Constantin Metzger, a student of Veronika Fröhlich at Pädagogische Hochschule University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article "A Month Without Monsanto," by April Dávila, a story about the potential health effects of genetically modified foods, and her need to learn where her food came from. He is a Literary Gem for the Spring 2013 writing competition.
Writing prompt: April Dávila discovered that around 70 percent of processed foods on American supermarket shelves contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Does this concern you? What matters most to you about the food you eat?
My Life Without a Like
In her YES! Magazine article “A Month without Monsanto,” April Dávila illustrates the enormous influence of Monsanto, a giant company producing genetically modified food, on the American food and clothing industry and the difficulties she had trying to ban the company from her life for a whole month.
When I read the first three paragraphs of the article, I thought it was simply another outcry about how evil genetically modified food is and that we should all reflect on our nutrition and our purchasing behavior. It is, however, more than that. Without doubt, April Dávila wants us to be aware of the influence of GM-food and its negative impact on our lives. She even gives us some “basic guidelines” to avoiding Monsanto products. Nevertheless, in my eyes, the principle point of her article is the dependency of almost the whole American food industry, and, therefore, virtually every American citizen, on one single company. During her research she realized: “There is no easy way to avoid Monsanto.” She describes the company like a tremendous monster that slowly sneaks into the lives of a whole society, and once we let it in, it stays and starts to take control. This idea made me consider my own life and how dependent I am on huge companies.
The first thing that entered my mind was Facebook, the biggest friend and enemy of the 21st century thus far. In March 2013, 1.11 billion people used Facebook. Considering the fact that there are currently about 7.11 billion people on our planet, one out of seven is an active user of Facebook. This would not be a problem if Facebook did not have such a great influence on our way of communication, social interaction, and our privacy. As nearly all my friends have Facebook, I send them messages via Facebook, I check out their status updates, I like their photographs, and I also share my photographs with them, and hence with the company of Facebook. Strangely, I do not know why I do this; it simply happens, and everybody does it, so why is it supposed to be a problem? I think this is exactly the way the whole system behind Facebook works. Nobody would show private photographs to a stranger on the street, but we do this on Facebook. We are happy when our friends like what we share, and we give away all our privacy voluntarily. Facebook has managed to manipulate us so that we give them any information they want to have, and although we think this is harmless, they use it for their own purposes. You will receive friendship suggestions of people who are like you (even this formulation is a negation of any individuality), and you will see plenty of advertisements in your browser that perfectly suits your interests. The moment Facebook asks you whether you want to have two tickets for the Champions League Finale, and you shout out: “Yes Facebook, I do!” is the moment you realize: Facebook is everywhere.
Facebook is only one example of Internet companies that manipulate and control us, without us realizing it. Paradoxically, the Internet seems endless and full of opportunities for everybody. Nevertheless, we exclusively use Facebook to contact the world, Google to search the world, Wikipedia to know the world, and Amazon to shop the world. Although they each cover different interests, they somehow all seem to work together. Once you look up the word ‘chainsaw’ on Wikipedia, Amazon will show you the newest models on its homepage, Google will adapt your top search results to horror movies and qualified therapists, and Facebook will find an even more audacious way to ask you whether you want to participate in the annual woodchopper-contest in your hometown.
April Dávila summarizes the solution for this misery quite intelligently in her final statement, when she says that she began to feel confident once she had informed herself about what controlled her. She managed to avoid the Monsanto products, but she also achieved freeing herself from a form of manipulation which comes from ignorance. The solution, for me, is not to avoid a specific sort of product, a company, or a website. This will only make you use another one. The right thing to do is to be aware of how these companies work, to know adequate alternatives, and to ensure that your own decisions remain your own decisions.