Monsanto, GMOs, And People Who Would Have Loved The Dark Ages

Have you guys ever been in one of those situations in which you want one of your awkward or significantly less popular friends to be invited to a party, so you and some of your friends use your own social clout to get him her or her in the door unchallenged? Like, the host is happy that you’re there and honestly wouldn’t have cared if you brought a particularly ornery bear? (Or perhaps you’ve been the unpopular friend or perhaps you’ve been the host?)

So, about a month ago, that’s what happened with Monsanto. President Obama signed a keep-the-government-funded-so-that-the-world-as-we-know-it-can-continue-to-exist bill, and one of the minor provisions in it (thanks to aggressive lobbying from the company, Monsanto) “effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future.”

First of all, people fussing at Obama about this? Chill out. And I don’t just mean: “Our last President ordered that prisoners of war be tortured for information, this guy signed a law about seed-planting.” But also that. But, really, this was the governmental-finacial equivalent of do-or-die. No responsible President would have refused to sign.

But second of all, as alarmed as I am by lobbying of Congress and by democracy in general, not to mention anything that bars federal courts from doing something that they should be allowed to do . . . guys, this is about seeds. Like, plant seeds.

They aren’t genetically engineering dragons or viral weapons or even doing some harmless human cloning.

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are problematic when they limit natural diversity among certain crops (so if one has a vulnerability, they all do). They are also problematic for the same reason that any monopoly can be problematic (“Oh, you’re using our seeds? Well you’ll specifically need our fertilizer and other products”). That’s dickish, but still much less sinister than your average cable-provider (I’m not kidding or just exaggerating because of some service issues; cable companies are downright malevolent).

But GMOs feed millions around the globe who would otherwise starve. They allow our food to be more affordable and the annual crops harvested by our farmers* to be more predictable and consistent. And I don’t know about yours, but my genetically modified food is absolutely delicious. The way that some people freak out about technological advances that improve our lives and those of millions around the globe (whether they complain about GMOs or vaccines or, I kid you not, Google Earth), you would think that they wanted to live during the Dark Ages.

Because nothing says “all of our food is one-hundred-percent organic” like a devastating famine.

 

*Is anyone else totally weirded out that we still have farmers in 2013? I mean, I’m sure that in a hundred years we’ll still have some people growing their own herbs or flowers or whatever, and that’s fine. But there are still people who are actually farmers and they’re flesh-and-blood humans instead of robots and that is one of those things, along with heinous crimes, senseless violence, and rampant pollution, that I feel would be awkward to explain to extraterrestrial visitors. All of that horrifying, grueling labor should be performed by robots inside domed, temperature-controlled structures. And meat should be synthetically grown and harvested just like corn is.



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Succeed, Don’t Secede


A lot of people were bringing up, over the few weeks following the 2012 US Presidential Election, that “multiple states” have petitioned to secede from the US.

This is not actually true. People in a couple dozen states have started petitions at Whitehouse.gov to allow their states to secede from the United States. And by “people,” I mean a few thousand in any given state. In some cases, as many as twenty-thousand. So, as many people as could be found in a mid-sized or large university. The states themselves are not asking to secede. The vast majority of the populations of each state are at least reasonably sane and, therefore, do not want to secede.

You can start any kind of petition that you like on Whitehouse.gov. I can petition the US government to start funding a program to genetically engineer real Pokemon. They won’t do it, no matter how many signatures I gather (pretty sure that I can get more than twenty-thousand, by the way). How many petitions to end mountaintop-removal or to encourage the US government to terrify Uganda into not being evil have I signed? The US sure did not intervene in Sudan, and we have yet to crush Syrian President Assad and his government beneath our heel. If petitions were some sort of magical formula, a lot of good things and a lot of horribly stupid things would happen. They do not actually mean anything—petitions are a vehicle to show that a number of people stand behind a certain idea. On occasion, they are just a vehicle that people use to whine.

