level, mind you) that GMOs are Satan, you lose them. On the other hand, when you tell them that you’re worried about GMOs, you might get a lesson on why you shouldn’t worry.
In all cases, approach your passions with reason. Don’t let ideology get the best of you and make you look foolish. Your cause may be important to you and to many, but, if it is absolutely misguided, you’re only going to get laughed at.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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