Last Monday the popular show “CSI: Miami” ran a segment in which a young woman dies and it turns out to be because of a GMO corn developed by a rogue company called “Bixton Organic Foods.” In the plot, the company willingly puts people at risk. This fictional scenario bears no plausible tie to reality, but it fits well with the simplistic, good guys/bad guys image in the Myth that many people believe about farming. To see how it feels to be the brunt of a distortion like this, I recommend you read a post from a real corn farmer.
So why is it possible for CBS writers to generate fictional “drama” about the “danger of GMO” when in fact GMO technology has been used with complete safety for more than a decade on a gigantic scale? (Having witnessed first-hand the thought and care that went into developing this technology over the past 30 years, I’m not surprised by that safety record). There is an abundance of good information available about this technology including many confirmations of its safety by panel after panel of highly qualified, science and medical experts around the world. I think the reason that the fear of GMO persists in certain extreme circles is the same reason that there are still “birthers” and people who are sure that health reform will lead to “death panels.” Its not that there is much overlap between these demographics but rather that the same mechanism of “selective knowing” is involved.
Epistomology in the Age of Information
It is ironic, and possibly tragic, that in the “information age”, when there is such a vast number of knowledge sources, it actually becomes more difficult to ferret out the truth. Not all sources are equally credible, but it is difficult for people to know which are and which are not. Even more problematic, it has become very easy today to simply limit your input to the sources that tend to tell you what you already believe. The success of FOX News demonstrates the fact that there is a profit to be made from mostly telling people things that fit their mindset. In the case of GMOs and death panels, “selective information sourcing” is how myths, which have been completely de-bunked, can continue to be repeated over and over again until they are so strongly believed that no amount of contrary evidence can displace them.
I don’t want to assign motives to the CBS writers. The fact that they somehow wrapped GMO, Organic and a veiled reference to Whole Foods into the same outlandish story makes it too difficult to guess an agenda. It was probably just an attempt to “entertain” – something which seems to require more and more bizarre stunts and stories these days.
So, here is my personal invitation to the writers of CSI Miami. I could give you some food supply danger scenarios that might not be likely but which have at least some connection to something that has or could actually ever happen. Interested?
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Image of Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting, “The Scream” from oddsock.