Motivation

My post concerns not whether Ozeki has an agenda in writing All Over Creation (I think it’s too obvious she does) but rather how she feels about the concept of motivation in the GMO debate. In the book, two motivations unite in the struggle against Cynaco. We have Lloyd Fuller, who believes GMO’s are an abomination in defiance of God’s exclusive right to creation, and we have the Seeds of Resistance, who are concerned about both the possible threat to public health that GMO’s pose and their more abstract threat to the purity of nature. Lloyd and the Seeds’ motivations don’t always overlap (Lloyd finds the Seeds’ hippie ways rather quirky; the Seeds are a bit put off by Lloyd’s stubborn religiousness), but these viewpoints are not treated as incompatible. As both are in good faith, I believe, Ozeki considers them valuable to the cause.

Then there is Elliot Rhodes, who — at least initially — does the right thing for the wrong reasons. He claimed to be a “conscientious objector” to the war but is revealed to be more of a draft dodger and his admiration for Asian culture little more than a fetish (He can’t even pronounce Yumi’s name right). Later, he even mocks his youthful liberalism when trying to seduce Jillian: “Can’t help it. I’m an activist, babe. Just looking for a little action” (168). He only makes a full apology to Yumi after he’s told that placating her is the only way to fix his problems — and even then, he does it in the most self-congratulatory way possible, telling her the story of how he “saved” her father. Given his record of lying and using underhanded tactics to further Cynaco’s goals, Elliot’s argument that Cynaco is “just trying to feed the world” rings hollow (315).

That argument is never really explored in the book, and I think Ozeki treats it cheaply by not doing so. What if genetically modifying crops does result in higher yields and would go further in feeding the hungry, particularly in developing countries? Does it matter that Cynaco’s motivation is profit if the end result is fewer starving people? But since self-serving Elliot seems to represent Cynaco’s attitude as a whole, the pro-GMO case is considered to be motivated in bad faith and disregarded.

Questions to consider: Do you feel Ozeki explored GMOs’ potential benefits adequately, and if not, do you believe this hampered her argument at all? Do you think it matters that GMO developers are motivated by profit?

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One Response to Motivation

  1. chrisjaynes says:

    This was an interesting post and got me thinking about the limitations of Ozeki’s argument. I think the problem for me is that she lumps all of GMOs together and then demonizes them using the creepiest examples (potatoes with pesticides/spliced fish genes/terminator genes). There are tamer examples of GMOs that seem to be of no real threat that Ozeki conveniently leaves out, take for example Golden Rice. Golden Rice is normal rice but with high Vitamin A levels, it was developed as humanitarian aid for regions with Vitamin A deficiencies like Africa and India. Ozeki tries to connect genetic engineering to all these Pandora’s Box and Garden of Eden references which obscure what it really is, an emerging science. Like any other fledging scientific field, it deserves to be treated in objective terms and not with allusions. But also like any other fledging scientific field, it must be carefully regulated in its development and not snowballed out of control by capitalist agendas.
    I think this is the danger in GMO developers being profit-driven, the growth of our knowledge of GMO will be lopsided. We will know how to maximize yields, but be deficient in so many other areas such as overall genetic picture/health impacts/long term viability/agricultural ecosystem impact/mutation rates.