According to Science Magazine, a Monsanto research facility in Italy was bombed during Easter weekend.
Based on the reports, an individual threw Molotov cocktails at the facility which started a fire that ravaged the cold storage room. The room, which usually holds seed samples, was largely empty because the seeds had been planted into field trials. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Ironically, the attack seemed to be based on a resistance to genetic engineering, even though the particular research center was working strictly on traditional and hybrid corn varieties, not GMOs.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. The only mark left by the bomber was graffiti that read: “Bayer criminal marriage. No GMO.”
I didn’t write about this initially because I was hoping we would hear more about who was behind it and what their motive was. I guess I was hoping for some answers for such a senseless act of violence.
I do want to mention the attack, however, because it just goes to show that words have consequences. Back in the day before September 11, 2001, we routinely referred to such attacks as eco-terrorism. I suppose that’s still an accurate term, even though it feels a touch insensitive to those that lost their lives in terrorist attacks since that time. Nonetheless, it just goes to show that words and actions matter. They have consequences.
We’re used to seeing the anti-GMO and anti-Monsanto rhetoric as more of a marketing ploy from companies seeking to sell a few extra products. It usually comes in the form of food labels. Of course, that silly little butterfly from the Non-GMO Project is the perfect example. Food labels are fairly non-threatening and more of an annoyance than anything else. While we know that the label stigmatizes the technology, it hardly advocates for violence or retribution.
But some marketing and messaging has gone much, much farther.
We have also seen the anti-GMO, anti-conventional farming rhetoric take a more dangerous turn. Think about Only Organic’s video entitled “New McDonald.” The video’s premise was a children’s play about Old McDonald, a conventional farmer that was spraying all sorts of toxic pesticides on his crops. Those pesticides made the children in the play sick. In the end, the children promoted an organic method of farming, because that was obviously so much safer and more appealing. While the video seems like a silly little marketing ploy, even if unfair, it carries with it a heavier and more dangerous message. That is, conventional farmers are poisoning your children, they are poisoning our food supply, and they are hurting people.
This video was hardly the only propaganda that we’ve seen recently. Take a look at March Against Monsanto, the Organic Consumer’s Association, or Natural News‘ social media websites and you’ll find a plethora of things selling the same message. The message is clear and on repeat: Monsanto/conventional farmers/government/big agriculture is trying to hurt you and your family. These things are a danger to our society and we need to stop them.
So, why are we so surprised when a research facility is bombed? When fields are lit on fire? When marketing messages turn into actual violence?
Words matter. Marketing matters. Messaging matters.
We need to stop pretending it doesn’t, and recognize the dangerous rhetoric these activist organizations are spewing.