Crowds are rallying, hazmat suits are being laid out in anticipation and black markers by the dozens are being used to scrawl a skull and crossbones on cardboard signs to prepare. The “March Against Monsanto” is looming on May 25, but I have other plans.
This protest being held in state capitals across the country later this month ironically illustrates yet another example of a lack of understanding of the basics of the food system. With a bit of homework, it is fairly easy to see that protesting Monsanto accomplishes nothing. Monsanto is simply providing the products farmers want. Farmers are simply supplying what consumers want. If protestors really want to make a difference, they need to stop buying the low-cost, convenient foods that society has demanded and continues to buy. These protestors would send a much clearer message if they stopped eating and drinking foods and drinks made with ingredients produced from genetically modified corn and soybeans from agribusiness companies. No matter how much they protest Monsanto, the company will continue to do its job: supply what farmers demand. And farmers will continue to do their job: supply what consumers demand.
Blogger Ellen Malloy wrote a great post on this subject after taking some time to learn about the food system and actually engaging in a civil conversation with folks at Monsanto. Consumers deserve the right to choose what they want to eat, but the time of those involved with the “March” would be much better served by gaining an understanding of the reality of the situation rather than protesting a company that is just doing its job.
Food choices all boil down to personal accountability. If you are concerned about your food, good — here are useful steps you can take to remedy the situation with the time spent not protesting Monsanto on May 25.
1. Take some time to sort through the propaganda. I do understand this is easier said than done, so here are some tips. Focus on science from credible sources. If the “donate” section is prominently displayed on the web site, it is probably not reliable. Scaring people encourages more donations than facts. Also, if it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is. If it really sounds scary, be skeptical in your research. Check the sources of the information. A common tactic of anti-GMO propaganda, even from normally reliable sources, is to have a very scary sounding headline followed by some almost as scary first few paragraphs. If the source is respectable, the more extreme sounding information at the beginning of the story is always qualified at the end with a source from the other side to “balance” the story or statements about how research shows [insert scary statement here] as one possible outcome. Remember, everything you eat has some risk associated with it. The best anyone can hope to do is to minimize the incredible risks of eating. Here are some helpful websites to get you started: findourcommonground.com, http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/, www.fooddialogues.com and corncommentary.com/. It also wouldn’t hurt to talk with a corn or soybean farmer who is using genetically modified crops from Monsanto or another company about why they are planted.
2. Grow your own food. In the time you could spend protesting, why not go to the local hardware store and get a porch planter or window box? Then stop at the local garden center for some seed of your favorite veggies. May 25 is after the frost-free date and would be a great time to plant some tomatoes, lettuce, peppers or whatever. This does not cost too much, does not take much time and you will get to enjoy some delicious fruits (or veggies) of your labor. You also may learn to appreciate the challenges of producing food on a larger scale.
3. Prepare an unprocessed meal procured from all local sources. This will take some time, but it is a vastly better use of multiple hours of dressing up in a hazmat suit on what could be a warm spring day or chanting repeatedly to someone who is not listening. Instead, go to a farmers market or search on the Internet for local farms with products you’d like to try. This will take extra time, extra money and extra transport fuel from your normal daily routine, but so does a protest. And, if you take this course of action, you will get a great meal, but you will also likely learn something about the seasonality of food, how food is produced and what modern agriculture (and modern agribusinesses including Monsanto and many others) bring to the table (literally).
Of course, this list could be much longer, as I believe that almost any productive activity (including a good nap) is a much more valuable use of time than protesting Monsanto. Chances are, that if you are reading this, though, you were not planning on attending the May 25 protest either. You may not even be confused about your food. But, you probably know someone who is. Maybe, instead of doing whatever you were doing instead of protesting Monsanto on May 25, you should take a couple of minutes to talk with them.
Great post Matt! Always better to be proactive than reactive!
This is great Matt! Actions will bring more change than words. Your approach is the only way change will happen..
Then why does Monsanto and the other GMO companies fight with millions of dollars the labeling of food for content of GMOs? They agreed to labeling in Europe and Japan why not here. After it is labeled then the consumer has a choice of what to buy, now they have to buy organic. Which is the fast growing sector of the food business. So fast that that organic companies are being bought up by the majors like Kraft, Kellogg’s, Post, ect.
There is a message here if you only look.
