I had to take a break from reading Cultivating an Ecological Conscience because I had a whirlwind of library books with no renewals and immediate due dates to get through. The wind has calmed to a gentle zephyr for the moment and I am happy to be back at this fantastic collection of essays about land use, farming and sustainability.
GMO food has been around for a while now and still manages to be controversial as it should be. I don’t know if you have heard, but Monsanto’s GMO crops that are “Roundup Ready” are losing resistance to pests and weeds in farm fields are developing resistance to the pesticide. This “miracle” is coming to an end and no doubt Monsanto is prepared with some new GMO crops and pesticides. In the meantime they will soon be marketing GMO “Roundup Ready” grass to homeowners so all the clueless people engaged in a quest for the perfect weed-free lawn will now be out there spraying Roundup, a dangerous to all pesticide, over their lawns on a windy day so you and yours can be sprayed too.
Back when GMO crops first came on the market there was a big push about how much better and more productive they were. But this has proven to be false. Now farmers who went the GMO route find themselves locked in a system they cannot leave. And the whole idea of GMO food feeding the world’s ever expanding population, well that is one big baloney sandwich.
There is a fundamental flaw with the claim that genetically engineered foods will feed the world. Hunger is not caused by food availability, but by food entitlement. In other words, hunger is not caused by an insufficient quantity of food, but by an insufficient access to food. Feeding the world is therefore largely a social and economic problem, not a production problem.
For example, soybean production in Brazil has increased dramatically in recent years. But the soybeans are produced primarily for export, where they are used for animal feed, which denies local Brazilians entitlement to the food-production capacity of their own country. Consequently, while soybean production has exploded, the number of malnourished in Brazil has increased from one-third of the populations to almost two-thirds. Brazil’s increased food requirements will not be supplied by U.S. exports because malnourished Brazilians cannot afford them.
So next time you hear a talking head sounding the alarm about feeding a growing worldwide population and how we need more GMOs to do it, stop and ask some questions. Is there really going to be a food shortage? What if Americans stopped wasting $160 Billion of food every year? Are GMOs actually going to benefit anyone but BigAg? Who is going to be eating the corn and soybeans? The people that need it? Or the livestock raised in inhumane conditions so Americans can have cheap hamburgers?
Want to make a difference, help famers, the environment and put a dent in climate change? Eat local. Eat organic non-GMO foods. Eat food that is in season. And don’t waste your food, not because there are people starving in China (or wherever your parents claimed the starving lived when trying to get you to eat something you didn’t like as a kid), but because there are people starving in your own neighborhood and the food you threw in the garbage doesn’t just affect your wallet but the lives and livelihoods of lots of other people too from those who grew it to those who live near the landfill where your waste ends up. Everything and everyone is connected.