Honestly, I had to endure eight years of the Bush Administration. I know what it is like to, as I assume that most of those who have signed these petitions, absolutely despise your President. George W. Bush has been so far and will hopefully always be the worst US President in my lifetime. But no matter what I may think of Bush or what anyone else may think of Obama, neither of them are the worst President in US history. That honor belongs to Andrew Jackson, and we all know it. Andrew Jackson makes Sarah Palin seem like an intellectual, Ron Paul seem like a proponent of Big Government, Hernán Cortés seem like a friend to the pre-European inhabitants of the Americas, and Yosemite Sam seem like a responsible gun-owner.

Worst. President. Ever.

So when I say that I would not actually want for my state (which, ugh, is one of those in which some residents signed one of those stupid petitions for secession), or for any other, to secede. Not even if the nightmarish future depicted in one episode of Supernatural came true and President Sarah Palin became a reality (that’s a horrible future in which the Christian devil, Lucifer, has years to roam free and devastate the planet, by the way). We’re stronger together. I hope that Puerto Rico, where support is growing to become our fifty-first state, becomes fully integrated in the United States. Honestly, I would love for us to absorb Canada and, a decade or so after the War On Drugs and this senseless prohibition ends, absorb Mexico (where the cartels will lose much of their strength since the War On Drugs will have stopped feeding them). I look forward to when the entire planet—when the entire human species—is one nation.

Ideally, one that I rule. But I will accept a less perfect version, so long as we are all united and justice prevails.

Secession is a coward’s answer to a political disagreement. If you think that something is wrong, fix it. Don’t leave.



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Post-Election Reflection: What We Could Have Had

I voted in this election, of course. And I was so excited when Obama was reelected—as were the vast majority of my friends and family. Also, the actors and celebrities whom I follow on Twitter. An Australian actress whom I adore tweeted about watching Obama’s inspiring victory speech while working out at the gym. The entire world was watching us, and I do not have to awkwardly explain that “we tried our best,” or “please don’t hate all of us,” over the internet to my friends in other countries (as I did, as a senior in high school, when Bush was reelected). Our country is continuing to move in the right direction. We still have a President who thinks that gay people, women, and religious minorities are actually people and that zygotes and corporations are not. I almost* couldn’t be more excited.

But we did miss out on a few things that an end to the Obama Presidency and a Romney administration would have meant.

First of all, a Romney White House would probably have meant an end to the First Lady’s crusade against childhood happiness. Because seriously. I am so tired of her Disgusting Food And Miserable Activities initiative. You know what? Elementary school is Hell on Earth. You’re a powerless, miserable child whose entire day, at home and at school, is planned out by adults. The one highlight of a typical third grader’s day? Lunch. People complain about cafeteria food, but if you live in a household where hot dogs and pizza and fried anything is a rare treat, lunch in elementary school is this magical time when you get to eat delicious food and socialize with your peers—or read a book. Food is happiness in its purest physical form, and I, for one, want for children to be happy.

I trust that I do not even have to explain to people why jumping rope outside or playing some kind of sportsball in your backyard is, even if you enjoy it, a hideously inferior activity to anything that you might do indoors. Legos, action figures (or Barbies, etc), books, television, video games—children today have so many delightful ways of entertaining themselves that have nothing to do with the insect-ridden, overly warm, overly humid, exposed, way-too-bright outdoors. Playing outdoors is for barbarians. As a child, I only did it when forced to. And I was forced to.

Guess what? Forcing children to play outside and to eat that gross green stuff that grows in dirt? It does not work. My family only drank water at dinner, we had a “salad night” at least once a week, and my mother used even meaty foods as mules to smuggle even more vegetables into our gullets. In my complaints about my (less than pleasant) childhood, this does not even make the top ten, but it’s not something that I remember fondly, either.

And then I went off to college, where I slowly began to realize that I did not have to eat like I had been required to for all of my life. If I made double-stuffed Oreos (or, more likely, quadruple-stuffed), I could discard the gross chocolate wafers that had no crème on them for a roommate to eat. You can control your weight with how much you eat, and how often (plus riding an exercise bike in front of a television); you do not have to make eating a miserable activity, even some of the time.

As an adult, to quote the fabulous Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation, “I stand by my decision to avoid salad . . . and other disgusting things.”