Buy the way Japan and China are investing millions of dollars in the Black Sea region to produce non gmo corn and soybeans which will hurt our exports to both countries.
Matt, read the MIT research paper. http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
I look for the biggest campaign to discredit is since the discovery of the dangers of trans-fatty acids by the University of Maryland in the late 1970s
Thanks for your comments. I do not necessarily see how protesting Monsanto will encourage labeling. Consumer behavior will, though. And, we already have a labeling system, as you pointed out. What is wrong with simply buying organic? I heard about the MIT study. I have skimmed though it. While the findings are certainly credible, it seems like a worst case scenario-type study that is not really a reflection of the realities of what is happing in the ecosystem. This seems like something that could be extrapolated inaccurately and easily twisted into something that it is not. But again, I have only skimmed through it briefly.
The protest is about choice and having the information to make that choice. Monsanto spending millions of dollars to prevent labeling. Just label it and let the consumer have a visible choice for the market to decide how much gmo and non gmo food is worth. Without labeling the market is blind and can not determine the value of each. Are the people behind GMO afraid the consumer will walk away from their products the reason they are fighting it. If they invested the money into the science like used to test drugs to prove its safety we all be much better off and we would not have this fight going on. The biggest objection in Europe is GMO has not been proven safe by independent 3rd party research. Must we be so blind as to drive importers to other growers? Monsanto knows the only way GMO will pay for them is if they get farmers around the world all growing so the consumer has no choice. In countries with labeling there is a big demand for non gmo food. That demand in Japan is why there is a premium for non gmo corn and soybeans.
I few years ago in the state of Minn there was a story of the increased health problems like the MIT study among the sprayer operators. The article associated them with the poor filtration systems in the sprayers not keeping the roundup vapors out resulting in prolonged exposure. The story was in the Ag Professional newsletter.
The protest is because of the ‘ Monsanto protection act’ which was snuck past congress & makea Monsanto immune from prosecution.
I’ve been reading about Monsanto’s destructive work ethics for decades. They are not acting in the best interest of the people or the earth. Nature needs balance to thrive and survive and Monsanto is way off the mark with the manipulations of the natural world. Anyone protesting the latest legislation by marching is already doing your list of suggestions or at least knows it is best. The march will create awareness and send the message to legislators that people want them stopped. It becomes less a matter of choice when the mono-culture dictates the farming and our foods are not labeled. The countries where they have banned GMO and Monsanto products are protecting their citizens. When the bees and the butterfly populations begin to plummet they become the canaries in the coal mine. You say Monsanto is just doing their job – is their job the annihilation of humans?
The bottom line is that I want to know what I am purchasing for my family. Without proper labeling, how can I do that? And by the way, I plant a garden, put up food for the winter, cook from-scratch when possible, etc. Even with all of these personal efforts, it is very difficult to avoid GMOs without proper labeling. What is Monsanto afraid of? And why is this article’s author so naive? (I actually think “dopey” is a more appropriate descriptor.)
Thanks for reading. It is fantastic that you garden and make food from scratch. I believe that has many benefits beyond just good eating. As far as wanting labels on foods containing GMOs, that is also fine, but protesting Monsanto will simply not help that situation whatsoever. To accurately and effectively label foods containing genetically modified ingredients, every soybean and every kernel of corn produced in this country would have to be carefully monitored from seed development through processing of the final food product. This is just not feasible. A more feasible option is a food processor setting up an identity preserved program that traces all of the ingredients used back to the farm and the seed source. This type of identity preserved production is already being done, though almost exclusively for the export market. This can happen here too, but food processors need to see there is an actual real demand from people willing to pay significantly more for their food (because it costs significantly more to produce and track and certify) to justify the massive expense of a separate processing chain for those food products. Hence, every suggestion made in my blog is vastly more productive in terms of getting GM-free food than protesting Monsanto, which accomplishes, ummmmmm, oh yes, nothing. I put a high value on time (including yours) and I think that those planning to protest could find more more valuable use of their time to accomplish whatever end goals they may have. Have a great weekend, whatever it is you choose to do. For more on the labeling issue see http://ocj.com/2012/07/product-may-be-partially-produced-with-brussels-sprouts/.
This is done to an emphasis on the New Balance philosophy, not any one particular shoe When a shoe is redesigned, the model number is increased by one.