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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