Okay, so the second thing that we missed out on that we would have had with a Romney Presidency: Mitt Romney Sucks Pass It On. It was a simple post made on Tumblr. For those of you unfamiliar, Tumblr is a blog site where users can upload images, text, or even music or video, which can easily be “liked” and “reblogged” by others on Tumblr. Personally, I tend to take screencaps from shows that I watch, add text from the scene in question, and that makes up the vast majority of my original posts to Tumblr. My most popular original post to Tumblr is from a few weeks ago (taken from ABC’s Once Upon A Time), has 120 “notes” (a number derived from the likes and reblogs that the post has received, mostly from strangers). It is not unusual to see posts with several thousands notes.

One simple, unassuming text post titled: “Mitt Romney Sucks, Pass It On” did not include anything beyond a title. It has received over ten million notes. That is, for the record, a lot. It is, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the single most popular post ever on Tumblr. With a Mitt Romney Presidency, imagine how many likes and reblogs it could have gotten over four years.

Third, but not last, is all of the poor hurt feelings in our neighboring country of Canada. Just look at this graphic (also on Tumblr), depicting Canada’s disappointment that pro-Obama Americans will not be flocking across the border to a country that has gun control, universal health care, same-sex marriage, and the right to choose. This picture is adorable.

Finally, and most seriously, a Romney White House might have meant a serious reduction among the crazies. If you’ve watched NCIS or Law & Order or just about any other crime drama, you are probably familiar with the ironically named “Patriot” movement or similar movements. These are whackadoo militia-types who are paranoid and crazy. They do not register the births of their children or socialize them normally (even beyond the normal crippling social isolation that comes with homeschooling). They do not vote or obey speed limits or traffic lights. They are, in essence, a bunch of terrifying, well-armed anarchists who often have some very racist views.

Now, if you know someone who is a gun-nut, that’s just weird. But, weird like my obsession with superheroes. Admittedly, my obsession with superheroes does not really equip me to kill people, but my point is that these “Patriots” (who do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the US government) are scary and you should not just assume that someone who is super into guns is one of them.

The “Patriot” movement sprouted up while Clinton was in office, went down when Bush was in office, and then cropped back up with a vengeance when Obama was first elected. In other words, if the political Right is unhappy with the President, the absolute fringe of the fringe right loses their minds.

If Romney had won, these lunatics might have taken four years off to only be normal amounts of crazy.

 

*The absolute Most Beautiful Human On Earth retweeted one of my tweets on Election Day, which kind of almost completely overshadowed the entire election for me because I have “very sensible” priorities.



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Surprisingly, Team Obama

photo of obama pictures
I was in eighth grade when George W. Bush and Al Gore ran against each other in the race for the US Presidency. Bush became President and I was quite disappointed. That was around the time that I first began watching The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. That was also when I was first becoming strict about rules of language and grammar. I was a freshman in high school when 9/11 happened (taking a Biology quiz when all of the televisions flicked from the silent PowerPoint slideshow of reminders that followed the televised morning announcements to a scene of the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out of one of the towers—we all thought that it was a movie at first). Shock for those first few days swiftly became greater alarm as I saw the Bush Administration take advantage of the national and international goodwill and turn it in what I saw to be disturbing directions.

My high school was not a “political battleground.” In a survey my senior year, when incumbent President Bush ran against John Kerry, I was not yet old enough to vote—few of us were—but a survey of students (conducted by one of the notably conservative members of the faculty) found that 71% of the student body supported John Kerry, and 26% supported George W. Bush. And I live, by the way, in the Southeastern United States. In the Bible Belt. And while I was not, personally, a Kerry-supporter, I was a huge supporter of not-Bush (which seemed to be the general sentiment in the Democratic Party). Thanks to the overwhelmingly similar view of my peers, I was very optimistic about the 2004 Presidential Election.

I was, of course, disappointed. This time, Bush actually won the popular vote, and was reelected.

In 2008, I was so #TeamHillary (and I still am, really). I saw President Bill Clinton speak at my university (and though universities are supposedly “liberal-factories,” my college peers were much more evenly split politically than had been my high school experience). I was disappointed when she lost the primary to Barack Obama, who was, at the time, a relatively unaccomplished politician who seemed to be supporting himself through charisma alone.

As someone who too often relies upon charm to get what he wants, I am very suspicious of other …

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