Oh, you silly cucumbers. There is a debate that I simply must weigh in on, because I find it to be amusing if nothing else.
This started as a comment on a friend's post, and it expanded to become this giant WTF in my head about the way we perceive food safety. I'm talking specifically about natural versus obviously synthetic foods.
It was suggested, at one point, that perhaps foods that are genetically modified should be labeled “contains GMOs.” Now, let me explain something, before we get too far into this particular topic. I grew up in the land of missed opportunities, down a long road that ends in a Walmart, a Burger King, and a few houses. We had only what Walmart decided we wanted to eat. I know all about eating food that's not good for you simply because you have no other option.
I will tell everyone right now that no matter what is “fair” and “right,” food in the U.S. will never be sold with “contains GMOs” on it. Not because food here doesn't contain genetically modified elements, mind you, because it does, but because we live in the most pure example of capitalism on this end of the galaxy, and in capitalism, what is “fair” and “right” have no bearing on what actually comes about. If anything benefits anyone outside of the company's upper management, it is often coincidental. But perhaps I'm bitter. There, I said it for you.
Labeling foods that contain harmful elements has been done in cases where not every single food on earth contained that element, so that companies can still make a profit because they can offer other foods in place of the stigmatized foods. If we want the government to label GMO based foods, we have to supply a profit motive. We have to explain to them how to earn back the billions of dollars in profit that they'll lose in both labeling food as dangerous and then eventually having to change their entire production system to make food safe.
Spoiler alert: There is no way to make the profit back, so the short story is that the government says fuck you, buddy. Hope you like $4 bread if you want to eat natural.
That's fine for some people. Whole Foods is down the road. We'll pay $8 for a gallon of milk that will spoil in 48 hours and $20 for a head of lettuce. Right? Because we can use all that milk in 48 hours. We like milkshakes and cereal. Anyone who eats GMO based foods is obviously misinformed or just plain stupid. Right?
Not exactly. See, not everyone grows up in the same circumstances. Maybe you live in Carmel or Noblesville with the parents, and you can afford $4 bread and $8 milk and $20 lettuce. However, some of us don't have that luxury. The world is not always kind, as many people have discovered, especially if you start out poor. Sometimes, you grow up on the wrong side of town with your mother and your grandpa and your stupid redneck neighbors and everyone on earth parking on your lawn for the Tractor Engine Show every summer. Your main store is Family Dollar or Village Pantry or Walmart. There simply is nothing else within a four hour radius.
Keeping that in mind, let's say you move out at 18 the way you're supposed to and you start working shit jobs. Ten years later, you have rent, utilities, a car payment, car insurance, and a conga line of bill collectors marching up your urethra. You're going to school to make more money, but it just makes you more poor. Following me so far? Walmart finally gets natural foods, but the difference between natural whole wheat bread and Aunt Poopmouth's Magic Processed Bread Food Loaf is well over $3. You have $12 after bills and rent, and a grocery list of 14 carefully, painfully chosen food essentials to keep you from starving to death because you now live hours from where your family is, and even though Whole Foods is here, you can't afford to shop there and pay rent. You get processed, terrible food and koolaid because no one wants to help a near-30 year old man pay for overpriced bullshit bread. “What the hell's the matter with that guy?” someone might say. “Why doesn't he just get a god damned job like everyone else?”
Except you do have a job. You have the job that a college town reserves for someone without a degree (you're still working on it, remember?) You made that someone's sandwich for them at Subway an hour ago, and you're still in your uniform. You are the least appreciated piece of a system that feeds fat, arrogant, entitled, judgmental assholes so that they can go buy more overpriced, bullshit items on a full stomach.
The real issue, in my opinion, as a poor student with a job and bills and rent and a car payment, is that foods that will not hurt or kill me cost more than any independent, self-supporting, self-sufficient member of my generation can afford to spend. And no, that member of my generation is not a unicorn. We do exist. We're usually too busy trying not to let our finances close over our heads thanks to this wonderful world of consumerism that the past few generations so thoughtfully constructed for us, one which persists even after a total economic collapse occurs, only now they're selling us life rafts too.
Good consumers do not live on their own. Good consumers have at least 3 roommates in a small, “luxury” or “resort style” apartment, or they live at home with parents who can afford to buy something better than “Uncle Bitcheye's Famous Cardboard Chemical Cookielarks.” If you aren't a good consumer, the FDA does not give a fuck about you, and you are a boil on their ass when you don't buy meat substitutes for the recommended $4 for 4 basic, fozen veggie patties.
Another spoiler alert: there are no generic vegan foods at Walmart, Target, Meijer, or any other grocery store you can find in Indiana. I am a huge HUGE fan of vegan food, and I get cravings for meat substitutes, but they are not meant for people of my income bracket.
We aren't all dumb clucks who just don't know that we're hurting ourselves. We aren't all blind idiots, sheepling out into the sunset with a package of Sucrose Methadone slices, just so you know. If you live on your own in this economy, you are forced to make an unfair choice: eat things that will kill you later, or starve to death right now.
You can protest the lack of GMO labeling if you like. You can buy $4 bread, if you can afford it. If you don't have rich parents or at least 3 roommates, though, I suggest you learn to read labels very carefully if you want to avoid harmful substances. Above all, don't expect anything marketed in a big box store to have been created for any purpose more useful than to separate you from your money, regardless of what using said product ultimately results in. They don't care, they don't want to hear it; they're sorry about the inconvenience, and here's a coupon for another one.
The reality of the situation is that until we can create a system where upending an entire industry for consumer safety causes profit rather than loss, we are all on our own. Period.
So shut. The fuck. Up.