Editor’s Note: “Burning Questions” takes an in-depth look at the hot-button issues facing today’s farmers. The ideas expressed here are not the opinions of Hobby Farms, but of individual farmers and food advocates rooted in the local-food movement. If you have thoughts or opinions about what is expressed here, please contribute them in the comments below. We want to hear from you, too!
Scientists using genetically modified organism (GMO) technology can save lives through pharmaceuticals, can increase crop production to feed the world, and can grow plants for biofuels and bioremediation. So why not use it?
For me, the answer is simply to look at the root causes of the problems we are trying to solve, and ask ourselves if we will be any more responsible with this new technology. Will we use it to heal the world’s wounds, or will we just make a bigger mess?
Bigger, indeed. Bigger, stronger, faster, more productive. Is that why we want GMOs? Are our motivations about fulfilling a need or about accommodating our greed?
For the sake of this article let’s just look at the argument of using GMOs for feeding the world. We live in a world populated by 7 billion hungry mouths, and that number is growing. An estimated one out of eight people in the world do not have enough food. In America, there is no lack of food. We collectively throw away up to half of our groceries every day. Some of this abundance is because of GMO corn and soy bulking up our processed food and our plentiful bellies. It is not a question of supplies running short today. We have more than enough, yet our communities are still malnourished.
The faster we change our foods, the farther apart we separate it from our souls, our spirits and our vitality. The harder food is to digest, assimilate and recognize at a molecular level, our bodies’ wisdom might not understand that this object is meant to become part of our selves.
Where do we find quality rather than quantity? Our guts tell us. Wilder foods, fermented foods, slow foods, paleo foods, anti-inflammatory foods—these are what nourish us and respect our bodies by recognizing that our intelligence does not have to outpace our instincts. Growing more corn and soy is not nourishing anyone. It is depleting biodiversity at every level.
Our landscapes and wildlife reflect our health. Try working with nature, on nature’s terms. It may not happen in our lifetimes, but it’s possible to fill a land with abundance even after it has been abused. Nature is resilient, and human survival is not its utmost goal. We are just one piece of the giant puzzle of capital-L Life. We are like an isolated gene inserted into a complex organism—the universe—and if we can coexist, the bigger body will not reject us. Haven’t we learned anything from global climate change?
Genetically isolating characteristics is a reflection of the isolation in our modern lives. It’s a microcosm of how we isolate ourselves rather than engage and participate in diverse communities. We isolate vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that commonly occur in whole foods, and now we can eat highly processed meals with a side dish of plastic-bottled supplements.
Try permaculture. Try wildcrafting. Try taking a walk in the woods instead of the treadmill. Take your earbuds out and listen to the birds. You’ll become hungry for real-ness, natural-ness and authenticity. You’ll recognize a craving for seasonal food. Share your homegrown tomatoes with your neighbors and learn how to can. Then we won’t need Flavr Savr tomatoes, however innocuous they may appear. Maybe you won’t develop diabetes that has to be treated with insulin made with GMO technology. Maybe you’ll die a natural death at a natural time.
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About the Author: Karen Lanier is a writer, photographer and teacher based in Lexington, Ky. She appreciates the bluegrass and Appalachian land she lives on now, while her heart is built out of the red dirt of the Texas panhandle and the adobe walls of northern New Mexico.