As a parent, my worst nightmare is the thought of harm coming to my children. I cannot fathom the heartache of one of them suffering a debilitating illness. More unimaginably terrifying would be seeing the death of one of my children. As President Obama said after the Sandy Hook school shooting, “Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world.”
Whenever I enter this rabbit-hole of catastrophizing, I pause and thank the universe for my family’s privileged existence. My family is healthy. We have a beautiful home. We have everything we need and a lot of what we want. We can afford to send our daughter to an excellent preschool. I have the financial and professional flexibility to work from home a few days a week and revel firsthand in my 1-year-old son’s developmental milestones.
I can only imagine how it feels to live on the edge of financial disaster, or to worry about my child’s physical well-being. Like most kindhearted and empathetic people, my heart breaks for those less fortunate. Like many self-proclaimed liberals and democrats, I’m pro-welfare, pro-social programs, and pro-affordable and government-subsidized healthcare.
This is why I simply cannot comprehend why so many liberals, selfless in so many ways, are anti-GMO. Yes, yes, I know. Corporations. But that is not a valid argument when it comes to this:
This is a world map of the prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency based on WHO data. See that Americans? We in our cushy existence don’t have to deal with this. While we’re here marching against Monsanto, pretentiously shopping at Whole Foods, and berating Chobani for using GMO feed, many in those red and orange nations on the map are living off of less than what a serving of Chobani costs.
They are also watching their precious children–as precious to them as ours are to us–suffer from dreadful micronutrient deficiencies like VAD. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children, and greatly inhibits immune system function. Furthermore, VAD is a leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.
So why is there opposition to GM rice and bananas with the potential to eradicate this horrific scourge? If you’re unfamiliar with these crops, Golden Rice and more recently “super bananas” have been modified to synthesize and accumulate beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when metabolized by the human body. Because of the higher concentration of beta carotene (which gives modern carrots their orange hue), the color becomes yellow or orange. Populations that could benefit consume these crops as staples. For example, Indians consume large amounts of rice, and Ugandans large amounts of banana. While nutritional deficiencies cannot be eradicated without improving infrastructure and social/political issues, these engineered crops have huge potential for tangible outcomes.
So why does Greenpeace vandalize Golden Rice test fields? Why pull the race card with disingenuous drivel about the super banana being a ploy to force GMOs into a brown peoples’ market? As a “brown person,” I can honestly say that I’ve looked suffering in the malnourished eye on my regular visits to India. The nerve of using the race card to oppose these potentially life-saving GM crops is detestable. As I’ve said time and again, GM technology is safe. I urge everyone to read about the basic science and benefits of genetically engineered foods here. In the meantime ask yourself, if anti-GM proponents truly thought GMOs were unsafe, why care only about elite brands like Chobani or stores like Whole Foods? Don’t they care about the proles who can only afford Yoplait?
In the same speech I mentioned earlier, Barack Obama said, “This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.” Our society, my friends, is the whole world. Good people are their brothers’ keepers, the keepers of their sisters’ children. Let’s look past the blinders of privilege, reach above a lack of scientific awareness, and drop the empty anti-corporate ideology and see the light.
Featured image courtesy of Ben Klocek on Flickr