The research, the science, the convincing arguments are there, to be upheld by the materialists, but the underlying premise upon which the hard, arrogant rock of science is built is cracked and bleeding, gushing the blood of our mother and the memory of the human species, in the realm of the subconscious. Its plain as day, really, its physical in these days of the gushing oil, but the human being continues to sleep......
Per recommendation of a friend Im reading a library copy of "Just Food" by James E McWilliams. As a whole, his critique of local and global food systems I appreciate and embrace. It is unreasonable and even detrimental to think we will localize our food source 100%. We absolutely, certainly, must east less meat. But I disagree so wholeheartedly with his misinformed view of Genetic Engineering that Im compelled to dispute it here. In a chapter titled Frankenfood, McWilliams compares new GE technology to what is known as 'conventional' agriculture- the post WW-II, synthetic chemical and oil- subsidized monocultures that have become routine. This type of agriculture is so clearly failing that even GMOs could make the future look brighter. He fails completely to consider the benefits of organic agriculture in comparison, yet he argues (pro-GE) in favor of everything organic agriculture is prized for and does more efficiently, effectively and less dangerously than any GE crop: biodiversity, reduced chemical usage, resource conservation and higher yields.
Let me first spell it out: To embrace biotechnology of our food source is hubris of the worst kind. It shows a type of ignorance so deep and typical of this culture it brings out the wailing, rebellious, fuck-the-system teenager in me. But im grown up now and can articulate the source of my own deep disturbance and promote common good. As this is a blog post, I’m ‘shooting from the hip,’ but I will go into the specifics of how McWilliams' arguments for GE fall short, as scientifically as I can be, in a blog. First, Id like to raise a personal case against GMO.
The root of the problem lies with hubris. Scientific reductionism may find that A+B = C, and thus 'logically' apply A+B to other situations expecting C. Well, this is all good in well in our mental, academic explorations. It fits nicely into the 100sf boxes of our offices… But these types of experiments are biased- as their premise defines life as the total of the sum of its parts and assume that which is visible, even under a microscope, is enough to quantify life. There is no place for existential contemplation in reductionist science, but there may be more to the large puzzle of life than we can pin down under a microscope. In attempts to quantify and define life, that which is beyond quantification gets lumped into the realm of (gulp) "religion." That way, we can think we grasp it all- for we can see that which fits into our domain, and the rest is for the cloud-headed religious zealots. Thus, hubris, also known as patriarchal arrogance defines the common assumptions we collectively call reality. It’s from this place, it seems, that science can deem GMO as "sustainable."
I take fault with GMOs because of this hubris, the failure to respect or even wonder about the deep mystery that is life, or endeavor to explore how our toying with physical affects, like gene manipulation, could reverberate through the field of interconnected life.... now being defined by both eastern religion and modern science (quantum physics) as consciousness. [Physicist and spiritual researcher David Wilcock presents this at length in his own work and evidence from other studies on his website DivineCosmos.com]. In the most ancient and lasting system of healthcare in the world, Ayurveda, we learn that food is memory. It feeds our minds, bodies, emotions and souls with the hologram of all that has come before, grounding us into our experience on Earth, endowing us, if subconsciously, with the wisdom and intuition of the laws of nature as they are expressed in physical form. “Every plant”, says the founder and head of the Wise Earth School of Ayurveda Mother Maya, "has its counterpart within the subtle essences of the human body" (Secrets of Healing, 1995). It’s that resonance between the two, the plant memory informing our tissue memory, Maya says, that initiates the healing that our bodies create on their own. With just the impulse from a plant, our bodies heal themselves- the plants or drugs don’t heal us, per se. So, the genetic makeup of a plant is recognizable to our cellular memory. Along the same lines, Im learning from Geomancy that the perfect blueprint of a species is encoded within its memory 'body.' This all really sounds a lot like the reductionist science I love to hate; think DNA. DNA is information, coded in a complex, vast and multi-layered system of memory that we are just beginning to understand. We know genes are sections of DNA that carry information, but the ancient sciences like Ayurveda understood the implications and relationships far better than we- the subtle memory is where the potential lies. How is that subtle memory related to DNA? When we have the ignorance or arrogance to think we can insert a protein from one species into the next because A+B (seems to) = C, do we even question the far-reaching implications of that manipulation, beyond what we could reduce under our microscope? What are the effects on subtle memory of GE plants? I personally have more credence, respect and deference to the billions of years of evolution that have designed a system, in and beyond Earth, far too vast for the human mind to comprehend.
