Yesterday, I discussed the lack of information about the "new normal". Today, it's all about food--frankenfood.
Frankenfood is a term used by many to refer to genetically modified food. I posted several times this year on genetically modified food or GMO (genetically modified organism) agriculture. Many countries are banning its use in agriculture and/or importation. However, the United States has jumped aggressively into the strange world of GMO production.
GMO food production is an outgrowth of the biotech industrial revolution that began approximately 2 decades ago. It coincided roughly with the economic breakdown of the family farm and the industrialization of agriculture in the United States. Today, most of our food supply is produced in a highly industrialized and corporatized system that is very successful at bringing large quantities of inexpensive food to world markets. GMO foods are a big reason for this success.
|Despite protests, the U.S. public has|
embraced GMO food. Click for photo credit.
I have always been an advocate of the precautionary principle when it comes to the environment. It suggests that no action be taken on activities that have the potential to cause harm to the public or the environment. In my mind, the jury is still out on GMO food. I am not only concerned with policy issues and the safety of the environment and the health of people eating GMO crops, but also about the ethics of changing the genetic makeup of organisms that have evolved over millions of years. In addition, I think that inexpensive GMO and corporatized food sets up class divisions around food in this country. Many have mapped food deserts in the US where the only source of food is fast food or food from convenience stores. Fresh local food is too expensive for many. Non-GMO food is becoming an expensive luxury thereby making it difficult for individuals to opt-out of the GMO food system.
I know that reasonable people strongly disagree with me and believe that GMO food is entirely safe and appropriate. Indeed, they believe that GMO agriculture is a solution to long-standing food supply problems.
That seems to be the public's sentiment as well. As noted above, the vast majority of U.S. staple crops are produced from genetically modified organisms. In California, often a bellwether state when it comes to environmental issues, a proposition to require the labeling of food that contains GMO materials was defeated by the voters in November. Plus, just last week, the FDA approved the first GMO animal for food. It is a salmon with genes of salmon and eel that grows twice as fast as a natural salmon.
In some ways, this period of time is reminiscent of the 1950's and the rapid advance of organic chemistry and the proliferation of organic chemicals in pesticides and herbicides that were widely used across our country. There was so much hope and optimism for a world improved by science and technology. We came to regret the excesses of those days. It is unclear if we will come to question our rapid leap into this new world of manufactured organisms. For now, we live in the United States of Frankenfood.