This post didn’t start out to be about fear of the unknown, but this idea became a link between two major social issues of our day, one particularly relevant here in Canada.
I had been pondering lately the worldwide issue of genetically modified food (let’s call it GMO…genetically modified organisms….for short). I have been somewhat ambivalent toward the issue ever since it emerged, thinking that some fact would jump out and confirm or deny the dangers of GMO. But, nothing has as of yet so I decided to check it out a little more carefully to see what arguments are against it in case I wanted to jump on the anti-GMO train. I am somewhat prejudiced in favour of scientific advancement, so I need a strong argument against scientific work to be convinced.
One site I looked at, http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/eight-reasons-gmos-are-bad-for-you.html , made this statement: “GMOs are bad for your body, bad for the community, bad for farmers and bad for the environment.” That’s a pretty definitive and powerful statement. The article proceeded to provide 8 reasons to back up their assertion that GMO’s are bad for all these reasons. Here’s where it got difficult. None of the 8 reasons could definitively prove or give powerful evidence that GMO’s are bad. Most of the reasons had a fear factor and an unknown factor. Phrases like “Once the mutant genes are out of the bag, there is no going back”, “Genetically engineered foods have not been proven to be safe”, “Big biotech firms have very sketchy track records”, “a lack of long term studies and testing may be hiding disastrous health defects.”, “Genetically engineered foods have not been shown to be safe to eat and may have unpredictable consequences.” dominate the arguments. Note the fear of the unknown inherent in the arguments.
Coincidentally with my ponderance of the GMO issue, in Canada this week the approval of the Gateway Pipeline hit the news, along with the significant opposition to it. So my next question was “why is it so bad?” My research yielded much the same as the GMO research. The opposition to the Gateway pipeline was similar to GMO’s: fear of the unknown. We worry that there will be some consequence of the pipeline and the shipping on the BC coastline that we cannot deal with properly or recover from. All of this is in the face of the 209 conditions that the pipeline company must meet in order to be the most environmentally safe transportation method in the world….by far.
I continue to be open to being anti-GMO or anti-Gateway pipeline, but I need something more than a fear of the unknown. Fearing the unknown is one of the most unhealthy ways of living. We take a massive risk every time we drive our vehicles on the Trans Canada Highway (especially between Golden and Sicamous!) but we have a sense of the risk so we take it. Yet when the risk is unknown, the fear climbs exponentially and blocks our action or approval, particularly when the fear is being promulgated in the media.
It’s a reminder to me to live life on the facts,as much as possible. Human progress has never been advanced well on the basis of fear of the unknown.