Omnivore Science Is a Neutral Human Pursuit Essay

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Science is a neutral human pursuit. It is only the application of science that raises potential ethical questions. Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle perfectly exposes the ways science can be manipulated by the hands of its sponsors. Money determines the nature of research, its methodologies, its findings, and its applications. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma raises similar ethical questions and concerns, focused not on the military but on the food industry. Arguably, the food industry poses far more complicated ethical issues than the military-industrial complex. The military can be viewed as an ethically incorrect institution, as even when it presumably protects the lives of Americans it does so necessarily at the expense of the lives of others. National security is not built on a universal human rights vision, but on a xenophobic model that presumes national superiority and reinforces an "us vs. them" mentality that is at the root of many human problems. Unlike war, food is a universal need. When food science is in the hands of the corporate oligarchy, Americans suffer distinct negative consequences on a personal and collective level. It can even be said that food industry science indirectly harms national security by creating generation after generation of unhealthy, overweight individuals trained to listen more to advertisements than to their own bodies. Therefore, science used by oligarchy is inherently wrong. Food science and military science both have the ability to benefit Americans, but neither is currently doing so.

Science needs to be freed from the hands of corporate interests, even though those interests are what fund science in the first place. This is the core dilemma of any argument about the nature of science and its impact on American lives. It is technically impossible to pursue scientific knowledge without financial resources. Therefore, corporate interests need to become more benevolent in their goals, and more humanistic, if the pursuit of science is to be ethically correct. Given the relative and theoretical impossibility of that happening, both food science and military science are likely to harm Americans in the near future.

There are proven detrimental effects of both the military and food science industries. These detrimental effects need to be explored rationally. As Ferrie puts it, the "fundamental right to business has to take the back seat...because the right to life is higher than all laws and rights." Scientists concerned about keeping their jobs are conveniently selecting the information they would like to include in reports, eliminating others in the interests of pleasing corporate sponsors. Issues such as food safety, food security, "the human right to choose what goes into our mouths," and natural crop diversity are taking a back seat to corporate interests and not enough Americans seem to care ("The CCPA Monitor"). Interestingly, science is showing Americans that agriculture is bad for the body regardless of whether it is peddled by Monsanto or not. Public health "appears to have dramatically declined when they shifted from hunting and gathering to relying on agriculture," ("The CCPA Monitor"). Unfortunately, it may be too late to return to the hunter-gatherer model, as Michael Pollen poignantly illustrates in The Omnivore's Dilemma. The question now is how to rescue science from the clutches of corporate greed.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan explores several different ways corporate greed in the food industry is hurting Americans. One of those ways is by desensitizing Americans to the sickness that is the modern factory farm. Part one of the book explores the nefarious industry. It is difficult if not impossible to find any inherent benefit to factory farming, other than profitability. For the average American who is not directly profiting off the industry in terms of being a shareholder or investor, the factory farm is detrimental to health. Factory farming is detrimental to American food security because it id diverting acre upon acre of arable land toward cattle. That land could be put to better use that benefits animals and human beings both. The presence of the factory farm on the American landscape denigrates the American ethos. Unethical treatment of animals reflects poorly on the American consciousness.

Furthermore, the need to market the factory-farmed foods has led to the obesity epidemic. This is a critical way that the food sciences are harming, rather than helping, Americans. Pollan notes that General Mills has needed to generate new products on a consistent basis, in order to promote the avid use of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup might have seemed a marvel to science just as ice-nine must have seemed to be a marvel for the military. In fact, high fructose corn syrup gave General Mills and other stakeholders a reason for existing. They were able to transform food into something else, something plastic and malleable and marketable to millions of moronic Americans. High fructose corn syrup is not technically food; it is an edible product but it is too far removed from what grows in the ground to be considered food, and more importantly, it is not nutritious enough to be called food. However, high fructose corn syrup fits into the new land use program that has evolved in the United States since the product's discovery in the laboratory.

Needing to justify its investments and promote corn, General Mills and other companies have created magical marketing tools called breakfast cereals. The market for breakfast cereals has expanded because of clever marketing. It is not only breakfast cereals that are using high fructose corn syrup as a primary ingredient, either. There are scores of new products, emerging on supermarket shelves regularly, that contain high fructose corn syrup. The result is not better food diversity for Americans, even though the average fat and Wal*Mart American might see it that way. To walk down the aisles and see box upon box with different colors imparts the illusion of food "security," when the reality is really food insecurity. Americans have mistaken boxes of chemicals for actual food, which is exactly what the industrial conglomerates want Americans to believe. True food security comes from having sufficient arable lands to ensure the future nutritional needs of a growing populace. Americans cannot count on food security, because so much arable land has been purchased by corn feed growers who cultivate their crops for cattle; or by the ranchers themselves.

The same formula of marketing is working for Monsanto, Bayer, and other chemical companies that have invested in food science. Monsanto and its fellow chemical conglomerates have introduced Americans to the wonders of genetically modified foods. These food products can be patented, unlike the lowly natural carrot. Moreover, these genetically modified food products are being labeled "safe" by the scientists asked to test them in a controlled laboratory setting with artificial controls on variables that do not exist in the real world. None of the studies are indicating what long-term effects the genetically modified foods might have on altering human DNA, but no one seems to care because the wonderful benevolent scientists only have the best interests of Americans at heart. If the companies market GMOs as having the ability to reduce allergies, cure diseases, reduce starvation around the world, and reduce dependency on pesticides and fertilizers, then genetically modified foods seem like a panacea. The European Union has categorically banned genetically modified foods, but the scientists there are not as benevolent as American scientists, or so the argument might go. Just as the characters in Kurt Vonnegut's book Cat's Cradle demonstrate, scientists do not work independently. DuBridge, in "The Social Control of Science" similarly notes that science would be neutral if it were not for the interests of government and business. Knowledge and information are never biased, beneficial, or detrimental in a categorical manner. It is possible to retain social control of science, as DuBridge suggests, by calling for greater accountability just…[continue]

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