Background: the virulence of the anti-vaccination movement in recent years has been matched only by the ferocity of the backlash to it. This is understandable: people don’t like the idea that other people’s kids might be exposing their own children to diseases that should really be unheard of in developed countries. And the ‘science’ of the anti-vaccine crowd is pretty questionable, leading the pro-vaccine folks to believe themselves partisans of Real Science. Monsanto, famous as a leader in pesticides and genetic modification, has very cleverly, to my thinking, taken up this banner of Science to paint anti-vaxxers, organic farmers, and opponents of its particular GMO practices with the same ‘anti science’ brush. Here is the approximate result (dramatized):
Anti-vaccination Activist: Vaccines cause autism. Jenny McCarthy said so, and I don’t want my kid to be vaccine injured!
The rest of the World: Please, read all of these meta-studies. Studies finding large harms from vaccines are generally not able to be replicated and use worse methodology than the more numerous studies finding vaccines safe.
Anti-vaxxers: Meh. I saw a bunch of stuff on Facebook, so I’m not vaccinating my kids.
The world: Okay, but see, that’s not acceptable if you’re sending your kid into public places. Please, please read this research.
Anti-vaxxers: Look, I don’t trust that science. My worldview dictates that anything from Official Sources is probably corrupted by giant corporations.
Most of the world: Like, that’s understandable, because corporations do…
Monsanto: Ho ho! Look at these anti-vaxxers, hating science and corporations and giving your kids measles! They are truly villainous! And given that they hate corporations and Science, a corporation that specializes in Science must truly be the hero of this story!
Me: I mean, vaccination is good and all, but Monsanto, you’re a little villainous yourself!
Monsanto: Nonsense! Why do you hate children and cause them blindness with your anti-GMO radicalism?
Me: I don’t oppose your science! And I love vaccines. But sometimes you do pretty questionable things too, like patenting crops and then collecting royalties on products that auto-reproduce, and suing farmers who fail to pay? Isn’t that a little like creating a computer program that self-replicates (also called a computer virus), and then suing people for not deleting the extra copies?
Monsanto: Why do you have to hate Science so much? How are you questioning me without any degree in Science? We even have Babes with degrees in Science!
Me: I’m not arguing about Science! I just mean, maybe there’s more to understanding a situation than knowing all the right sequences of A, T
(U in RNA), C, and G. Like, how your business decisions and legal precedents effect other…
Monsanto: Mumbo Jumbo! SCIENCE will save you. Don’t get caught up in all that other woo.
Me: I’m not doubting your chemistry or genetics – but these also affect humans. Look at pharmaceuticals and how they are patented. In the US, it’s possible to patent chemicals, whereas in India and Brazil, one can only patent processes for producing them. Doesn’t that seem more reasonable? Why not apply the same standard to genomes? If everything is a chemical and every domestic organism is genetically modified, as you so like to remind me, why are you the only ones who get to collect royalties on chemicals and organisms?
Monsanto: Look – we don’t have time for all of your non-Science. Go hang out with the anti-vaxxers.
Enter an enormous crowed of pro-vaccine activists; pan out on shouting and ALL CAPS conversation
Epilogue: since the vaccine debate, I’ve seen approximately 10,000% more positive posts about Monsanto and genetic engineering than I did before. Well played, Monsanto, well played.