Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Being a contrarian conscious consummer

Today I was about to by some roasted red pepper hummus at the grocery story. There were four different brands and for the first time I spotted a little voluntary label on the front of the container from my normal brand, boasting that the contents did not contain any genetically-modified ingredients.

I am a steadfast supporter of GMO technology. The basic idea is that human beings can use science to improve the foods we eat instead of blindly following what nature has provided us. Opposition to GMO's is a hysterical pseuoscientific cultlike movment akin to creationism and alternative medicine. The anti-GMO crowd is the left wing equivalent of global warming denialists.

Suddenly, I didn't want to buy that brand of hummus anymore. It's not that it's dangerous or unhealthy to eat foods that lack genetic modification, but that I was concerned about the message I would be sending as a consumer. I pictured a marketing team combing through sales data and trying to figure out if the GMO-free label brought in more sales.

Sadly, I imagine it does. Looking through the display, I could only find one brand of hummus that didn't declare itself to be GMO-free, and that was Sabra.

Sabra was a little cheaper than the other brands, which could mean it's by a lower-quality product. It could also mean the company isn't wasting money on overpriced organic, GMO-free ingredients, so that issue was a wash.

What did stay my hand was that there were no roasted red pepper containers from Sabra, while the other brands still had them in stock. I contemplated buying one of of the GMO-free brands to get my preferred flavor, but opted not to. I didn't want any market researchers to falsely conclude that I was encourage to buy their product because of the GMO-free label.

I ended up buying Sabra's roasted pine nut hummus instead. I wasn't sure what pine nuts tasted like, but it turned out to be superb.

So tell me, doesn't that make me an ethical consumer? Usually, that label refers to people who buy products with flower power mission statements, such as Seventh Generation Dish Detergent, but why shouldn't the same logic apply to the other end of the spectrum?

For years I've boycotted organic products. That's because organic food production is wasteful, cruel to animals, environmentally damaging and provides no health benefits. That is to say, I consider it entirely unethical to give my money to organic companies and farmers. The higher prices organic merchants charge are just the whip cream on the sundae.

Being a contrarian doesn't mean one lacks principals, it just means that they have a different perspective. I can't see any reason that the banner of "ethical consumers" shouldn't include contrarians like me who oppose the very products mainstream ethical consumers champion.

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