To some people, supporting the use of genetically modified organisms is equivalent to liking murder, discouraging world peace, or attempting to end Christmas. But please hear me out, because I don't think you will get what you are expecting.
There's been a spike in the GMO conversation that has been thrown around my little corner of the internet and (finally) I've decided to join in.
I love biotechnology. From the first time I learned about it in an agriculture course in high school, I've been hooked. I think the science behind it is awesome. I get excited talking about the possibilities it provides for the future of farming and agriculture, human health and medicine.
To me, the word Monsanto brings awe, not fear or anger. It's the name of a company I believe has had a very positive impact on this world and will continue to do so.
But I want to explain why.
And as tempting as it is to write this post discussing all the science behind GMO's, that is not what I am going to do. I really want to write paragraphs about the reduction of pesticides and herbicides that GMO's have allowed, how they have increased our yields, golden rice, the numerous study's that have been done on them and I could go on and on.
But that's not what this is about.
I realized that even though I appreciate GMO's for the science behind them, the reason I get so jazzed when I talk about them, the reason I am able to care about them so much is because of something that has nothing to do with science.
It's because I have trust in our food system.
It's because I believe that people are good.
It's because I do not fear what I do not understand.
And because personally, I believe that they way the technology is being used is ethical.
These are the issues at the core of the discussion about genetically modified food but yet we keep talking about science. And these are the things that allow me to embrace and love the science that is biotechnology.
Growing up surrounded by agriculture, working in the agriculture industry and studying and earning a degree in agriculture has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of our food system. I'm so lucky. I have seen, heard, studied and learned why our food is produced the way it is. I've met the people who produce it. This has enabled me to understand the meaning behind the practices that others might question. My experience with the people, methods and entire industry of agriculture has instilled in me a faith and trust in our food system. Even more, it has solidified my core values of honesty, service, faith and hard work.
I truly believe people are good. We live in a world where a lot of things are messed up. Guns are brought into schools, we read about corporate scandal in the news. Disaster strikes and there are bad people out there, but I refuse to believe that is the norm. Because first of all that would make life suck and second, because I've seen that it's not. I can tell you firsthand that the people producing our food and the people involved in "Big Ag" are some of the best people I've ever met.
I personally believe that the average person and company is not out to get me. Agriculture is a business yes, but the people who grow food are in it for more than the almighty dollar. Each person I have met in all the different segments of food production (this includes seed scientists, slaughter facility workers, food packagers, marketers, farmers and more) is passionate about what they do and care about the person consuming their product. We care deeply about our animals, land, crops and sustaining the traditions of agriculture. I know that people in the business of producing food and inputs that help food be produced want to do it for good, not evil. We are in it to make a living, but not at the price of a human life or health, ever.
I also believe that the business model of agriculture pushes us to be innovative. This is what has allowed the industry to grow and change and embrace new things to make a better product for everyone who eats. We want a better product for our families and yours. We want to make our planet better and provide the best food possible. That's what led to the creation and adoption of GMO's.
I realize that I will never fully comprehend all of the processes behind how our food is produced. No one will. Though I have taken a genetics course and upper level biology, it doesn't mean I can make a lab in my kitchen and start genetically modifying things. I will never fully understand all of the processes behind this science and I'm okay with that. I'm comfortable with it because there are checks and balances in place so that I don't have to be the expert. The FDA, USDA, EPA, APHIS, HHS, private industry scientists, university researchers and more all serve this purpose and if I can't trust them on this, then how can I trust them on anything? It doesn't mean that mistakes don't happen, but for the most part they don't happen on purpose.
My ability to trust our food system doesn't mean I haven't done my research and I don't understand the basics. It means that I am going to leave it to the scientists and researchers and professionals to be the experts and I am not going to be afraid of something just because I don't understand it or because it has never been done before. I don't regularly question engineers and architects on the structures I inhabit every day because I trust that their job was done correctly. Why can't we do the same with the people who produce our food?
Personally, I believe that genetic modification is ethical. Because I believe in cross breeding and genetic modification allows us to reap the benefits of cross breeding more quickly, I'm completely okay with it. As a Christian, I don't think we are playing God, but instead helping improve, develop, preserve and subdue (check out Genesis 1:28 for that one) what he has created.
As we face issues in biodiversity, climate change and disease, hunger and population growth I think technology will be a vital tool in overcoming these obstacles. That doesn't mean I think genetic modification is the only tool we should use. But genetic modification has helped us move towards solutions to some of these problems already and I think we would be stupid to rule it out completely.
You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to love GMO's like I do, but I do hope you take into consideration why you dislike or fear them. Maybe it's not because they are bad for us but instead because you don't understand them or you don't understand modern agriculture and in turn you fear what you do not know.
My experience in agriculture has given me trust in our food system, faith in the people who produce it and a deeper understanding and appreciation of our food and natural resources.
If your only experience with food processing and agriculture is in the grocery store then I invite you into my world. The world of agriculture where I am so happy to work and live. I would love to introduce you to the side of the curtain I have been able to see.
From my experiences in the industry that uses the technology you may dislike or fear, I have met the greatest people who have instilled strong moral values in me and have taught me the reason, science and tradition behind how our food is made.
And I have no greater hope than to share these wonderful things with you.
So let's put an end to the arguments. Let's get down to the real reason behind the fight about Genetically Modified Organisms because if we are being honest the argument has little to do with actual science. Together let's face our fears and open our minds to comprehend the food system of today and peer into the window of a sustainable production agriculture of tomorrow.
Labels: agriculture, GMO, March Against Monsanto, Pro-GMO