Victor Frankenstein’s Banquet
I wrote this a little while ago, on attitudes towards GM technology, and how conventional opposition is more usually based on sensationalist ideology rather than engagement with the difficult complexities involved. Some time after Greenpeace signed their name to an open letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, arguing against having an EC chief scientific advisor. Rather than have the selection process open to scrutiny (so that those with corporate affiliations – and therefore conflicts of interest – would find it harder to be appointed) and have their advice publically published (for similar reasons) the letter – signed by 9 organisations (including, for some reason, the “Cancer Prevention and Education Society”) – argued against the very position of a scientific advisor. Their sop to the necessity of evidence-led, scientific advice was that advice could come from “a variety of independent, multi-disciplinary sources….” In short: lobbying. I’m perhaps being cynical, but it’s the multinational corporations who really have the power when it comes to lobbying, not groups like Greenpeace, since they have more money to throw at the issue (and a charity should really spend its money on the cause it was founded to deal with, not meetings with bureaucrats).
Perhaps I’ve just misunderstood Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the point I took away has always been that it is essentially Victor’s own fault that his creation becomes monstrous. His disgust, rejection and eventual fear initially creates and then subsequently sustains the creature’s sense of alienation, which in turn creates its hostile reaction both to him and to the world in general. Surely it’s therefore slightly odd, and yet rather apposite, that genetically modified organisms are so often referred to as “Frankenstein foods”. The phrase is thrown around a lot, and is clearly chosen because it sounds scary and creates the appropriate rhetorical effect that the speaker wishes to evoke.
But it is appropriate because the instinctive and emotive reaction by some to the prospect of genetically modified food and organisms is inherently counterproductive and only invites problems later on. Many people seem to loathe the idea of GMOs and resist them at every turn…
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