A Juror and some witnesses

So I’m at home taking a break between two cultural geography classes for which I was asked to share my experience of serving on a federal jury for a case in which Monsanto was awarded one billion, yes billion, dollars.  The class is examining food security and has been exploring the impact of genetic modifications on our food supply.

You know how these things happen — the instructor was having a casual conversation with my husband who off-handedly mentioned that I had served on this case and the rest is history.

In preparation for meeting with these two classes, I reviewed a couple articles regarding the case. Here’s one. I also watched a video that the instructor had assigned her students to watch. Here’s the video. As I read and watched, I did some reflecting and realized that while I walked into the trial without a lot of knowledge or bias on the topic, I clearly have some now.  I was praying that I wouldn’t let too much of that bias show through to the students, but I am afraid I did.

I enjoyed the conversation with this class of about twenty, but I left feeling a little icky.  Did I say anything that wasn’t true? No.  But did I maintain objectivity or put the best construction on the information that I have? No.

How do I know this?  Because before I started to write today, I took a short detour to read my devotion. Ugh.  I winced when I read the words “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” I get so carried away when I stand in front of a classroom.  I guess it’s my inner showman or my attention-seeking inner middle child, but I just get super chatty when I have an audience of students. I don’t always filter everything that comes out of my mouth. Ok, ok, I may be over dramatizing — I mean, I didn’t kill anyone.  But I did season my words with cynicism and judgment.

I will acknowledge that judgment has its place in discussions of corporate greed and public health, however, I would feel a little better if I had built a discussion around evidence rather than emotion.

And, as God has designed it, I have a chance to try again — in just over an hour.  So, what will I do the same? What will I do differently?

  • I will still share that I have no regrets about awarding Monsanto the victory in this case.  The defendant, Pioneer Seed Company, knowingly and blatantly used proprietary information — we saw evidence of that in internal emails, videotaped interviews, and genetic data.
  • I will again state the fact that although I knew very little about Monsanto or genetically modified organisms prior to the 2012 trial, I am much more aware now. While I was truthfully unbiased going into the trial, I clearly have some strongly held opinions now.
  • I will share my suspicion that the dramatic increase in autoimmune diseases like the one that I am living with is correlated with the increased presence of GMOs in our food supply, but this time I will cite several studies by the National Institute of Health instead of just saying ‘it’s my suspicion’.  I will also reiterate that although diet is a factor in disease, so are other factors such as environment and genetics.
  • Instead of emphasizing the huge profits that Monsanto makes by dominating the GMO industry or its ironic involvement in both plant-killing endeavors (Round-up, etc.) and ‘fighting the world’s food shortage’, I will challenge the students to ask their own questions and find their own answers.  Who benefits from this science? Are companies like Monsanto really solving the world’s food crisis? Is there actually a food shortage or rather a disproportionate food distribution?  What long-term effects does genetic modification have on our food supply, our health, our economy, our environment?
  • And, I will again give them the permission and the charge to do something! More than anything I want to convey the idea to students that they are change-agents.  They are not prisoners of circumstance.  They have been gifted with intellect and opportunity to step into science, industry, and health in ways that have impact.
  • Further, I will encourage them to inspire change through their spending choices.  We all agreed this morning that it costs more financially to eat healthfully, at least in the short-term.  However, we pay more in the long-term — health-wise, financially, environmentally, and otherwise.  Their dollars have the collective power to inspire change.

Yes, if I am able to do all of that, I will walk away from this afternoon’s class feeling less-than-icky. I will feel like my time was well-spent. It’s gonna be a challenge to keep my tongue in check, but I owe it to these kids who are looking for footsteps to follow in.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

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