Political Ideologies and the Anti-GMO Movement

stockvault-ear125307The Anti-GMO movement has been around since before GM technology first walked across the world stage. The mere hint of it initiated the creation of activist groups against it, and the ideology of anti-GMO began before the public really knew anything about the science. The pervasive question here is why?

It should come as no surprise that the majority of anti-GMO sentiment comes from the left portion of the political spectrum. The common thought process is that the right supports GMOs because they support big business. This may be true to some extent, but I don’t think the causation is supported. I think that the right, because they don’t automatically hold a dislike for big business simply doesn’t have a reason to buy into the fear mongering about the science in this case.

Let’s look at the left wing ideology and how it relates here. In the political landscape of today, the left is very much aligned with environmentalism. Concerns about the environment, especially given the realities of anthropogenic climate change, are valid and necessary in the world. The problem, I believe, is the baggage that comes with that environmental awareness.

The environmentalism, or green, movement is complex, to say the least. There are many aspects that range from feeling great about recycling all the way to eco-terrorism. The aspect that we need to look at here is the middle class left wing “green.” This ideology is often what becomes popular and filters down to the rest of those who subscribe to the left wing political ideology. These are the trend setters.

There is a distinct movement amongst this demographic to live in the embodiment of the naturalistic fallacy. Everything natural is good and everything “unnatural” or modern is bad. They apply this especially to diet, medicine, and how they raise their children, while spreading the word on their new iPad, using the WiFi at the new school they’re picking their children up at, sitting in their brand new SUV. Irony abounds, yet there it is.

From this mixture of beliefs we get a strange mix of anti-vaccination, anti-modern medicine, and anti-GMO sentiment. The idea is that these things are unnatural, and therefore, bad. This is impressively done while forgetting that before things like vaccines and other modern medicine, the average lifespan was around 30 years old.

Occupy Irony
Occupy Irony: Guy Fawkes mask factory. Source

Alright, so let’s take a look at the current post-Occupy left wing ideologies. The primary thing that we need to look is the anti-corporation angle. This has moved beyond the cry for fairness and turned into a mantra. The idea is that anything that can be construed as a “big business” is inherently bad, and so, anything they produce is inherently bad. We see this pretty constantly in the greater political discourse today.

Now, let’s take a look at the anti-GMO movement. This is a perfect marriage between the faux environmentalism that pervades the suburban landscape and the anti-corporation mantra recited in the streets, regardless of the actions of any specific corporation.

So how do GMOs fit in here?

Monsanto is moderately large corporation by the standards of this movement. Because they have managed to get in the public crosshairs, they’ve been turned into the monolithic evil representation of GMO technology.

Since then, people have fabricated countless home “studies” and compiled anecdotes to “prove” their stance, contrary to the fact that science doesn’t work by starting with a conclusion and attempting to prove it. When you engage an anti-GMO activist, the debate will almost inevitably come to them citing arguments against Monsanto, and not GMOs.

This is because the science overwhelmingly supports the technology, so the only thing left to do is hold to political ideology and attack the corporation.

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Robert Sacerich is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes. You can find his other writing at http://rationalityunleashed.net/ or follow him on twitter https://twitter.com/Rationalityunle.
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