The Real Seeds of Deception
This article from Discover also deals with Anti-GMO, environmentalist and feminist speaker Vandana Shiva. As mentioned in a previous posting, Vandana Shiva has been perpetuating a story that over 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the years since Monsanto GMO seeds were introduced to the country. Shiva describes this as “genocide”. Shiva posits that this is due to Monsanto’s business practices driving these farmers out of money. In the article, the author casts doubt on Shiva’s story by discussing how it may more likely be social and economic factors in India that are actually driving suicide rates up, and not Monsanto specifically. The author also mentions the documentary based on the Shiva story, Bitter Seeds, and mentions that while the connections to Monsanto might be more contrived, the connections made regarding India’s cultural practices and predatory lending might be more pertinent, if people were willing to pay attention to it.
The author then moves on to relating an event at which Shiva spoke at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. At the event, the author noted that when a member of the Gardens’ staff was introducing Shiva, they made it a point to mention that “over a quarter million Indian farmers have committed suicide because of GMO seed” to gasps from the crowd. This was able to prime the audience for when Shiva took over and discussed this story in more detail.
After the speech, the author had a moment to speak with Ms. Shiva, and he elaborated about how his journalism class was able to determine that Shiva’s story was overstated. Shiva’s response was simply to reiterate her point, and claim that any evidence against her version of events must be made up by Monsanto.
This kind of evangelism is concerning. A disregard for fact can severely discredit one’s position in an argument. To continue to repeat a lie until it becomes true doesn’t make it any more true than it was before. If people have genuine concern about GMO and the business practices surrounding it, then perhaps moving away from individuals like this would be advisable.
The Trusted Communicators Who Shape the GMO Discourse
This editorial from Discover discusses certain individuals that are considered to be major boosters to the anti-GMO cause and how they are using lies and pseudoscience to push the discussion in their direction. The author cites a Vandana Shiva and Dr. Oz specifically. Shiva has apparently been going around the world telling a “lie” that farmers in India are committing suicide from the monopolistic business practices that seem to be inherent with GMOs. Vandana Shiva is well-respected in the anti-GMO sphere, and her words have carried a lot of weight. She is able to write for the Guardian, and her story about suicidal farmers was also the source for a documentary called “Bitter Seeds”.
Dr. Oz is also mentioned, as he holds a degree of influence in the health nut world. His own willingness to allow for the more firebrand-oriented anti-GMO evangelists has been shown on his website and on his show.
This editorial brings up an interesting point in the discussion of GMO. Both sides are very passionate about their positions, and this article shows that even the anti-GMO side is guilty of skewing facts and figures just as much as the corporate interests at play in the GMO corner. It also suggests that the debate is much more murky than either side would probably care to admit. Not only that, but fiery, vitriolic language can be a turn off for those individuals simply looking for the truth of the matter. It would probably be safe to assume that the kinds of language that Michael Pollan or Vandana Shiva use is specifically targeted at anti-GMO folk already, perhaps in an effort to shore up their base, and get them to evangelize their movement for them.
The World According to Monsanto seeks to report on various controversies regarding the use and promotion of its products. Monsanto became the pioneer of genetically modified foods when, in 1983, created a tobacco plant that was resistant to antibiotics. Around 5 years later, it also became the first bioagricultural company to conduct field tests of genetically modified crops. Monsanto is also well known for its herbicide product commercially available under the brand name “Roundup”. The films director, who researched the company and the effects of its products worldwide for over 3 years, makes the claim that Monsanto, in collusion with various government entities, sought to suppress and manipulate the scientific data regarding its products. They are also recognized as developing rBST (recombinant bovine growth hormone) for use in dairy cows which increases milk production by 11-16%. The film makes the point that rBST leads to decreased health for dairy cows, often causing mastitis requiring antibiotics which then leach into the cows milk, ultimately consumed by humans.
The film definitely has some points worth considering regarding the mega corporation Monsanto. Being the largest seed producer in the world and with over 70% of the American food supply containing Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, Monsanto is a powerful lobbyist that can wield its influence to push products that may or may not be detrimental not only to humans, but to the environment as well.