I missed a great deal of the excitement of the late 60’s. Though I was a bit young to be participating in sit-ins and demonstrations, I know plenty of people my age who partook of these activities. No, what held me back was indecision, lack of commitment. There is always so much self-righteousness involved in group marches and demonstrations. In the back of my mind there is always a little voice asking questions. These people are as sure of their facts as the other side is sure of their own facts. How can I be so sure of the facts I’m spouting?
Looking back on the history-making marches of my youth, I chastise myself for not participating. While I sat on the sidelines, look what the marches to Montgomery and to Washington DC accomplished! As an adult, I have tried to judiciously pick my causes and then to act on them with at least a bit of integrity. So when Dia, from The Odd and Unmentionable, alerted me to the upcoming world-wide march against Monsanto, I hauled myself out of my comfort zone and hovered at the edge of the gathering crowd at the park. This, at least, is a cause that I can get behind. Even Forbes magazine has come out against Monsanto!
When an organizer abruptly pushed a sign into my hands, I realized I couldn’t just hover any longer. I was in. During the half-mile walk to the Idaho Capitol Building, we marchers received good vibes from passing cars, horns blaring and hands waving in support. A bystander asked me what the flap was about. Somewhat stunned, I rattled off an inarticulate explanation about GMO seeds that fail to propagate, that may be filled with pesticides, that we should know when something we purchase to put into our bodies may contain GMO products . . .. She said, “I see I have some research to do.” Wow! I thought. Is it that easy? Another young couple asked us what Monsanto is. Really? You live in IDAHO, for fertilizer’s sake, and you don’t know what Monsanto is? How is that possible? But, there are people who don’t know what is going on. They don’t understand that genetic modification changes genes of an organism in ways not possible through traditional selective breeding. And so, this world-wide march is an important step in educating the population about what is happening, what profits drive giant corporations to behave in ways that potentially harm all humanity and the planet we live on.
Did I feel comfortable holding my Monsanto sign? Hell, no. I was plagued by the same distaste for group-think and hyperbole that inevitably invades these types of events. But I have to push my misgivings aside and look at the larger picture. It is a sad fact that our own country is woefully behind the rest of the developed world in managing and regulating the use of genetic engineering. We should be leading the world, instead we drag our feet and bow to the corporate giants that buy our politicians. As individuals, those of us with any choice in where and what we purchase can act on our own behalf. We can buy locally grown food from people we know. We can use our wallets to push the cause. Money talks.Scitable, a collaborative learning space for science has a good discussion of genetic modification and its possible unintended consequences.