Pop Culture Homework Assignment: The Future of Food

So, food has been on my mind a lot lately (as you may have gathered from all of the posts about Omnivore’s Dilemma and things that have been cooked).  I have decided that this is an area the is worthy of much thought and deserves its own coherent philosophy for the following reasons:

  1. I have to eat a few times a day
  2. I have to procure things to eat at least once a week
  3. Aside from costs associated with shelter (and perhaps my car now that gas prices have gone up) much of my budget is consumed by procuring these things that I eat

It stands to reason that, since much of my income is spent on food that this is a place where I have an opportunity to effect how things are grown and transported and also how people that grow and transport things are treated.  Basically, it has occurred to me that with careful consideration I can not only be healthy myself, but that I can use my small amount of dollars to help the environment, the economy and farmers (all things I care about) be healthy, too.  But, I’ve been searching for things that can inform me about these issues and watching and reading them when I come across them.  It just so happens that one such thing is in my netflix queue.

This documentary was largely about genetically modified organisms used in industrial farming and the impacts they have had on farming.  Did you know that if you patent a crop and then your crop is accidentally (you know, via nature) cross-bred with someone else’s crop that they are violating your patent and they either owe you money or owe it to you to stop using that crop?  This seems unreasonable to me.  I understand a lot of time and science has gone into genetically modifying organisms, but to be able to basically patent offspring of something (and something that, once its out there in the world, the world is going to take it over and move it around places) just seems…well, unreasonable, illogical and mean.  I say this for (at least) the following two reasons: pollinating insects and wind.  We have no control over where pollen is taken by bees and wind and so have no way to stop a patented crop from cross-pollinating with an unpatented crop.  I find this whole situation (that I may have been aware of prior to watching this documentary) appalling.

I also find it appalling, the more I think about it, the genetically modified food is not labeled in supermarkets.  I understand that, following my previous little tirade, one might argue that this would require that all organisms that show up on the shelves be tested, but that isn’t what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking that when one specifically buys genetically modified seeds to grow that plants grown from those seeds (and the fractionated chemicals produced from the plants) should be labeled.  I say this because we have been thousands of years evolving to eat particular things and that we do not know what the long term effects will be of rearranging the DNA of those things and then continuing to eat them.

Both of these things were brought up while watching this documentary.  Aside from making me want to rant about these two topics, this documentary also taught me about the process of making a genetically modified organism.  Did you know that viruses are used to introduce the new genes into the host cell?  I didn’t before watching this documentary.  I find this an interesting and quite clever process, even if I’m leery of its result.

The documentary itself was pretty good.  It was the basic voice-over, image, interview style that you would expect from a documentary.  Stylistically, it did not push any boundaries.  But, it was still full of useful information and I enjoyed that.

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