after the march against monsanto: responsible activism

Well, the march came and went. We got some news coverage. Some. We also got some people talking. Success? . . .  A start.

The incredible traffic my posts on Monsanto received afterwards, and the searches that people are using to find me give me hope that people are starting to ask the right questions – mainly –

Who the heck are these guys and why didn’t I know about them before??

Unfortunately social media has been our main method of communicating about the issues surrounding Monsanto, and this is proving to be a double-edged sword.

On one had, social media allowed over 2 million like-minded people to come together all around the world in solidarity and peaceful action. On the other hand . . . Social media is the wild-west of information, where fiction, hyperbole and splashy, overly-dramatic graphics spread like wildfire unchecked, free from accountability or any sense of being beholden to the truth.

Personally, I have taken quite a bit of time to educate myself on the issues, and although I have a lot yet to learn, I would say I have a fairly solid understanding of the core issues. For this reason I’ve been concerned about  some of the content being thrown around by my fellow anti-Monsanto troops on social media.

Kind of like the lady in the march who walked the whole way yelling “There’s poo in our corn!” and some other non-facts about Canadian milk products (Bovine Growth Hormone is not allowed in Canadian milk) a few ignorant apples can spoil the whole lot for the rest of us. (Frankly, we could use more poo in our corn – if we were using manure instead of petrochemicals to feed our corn, we’d all be a lot better off!)

As it is, we lay-people-cum-biotechnology-activists are vulnerable to the argument that we don’t know what we’re talking about, and so should just shut the hell up, thankyouverymuch.

If we want to be taken seriously, it behooves us to educate ourselves so that we DO know what we’re talking about, and we can’t rely on social media to do that for us.

Now, granted, it’s tough to self-educate on a subject that would prefer you know nothing, or less-than-nothing, about it. In a world where the food industry is aggressively fighting to limit our access to information about them and are going as far as so-called “Ag-Gag” laws that often prohibit so much as taking pictures of industrial agriculture, it can be tough to get any clear answers regarding what we’re eating, where it came from, how it was grown, and what harmful effects, if any, that food and it’s production might have.

However, we can and MUST make an effort to educate ourselves responsibly if we want real change in our food systems.

As for myself, I’m doing my best to comment on content that I believe is misleading, exaggerated or just plain not-true when I see it in my news feed.

A couple examples include an image of Monsanto’s stock prices for the day, showing a drop of less than a dollar on a stock that was in the 100-something dollar range that was circulating on Facebook. The description defined this drop as catastrophic and attributed this catastrophic drop to the March Against Monsanto.

Folks, without apparently actually READING the stock report, were cheering from the rafters as though the Monsanto version of V-Day had arrived, sharing the image far and wide. Except for it wasn’t catastrophic. In fact, it wasn’t even anywhere near the 52 week low of the stock. The drop was less than 1 dollar; a blip, barely worth mentioning. Or as one astute reader noted, a mere “fart” in the grand scheme of all-things-stock-market related.

And then there was an info-graphic I saw this week, which I’ve actually included on this blog some time ago, which traces some of the ownership links between smaller companies and a handful of big industry players. The graphic has nothing whatsoever to do with GMO’s or Monsanto. It merely illustrates the illusion of choice in the marketplace.

Despite this, the hoards of anti-Monsanto social media avengers have clung onto it and as a result, what is a very enlightening document about monopolies and corporate power has somehow been re-imagined it to be, as one woman put it in response to my comments, an illustration of the “Monsanto chain of command”. What???

Now, this image certainly has links to our concerns about Monsanto. Many of the companies and products on the chart use and defend GMO’s. But my point was – that isn’t the point. The point is, people were being mislead to believe that this was a chart profiling Monsanto-owned or controlled companies and that simply wasn’t the truth.

Commenters argued with me, calling me “negative” for asking that we hold ourselves to a higher standard of integrity when sharing information. My call for truthfulness was assessed as mere nit-picking by many who commented, a unwelcome distraction from the matter at hand. This is disheartening and extremely concerning, and I think a symptom of the state of our so-called democracy. Here we are, a group of individuals purportedly asking Big Business to “tell the truth”, but we aren’t prepared to do that ourselves?

Surrendering to extreme hyperbole and outright untruths because they’re convenient, under the guise of the almighty the-end-justifies-the-means is no way to create meaningful, ethical, moral change in the world. This is how our governments, both here in Canada and my neighbours to the south, are doing business, and that is not the world I want for my son. It simply isn’t good enough.

This is the weakness of a movement that relies on crowd-sourcing our education and information. There is so much we can learn from each other, and talking to friends and family is a great way to spread the word at a grass-roots level.

The trouble occurs when we allow our passion to get in the way of the truth.

So.

Go. Read. Not too much on the internet. Read books. Read books by people you disagree with. Read science journals. Read the source documents of articles that you read. Actually read legal decisions. Learn about what products have and don’t have GMO’s. Learn who’s using them and why. Learn about the companies, other than Monsanto, who are also attacking the security of our food system through monopolies and dangerous dependance on chemicals. Talk to farmers, learn to grow your own food. Save seeds. Don’t be afraid, don’t buy into the culture of fear, on either side. Share what you learn, responsibly.

Most importantly, take comfort in knowing we have everything we need to rebuild our food system. We just have to START.

So go. Start.

2 thoughts on “after the march against monsanto: responsible activism

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hey Stacey, Y’know, there are those who would prefer the spread of overblown and downright incorrect information. It suits their purpose to have normal people, with reasonable concerns about GMOs and agrichemicals appear to be idiotic alarmists or “Special Interests” with anarchistic tendancies.
    Glad you’re out there with a voice of reason and logic – thanks for another great post! Keep your chin up and remember there are a lot of us right there with you, if not in person, then certainly in Spirit…

    Reply

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