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Genetically Modified Food
Wed January 16, 2013
Are You Sure You're Eating A Corn Chip?
If my initial gut reaction to hearing about genetically modified food is correct then I think I have reason to worry. I’ve heard that 85 percent of all corn grown in the United States has been genetically altered. I find that terribly stressful because as my friends won’t hesitate to point out, I eat far more than my fair share of the chips and salsa appetizer. If all those chips I’ve eaten were from genetically modified corn... I may have genetically altered myself by now.
Something is certainly different about me. People have started to notice. My hair is beginning to turn gray, my skin is becoming wrinkled, and my face, especially the part lining my eye sockets, looks like it’s trying to melt. Of course these symptoms could be due to the sudden drop in estrogen that results from the small shocks that occur every time some perky store clerk or bank teller insists on calling me ma’am, but I don’t remember that ever happening before I started eating those genetically altered chips. I read that some people in Japan have started putting spinach genes in pigs in an attempt to produce a leaner meat, and a Canadian group has put spider genes into goats so they can produce a stronger silk to make fishing nets and bullet proof vests. I’m not sure that just because we can modify genes and alter the nature of things that we necessarily should. I mean who gets to decide what gets altered? If I thought that every scientist involved in a genetic engineering project was an altruistic conscious being whose only motivation was to uplift the planet…then maybe I’d feel better about the whole thing. If all the projects were led by someone like Mahatma Ghandi, the man who said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated” then I wouldn’t worry about it so much. But forcing an unsuspecting goat to lactate spider silk just to make bullet proof vests makes me leery. I would prefer it if we focused less on making bullet proof vests and more on finding ways to ensure that we have no need for them.Maybe we could just leave the animals out of the projects all together, and genetically alter ourselves instead. I personally would love to have a skin gene from Halle Berry, and maybe a brain cell or two from Bill Gates. But then again I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to alter the nature of nature. Of course that kind of thinking may just be due to my nature, my genetics. I come from a long line of people who seem to know how to work in harmony with nature. My Aunt Shirley’s children won’t even let her toss out the compost anymore because everything she touches will sprout and grow. She once tossed a tiny piece of a sweet potato peeling off my cousin Roxann’s back porch and Roxann ended up with this huge sweet potato vine growing wild all over her manicured backyard. One of my grandmothers was an herbalist who always had her kitchen window sill lined with jars of soaking medicinal herbs. She knew how to successfully treat everything from dysentery to copperhead snake bites. People would drive up to North Carolina from as far away as Atlanta for one of her cures, and grade school children would drop by to get her help with science projects that involved the identification of plants and trees. One of her favorite activities was telling her own children and grandchildren stories as we sat around under one of her tall Hickory nut trees shucking corn together. My grandmother passed away last year at the age of 96… so I can’t ask her what she thinks about making a plant-animal such as spinach- pig, mixing spiders and goats, or modifying corn to be self- equipped with its own pesticide. Most people who knew her would just assume because of her knowledge and wisdom regarding the natural world that she would have been opposed to genetically modifying plants and animals. But I’m not so sure. She was a salt- of- the -earth type person who didn’t anthropomorphize or romanticize nature. And surprisingly she loved scientific progress and enjoyed seeing new development. So who knows? She may have thought no more of shucking genetically modified corn than she would have heirloom corn. But one thing I think I can say with certainty is that she would be opposed to the type of modification that prevents a plant from sharing its natural gifts in the form of its seeds for the next years planting. We were taught as children that no one owns plants. We learned that plants are here to be enjoyed and to help sustain us, and that they should be shared freely with others. For that reason we were never allowed to thank a person for giving us a plant or seeds. We were taught instead to thank them for their thoughtfulness or generosity. I liked that. It encouraged feelings of sharing and community and made the local gardens abundant. Genetically modifying a seed to grow for only one season breeds selfishness….which is contrary to the nature of the plants themselves. I know in this day and age that I’ll probably continue to eat a genetically modifried chip or two, and I may find myself wearing a sweater vest made from a llama-bean or something, and if that Halle Berry gene transplant thing doesn’t work out I may resort to using a rooster- loofah to get rid of my crow’s feet. Even so I’m going to keep sharing plants and seeds and I encourage you to do the same. Like plants, giving freely is our nature too after all, and hopefully that’s one trait we won’t try and alter.
Dr. Smith lives in Union Grove and specializes in homeopathic medicine.
Audio FileEating food that is good for your body is a goal many of us strive to achieve. But WFDD's Real People, Real Stories guest commentator Dr. Jennifer Smith questions how far we should technologically go to produce nutritious crops.Edit | Remove