I just came back a few days ago from participating in the Independent Women’s Forum panel on Food and Fear held at Washington University School of Public Health and sponsored by Monsanto. For sake of transparency, my hotel room was covered by Monsanto and my plane fare was covered by IWF. I took paid time off to attend this forum to share the story of how Hawaii was being used in the fear mongering against farmers and how our story has had a global impact.
I learned a lot actually listening to some of the panelists, especially when it came to understanding the issue of undernutrition and hidden hunger. I learned that animal proteins are a great way of converting cellulose into energy and nutrition for us. Animals as food sources can help provide more nutrition for developing countries. I realized why the fight against biotech crops and even veganism can be factors in denying the poor nutritious foods. Without crops to feed animals, these countries can have greater hurdles in getting adequate calories and micronutrients. The anti-GMO movement really want to deny people food and the potential to have a full life. It’s terribly disturbing to me to realize that yet again.
After participating in the panel discussion, the next day was filled with touring the Monsanto campus which really was amazing to me. There is a lot of high tech work going on there beyond just biotech. From custom made 3D printing to some cutting edge plants and greenhouses, that place is a hub for the convergence of plant science to engineering and design. However, the most amazing thing to me wasn’t the technology, but just seeing regular people walking the halls and working at their jobs. No one looked devious or evil but just very industrious at what they did. There were no men in dark suits or sunglasses in a boardroom. It wasn’t what activists want you to think about this company.
In the last day before going home, I decided to take my family around my old stomping grounds which was fun but very short lived because later that evening, my kids and mom got hit by the horrible stomach bug one by one. My mom had gotten sick on the plane ride over but got over it and then started getting sick again. Next my middle daughter got sick and then my older daughter, and lastly, my son. We were sick, sick, sick in a hotel room far from home. It wasn’t fun being covered in vomit for a night. I thought I had escaped this bug because I didn’t get sick that night.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t to be lucky. On the day we were to head home, I came down with the bug too. It is a horribly illness where you feel your gut is just angry and there’s nothing you can do about it other than hang at the toilet and hold a wad of toilet paper in your hands at the same time. I was at the urgent care as my symptoms got progressively worse just 6 hours before we were to leave.
As I lay there on the gurney in the clinic with my toddler snuggled beside me, the TV was playing. Commercial after commercial were focused on foods. Eat at this restaurant! Eat this snack. Take this vitamin and shake to help you have optimal health. Detox your body for better health. Eat clean. Drink this juice to cleanse your system. When your really sick, food is the last thing you want to hear but on the TV, it’s all about food. There had to have been at least 30 commercials or mentions of food in the 2 hours I lay there waiting for the doctor’s treatment plan. The thought of food just disgusted me when I felt so ill.
After literally detoxing from the stomach bug, home was the hotel room for the next 2 days. Once again, the TV pumped out messages of food, food, and food. I was in no mood for food after being so ill but the messages were constant. It made me think that we as Americans are just pounded with the idea that we have to eat. Very few of us are worried about being hungry for more than a few hours and food is everywhere. Here I was on a liquid diet for over 36 hours to get over this and there are millions of people in the world who live like this day after day. I also had no energy to do a whole lot either which made me useless. How can the human potential ever be maximized without adequate food and nutrition?
The average American citizen has thousands of choices when it comes to food. They may not have easy ways to discern what is healthy and will rely on heuristics to make those decisions. That’s where the pseudoscience pushers like the Food Babe, Center for Food Safety, Dr. Josh Axe, Mike Adams, and even Dr. Oz have filled a role to take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge of best food choices. These “experts” have capitalized on this tendency and it’s clear that there are millions falling for this. Instead of learning about what makes up good nutrition and health, if you have a shortcut to follow, it’s alluring and easy for the masses.
The so called pesticide buffer zone and fear mongering of pesticides are the same kind of manipulation being used in Hawaii. People are conditioned to hear that Restricted Use Pesticide is something bad and that synthetic pesticides are bad so avoid it. It’s an easy concept to understand and quickly catches on with the public whose real desire is to be healthy and avoid anything harmful. Create a few movies to resonate that message and you will get the uniformed public involved into what is perceived to be a social justice issue, when in reality, it’s far from it.
From movie stars, to politicians, to the demagogues of the anti-GMO movement like former Kauai County Councilmember, Gary Hooser, and the Center for Food Safety’s Ashley Lukens, the quick and easy solution to the problem is create more regulation on a made up problem. The uninformed masses simply believe their messages of fear and potential harm without actually learning about what they are saying. It’s repeated so often that it becomes truth despite the building evidence against their claims. The facts become useless and meaningless with policy development.
Like the persistent messages of food everywhere, the fear on pesticides only demonstrates the success of using the least educated to create a movement. Taking advantage of people and only relying on the loud voices of the public is what’s guiding politicians in Hawaii and therein lies the major problem. The public has received unsubstantiated information through mass manipulation that neither protects people as claimed but is used on a greater scale to deny the world of the very thing we have access to, food.
While farmers are busy defending their access to tools in Hawaii, small farms across the world are being denied tools that could help sustain them. The argument for buffer zones here turns into the chemicals being used are making people infertile and gay across the world. Fear of GM foods pervades in these countries who too aren’t educated to understanding the science behind. You’ll never see Gary or Ashley trying to talk to people to educate them. They prefer to create fearful, angry people and have them launch their emotions at politicians to get their way. The sad thing is that they are using people to talk about things they don’t understand and nor do they want people to think critically. It’s simply believe and never question. Both Gary and Ashley, as well as several other anti-GMO politicians like Kaniela Ing have blocked anyone who questions their posts. Thinking is not allowed in the anti-GMO realm. Thinking is dangerous.
The world doesn’t need more angry and fearful believers. We need innovators and researchers to find better solutions to the problems at hand. Although we may not suffer from food shortages now, it may well be happening in the future of our children who will pay the consequences of the current status of anti-ag movement. Fear and belief can’t create the better world we all want. It has to be carefully planned and studied to know what will work for the future. Then again, the reality of the anti-GMO movement may not be about food but about taking the lands out of productivity at the rate Hawaii is going.