In the past 70 years, the world has gone through a food revolution. With the start of genetic engineering, we have been able to manipulate and reconfigure the same foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years. This engineering includes creating specific foods that are pathogen resistant, injecting additional micronutrients into food and increasing the fertility and yield of crops. This has led to an increased production in food and the reduced use of pesticides, which given the worlds constantly growing population, has been a positive outcome. Yet what negative effects has this had? Research into the risks of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has been significantly lacking, leading to the broad release of potentially harmful organisms into the environment and into our bodies. Such risks include the breakdown of ecosystem specific biodiversity, the creation of additional pathogens and additional damage to local environments and organism health. Current policy deems GMOs as “substantially equivalent” to conventional foods, allowing these foods to skip the rigorous testing system that all other products are required to endure before mass production can occur. We must advocate significant policy change, reversing this ruling and requiring that all GMOs go through safety testing before being mass produced. This policy change is essential to our environmental and personal health.
Archive for the '04-19-1630' Category
The United States stands far from united when it comes to food choice. While roughly half of all American consumers are confident in the safety of the conventional U.S. food supply, the other half is confused: conventional or organic? For physiological, environmental, and economic reasons, organic crops and farming techniques outweigh their conventional counterparts: 1) organic vegetables are produced with no chemical pesticides and thus bring fewer toxins and more antioxidants into the body (physiological benefit) 2) foregoing chemical pesticide allows organic plants to build their own “immune systems” to combat increasingly resistant pests (environmental benefit) and 3) consuming organic produce benefits small, local farmers who are otherwise overshadowed by monopolizing conventional farms (economic benefit). While each of these aspects raises the value of organic produce above that of conventional produce, there are still weaknesses associated with organic crops. For example, biological pesticides such as mycotoxins used in organic farming are immunotoxic and can harm plants as well as the human body upon ingestion. In addition, economic drawbacks of organic farming include high production costs and low crop yields. These weaknesses drastically reduce the feasibility of replacing unhealthy, conventionally grown foods with organic produce. On the brighter side, empirical evidence suggests that these weaknesses may be replaced with strengths of an alternative agricultural technique: genetic modification technology. Contrary to popular belief, certain aspects of GM produce and technology have shown the ability to solve physiological, environmental, and economic problems elicited by organic practices. With GM crops and farming techniques, America may not have to choose between healthy and unhealthy. The states can stand united.
Many consumers today try to eat local food in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle for their community and their planet. Most people, including Barbara Kingsolver, the author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, define eating locally as eating food produced within the consumer’s general region. What many people often do not consider is the idea that large, very unsustainable, yet locally run corporations may be the “local” businesses that they are therefore helping support. Although these buyers have successfully purchased their food nearby, they now support a corporation that will continue to ship its product worldwide, maintain unsustainable production practices, and filter consumer funds into corporate pockets rather than those of local farmers and the community. I assert that “local food” is defined not only by the physical distance between the production and consumption of the product, but also by the local ownership and sovereignty of the business. By comparing the effects of a locally run, independent small farm to those of corporate agribusiness, I pinpoint the specific benefits of the former. I determined through my research that small, local, sovereign farming businesses do a much better job of economically supporting the community in which they are located. They also have a much less damaging impact on the earth while having a much better relationship with the land on which they grown and the people with whom they share that land. Overall, the cycle of food and money in a local agribusiness is the most ecologically sustainable and economically healthy model of food production.