I just read on my phone that Oregon’s measure 92, the initiative to make labeling genetically modified organisms mandatory, has failed by a roughly 2% margin: 49% to 51% against. “No” campaigners spent $20,438,301. “Yes” Campaigners spent $6,902,997.
Here’s an excerpt from the page I read this on:
“The top five donors on the Yes on 92 side were Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, The Center for Food safety, Mercola Health, Tom Hormel and OSPIRG.
For the No on 92 side the top five donors were Dupont, Monsanto, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Kraft.”
I’m binge-watching the Walking Dead (now on season 4) while I get this news and the kind of brain (mmmm brains) I have just likes to try and draw connections to the most seemingly unrelated things…so here’s a go.
One of the primary pulls “The Walking Dead” has on me at this point is it’s gray matter. Not just the kind that goes splat when you smack it with a baseball bat (though there’s lots of gruesome glee in that, sure), but in the way its characters are presented with realistically ambiguous choices. Without having to riddle this post with “spoiler alert” warnings, I can safely say that the show’s most effective tool is in repeatedly posing the question: “what exactly does ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean when you’re facing the end of the world?” It’s not the endless stream of zombie killing that drives the plot, it’s the continually evolving confrontation of compromised characters with limited choices. We have a classic “hero,” the sheriff, who wants so badly to be “The Good Guy” yet is constantly presented with only two ‘bad’ choices. We have villains that desperately want to believe they’re, in fact, good guys making tough decisions to survive.
What is it about big ag & food? Why don’t they want people to know what’s in their food? Is it the supposed ‘millions’ in costs to swap a label (literally not even a drop in the Con-Agra bucket, even if millions were the true number)? Is it “rising food prices for consumers” …exactly what has NOT happened in Europe, where most countries require GMOs be labelled, if not banned entirely? Is it to protect farmers? Their right to raise crops in the most cost-efficient manner and with the seed they choose?
Well, thats what the ad campaigns said, and it worked, once again, as it worked in other states. But the true answer is the same answer as always: profits. A label equates directly to heightened consumer awareness of whats in the food. Never mind that “Genetically Modified” doesn’t exactly have a down-home ring to it, it would undoubtedly drop purchases on several key monster products. Would you still buy your “healthy all natural cereal” if it had “produced using genetically modified organisms” smack on the front of the box?
The fact is, mega-corporations are just like zombies. They have only one goal: Brains. They want your brain. They want your brain to love them, and buy their stuff endlessly. You can reduce all decisions they make to one single calculation: how many can we sell?
What is an individual in the face of a zombie horde? What is a small group of exhausted, beleaguered survivors against an army of the undead… or worse, an army of lobbyists and superPACs? Which is worse, the faceless corporations in their single-minded pursuit of the profit, or the other, radical opposing factions whose ideologies and methods are, at best, questionable, and perhaps worse for the community?
This is the (albeit stretched) parallel I’m drawing. What do you choose? A strangely-worded, loophole-riddled bill that informs a small group of people some of the time about most GMO things, but not how much or what… or do you wait out the status quo where “Roundup Ready” (i.e. engineered for heavy pesticide use) corn is the single largest crop in the country? If some GE crops are actually better for the environment, cheaper for farmers and fine for consumers, will labeling them hurt sales? Absolutely, unfortunately.
This is the dilemma I was faced with this voting season. It was, by far, my toughest ballot decision… perhaps made me sympathize just a little bit more than I otherwise might have with Rick and his group choosing whether to abandon a person, or take the life of a stranger arbitrarily to protect those they hold dear. It is tempting to think that the zombie apocalypse is the great equalizer…reducing all fictional barriers between people and simplifying life to a daily matter of survival, but it’s not true. In its extended format, “The Walking Dead” shows us that, with or without society around us, our choices are always grey. They’re always difficult, problematic, and sometimes dangerous.
My wife voted No on 92, I voted Yes. My friends, we all probably voted mixed too. In the end, though I’m sad to see it go down, I’m impressed that a $6m campaign went toe-to-toe with the largest spending on any Oregon ballot measure EVER and one 3 times their budget. It’s the little victories, I guess. In the meantime, I’ll continue to lose myself in post-world fantasies mirroring my mind…and shopping at New Seasons.