I often find myself in conversations about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If I know one thing for sure about GMOs, it’s that people have a lot of opinions about them. Before I formed an opinion I did a lot of observing and understanding.
I think that GMOs might not on their own be a terrible thing, however, what they have become is really truly troubling. GMOs are the reason we are sustaining monoculture. Monoculture is possible because of the way that corn, soybeans, cotton, and other crops are able to be grown for miles in factory farms . Because we are able to insert specific genes into crops, we are able to spray the fields with pesticides and the plants survive. Those pesticides then end up in our ground water, our rivers, and eventually into our oceans. We are surrounded by the chemicals – they do not disappear. The integrate themselves into our lives. Our waterways face eutrophication, and our oceans are acidifying.
In the US, the way we grow food now we are urging pests to adapt to further and further levels of pesticides. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the insects will die, leaving that small percentage that is able to overcome the pesticide. This is how evolution works. As pests adapt to resist the chemicals and . At first the population of survivors will be small and can appear harmless. However, as the species begins to thrive as they are not affected by the chemical, the species evolves to survive. Their evolution leads to a steady growth in the population that now all shares the immunity to whatever was supposed to prevent pests in the first place. This survival induces an extreme cycle of increasing need for genetic modification and insect adaptation. This fight will never be won or lost.
Instead of working against each other, permaculture creates a habitat and balanced ecosystem. Instead of fighting against nature and it’s evolutionary forces, we should be working together to create sustainable food systems. Without even going into the predatory nature of Monsanto or Dow Chemical, it is clear that GMO foods are not the problem, it’s the system that is created around them.
This system will have to transition at some point to a more circular cooperative one, because at the moment it is not sustainable. This process has begun and will catalyze further when there is more transparency about GMOs. Recently in Vermont, a bill was passed that forces food companies to label GMOs in their products. Companies such as Ben and Jerry’s are forced to make a decision based on this legislature. Two very clear choices are put in front of them. They can either label that their product has GMOs in it or they can make a change and push forward a revolution. The choice they made is pretty remarkable, and has the potential to send ripple effects to the suppliers and buyers all around them. As more companies are forced to make the choice in Vermont, much more is happening behind the scenes. The suppliers in Oregon that provide some type of candy will have to switch. This is going to send ripples further than than just through Vermont and instead throughout the country. The caveat to all of this is that if Ben and Jerry’s wants to be labeled by Non-GMO Project, they will need to use milk that comes from cows do not eat genetically modified foods. It doesn’t look like this will be plausible right away but it will be interesting to see if they eventually make the change. Maybe it’s the start of something new? Or maybe it’s just Vermont, being Vermont.
I of course refrain from predicting what the future will look like. It is unimaginable to my human brain. I do know that with exposure and understanding we likely have a chance of creating a more equitable and safe food system. To me the little non-GMO labels on products do not say: “we don’t insert DNA into our corn” instead what it really says is: “we understand the need for change in the food system”. And those are the products I will want to buy.