GMO’s: Harmful or Helpful? Everyone Has An Agenda.

In the novel, Ozeki mentions that “the rapid growth of the fast-food chains was the random factor that helped fuel the potato boom of ’74. In the 1980s it was McDonald’s introduction of the Supersize Meal. In the nineties it was Wendy’s Baked Potato” (56). This was interesting to me because it made me realize how the rise in consumerism of fast food restaurants led to more demand for potato’s, which in turn probably helped companies like Cynaco who produce GMO’s to expand so that they could fulfill this demand for crops that are bigger and more resistant to diseases and insects, and thus supply these restaurants with an efficient, cheap, and hearty potato. GMO’s in the novel are treated as evil entities while Lloyd’s way of farming is seen as being more personal and thus “more natural.”

However, even the Fuller’s use pesticides and chemicals to increase the yield of their crop, and it is even brought up in the novel how these poisons may have played a role in Cass’s miscarriages and inability to become pregnant. Still, without the use of these pesticides, the farming industry would most likely be wiped out and sustain major crop failures, resulting in a severe shortage of food. Although in All Over Creation Cynaco is presented as little more than a profit seeking company, what if their assertions that they are helping to feed the world not just a flimsy excuse for making money, but are indeed accurate? What if GMO’s are the result of using science to benefit humanity? Are GMO’s any more dangerous than the possible side effects of pesticides and other chemicals that are already necessary for farmers to grow their crops?

The Seeds of Resistance are presented in the novel as an extreme example of food activists, but how many people really take the time to research the foods they eat and even care that they are genetically modified? Even when presented with information concerning GMO’s, are consumers going to start boycotting their local supermarkets and stop eating at these fast food restaurants? In my opinion, it is highly unlikely. Ozeki does try to present the multi-facted sides of the food debate, but she clearly favors Lloyd’s way of farming and The Seeds of Resistance’s attitude. Because of this, I feel like her approach fails to represent all of the alternatives for growing crops and also the possible benefits that could be gleaned from GMO’s, and I believe that the novel fails to take into account the reality of the farming industry and the underlying consumerism that drives it.

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4 Responses to GMO’s: Harmful or Helpful? Everyone Has An Agenda.

  1. gcd343 says:

    I agree with you’re idea that Ozeki presents the “multi-facted sides of the food debate”. I also agree that she is clearly biased towards favoring the small-time farmer. I don’t believe defending multi-national GMO corporations would have strengthened this novel any. Onzeki had a clear agenda throughout the novel and that is to promote sustainable farming practices and the individualism of the American farming institution.

  2. Katie says:

    While this departs from the academic, I have to say that your question on how many people really take the time to research the foods they eat and care whether they are genetically modified reminds me of my older brother. He grows his own vegetables and eats only whole foods which is commendable, but he annoys almost everyone around him with his constant effort to convince us that we are eating poisons. Almost all of his Facebook posts are links to this or that study about food and whether it causes or helps cure cancer, and every conversation with him at some point returns to what we should and shouldn’t eat. It amused me when the Seeds of Resistance spammed the supermarket with their pamphlets about GMO’s as health risks mostly because I could picture my brother right there with them. He essentially does the same thing through a digital rhetoric, which is to force feed people information that they otherwise ignore. I have heard several family members and friends tell him that while they appreciate having this knowledge, it is too hard or expensive to eat that way and they are tired of him making them feel bad about their diets.

    My point in this little anecdote is that I agree with you that even when presented with such information most people ignore it and continue eating the foods that are cheap and readily available. I think Ozeki is aware of this considering she compares seeds to books and then has Yumi say that the world would get along fine without books. By discounting books as a valid metaphor, Ozeki calls into question whether her book (as a source of information about GMO’s) is going to have any real effect on society. Since Ozeki know most people won’t look any further into the issues of GMO’s and food health than what they read in her book, she packages her information in an extremely readable, fictional novel in the hopes that some of her information will stick in our minds. Even if we go back to eating genetically modified food, we will at least be somewhat conscious of the fight against GMO’s and can be held more accountable for what we choose to do with this information.

  3. macevedo says:

    It’s an interesting conundrum and it raises a couple of issues. IMO, Cynaco is bad not because they genetically modify their produce but because they’re a soul less megacorporation. Genetic modification really isn’t that big of a deal (not to say that there aren’t any problems with it) , and much of the rhetoric used against it is scare tactics. (It’ll give you cancer!) I really do think that a lot of the anger that is rightfully being directed and corporations like Cynaco is being misdirected at processes like genetic modification. Since corporations are the only ones with the resources to pull off that kind of thing, it’s easy to attack genetic modification practices’s along with the company.

  4. aaronmiller says:

    Though I am not a supporter of corporations like Cynaco, nor am I an advocate of Genetic Modification without extensive research, I liked the question you raised of what if corporation like Cynaco “are helping to feed the world.” My family is from Nebraska and has been running a farm there for several decades. My Uncle has corn contracts with Orville Redenbacher (as do many farmers in Northeastern Nebraska), and soy contracts with a company I can’t remember the name of. Anyways, in order to uphold these contracts, he has to farm in certain ways, with certain seeds and certain pesticides, or lack of pesticides. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think farming used to be like that. However, our demand for food is massive, so companies that can harness that demand make a lot of money and farmers need their contracts to make a living. I know this is getting a little jumbled, but I guess my point is that, though I agree with Ozeki’s critique on GMO’s and advocacy that people know what they are eating, I think the problem starts well before Cydaco. If everyone could grow their own food like Katie’s older brother, it’d be fantastic, but the reality, at least for now, is that agriculture and the corporate structure of America (and most of the world) are far too entrenched. Is there a feasible solution to this? I’m not sure, I just think the problem Ozeki is illustrating may be even bigger than she believes.