Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 186- GMO life

Dear Mr. President,

Genetically Modified food certainly sounds unappetizing. On a visceral level I don't like GMO crops; I don't trust the companies that produce them and I don't believe the the effects of consuming them are fully understood. That being said, my sister is a doctor who earned her PHD studying plant genetics and hybrids. She now works for a company that, in the course of its work with impoverished nations, funds the use of these crops to fight starvation and malnourishment. We've often talked about these crops and she's a believer in the benefits that some of them provide.

Still, I'm uneasy. I can't fully explain or quantify my hesitation about GMO crops, except to say that it is directly related to the huge profits enjoyed by Monsanto and other agricultural companies. It isn't that I think organic, non-GMO food is raised or sold without any expectation of profit, it's that there is a certain obscenity to this kind of wealth, in that it makes the few who enjoy it and many more who depend upon it desperate for its preservation. I think Ayn Rand would probably slap me, (or maybe kill me and cut me into small pieces) if she were alive, for equating wealth and immorality, but she was never going to be my biggest fan, anyway. It isn't fair to assume that because a company makes money it is immoral, but when I see the things that the banking and financial companies did to make their huge profits, or the oil companies, I see a pattern of exploitation, manipulation, dishonesty and disregard for safety, social and environmental risks. It appears, to an admittedly casual and ignorant observer, that to achieve such a combination of profit, power and size, a company has to make ethically dubious decisions. At the very least, I doubt that my health, or the planet's, is a higher priority for these companies than their bottom line. Which makes me nervous, considering how blindly our system depends up on them, and the lack of transparency we allow them to operate with.

But I think every one should get to make that decision for themselves. Which is why I hope that, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, the USDA will insist upon clear labeling of all GMO food & products containing GMO ingredients. Allowing consumers to make up their own minds about what they buy and what they eat is essential to our individual freedoms, our obligation to protect ourselves and our planet. This will also make companies like Monsanto more accountable to consumers; allowing the market's invisible hand to keep them just a little more honest. I think that's a solution even Ayn Rand could get behind.

Respectfully yours,


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