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.