Now to deal with James McWilliams' assertions:
1. GMOS will help us to use less toxic chemicals. At what price? Organic agriculture can also do that, with no potentially devastating side effects, while supporting biodiversity, community and creating nutrient rich food (increased nutritional value of food and community is something GM doesnt even approach. Our food source has become nutritionally degraded since the post-war focus on N-P-K through synthetic means). Also, the word "LESS" (toxic chemicals) is a big clue. GMOs will likely never wean us off toxic chemicals because the companies we are indebted to when we partake in their patented brand of life are not interested in our freedom from their chemicals.
Its simply a weak argument. I can say as an organic gardener, we can wean us off toxic chemicals completely, grow more nutritious and better tasting food, on a fraction of the acreage. GMO isnt even approaching the vast waste of space and resources that 'conventional' growing embodies. If its truly a sustainable solution, isn’t resource usage something to consider, not just a partial weaning from toxins?
2. GE can revolutionize the control of diseases, insects and nematodes for which there is presently no solution. This reeks a tone of conventional agriculture. First of all, preservation of biodiversity is critical, for obvious reasons. Life, health, depends on the multiplicity of interactions that species diversity allows. We arent looking for a permanent "solution" to garden pests. We are looking for balance. And if there is "no solution" how are organic farmers producing along just fine, despite the heavy bias against them from government subsidies towards 'conventional' growing?
3. In a section titled "Biodiversity", McWilliams admits that biodiversity and agriculture should be complimentary endeavors. He also admits to GM tendency to support monocultures- in that pesticides and herbicides are routinely sprayed to kill everything except the resistant crop. This is laughable when considering biodiversity in comparison to organic agriculture which, on the other side of the spectrum, strives to encourage balance by supporting as much diversity in living things- crops, plants, insects and especially micro-organisms in the soil. The practice of patenting an herbicide- resistant, gene-manipulated strain whose seeds are not viable, who is grown in a virtual dead-zone is anything but contributing to biodiversity.
4. No- till method necessitates GM. Conservation tilling or no-till ag practices are a good hope for the future, I agree! They preserve soil structure, reduce erosion and require less inputs or soil food. But the weeds, McWilliams says, makes no till impossible without chemical herbicides. The amount of herbicides used is less with GM. First of all, from an organic perspective, one of the benefits of a no-till system is reduced weed production. the soil is not turned over to expose more fresh weed seeds. Also, the previous crop "residue" provides a mulch-like cover for the soil which helps to prevent weeds. While involved in Organic Ag graduate studies in the dept of Ecology at UGA, we witnessed no till field trials incorporating the use of cover crops, like rye or clover, to suppress weeds while feeding the soil with nutrients from the 'green manure.' the cover crops get cut off above ground, killing the plant while the top falls onto the soil for mulch and nutrients. The roots die, but have helped improved soil structure and prevented erosion. The new crops are planted into this non-toxic, nutrient-rich and resource efficient system. No GMO needed, thanks.GE can revolutionize the control of diseases, insects and nematodes for which there is presently no solution.GE can revolutionize the control of diseases, insects and nematodes for which there is presently no solution.
5. Farmers have planted over 2 billion acres of land with GM crops and none of the predicted health consequences have resulted. Really? Its known that GM creates resistance (crops are bread for resistance and resistance spreads). McWilliams waves off the concern over unintended consequences, repeatedly. What about farmers whose fields have been contaminated with 'round-up-ready' soybeans, who had no intentions of growing GM soy? Some have been sued by Monsanto for accidentally hosting the patented bean in their field... Is that not a social health issue of major proportions? As are GM crops growing with no governor or control an environmental issue? I’d assert that the very fact that we have this gross distortion of greed and control wagered over our most basic sustenance indicates we are in the midst of a health crisis of massive proportions. Health, through a reductionist scientific lens exists in the absence of foreign pathogens that are attacking the body beyond its ability to control them- on a purely physical level. From a more holistic or larger perspective, health or dis-ease begins in the subtle bodies and at its most obvious reaches the gross, physical plane. We have fiddled with the memory of species which we depend upon for large portions of our nourishment. Has our own memory not been affected? Are we a healthy species, interacting with our mother earth in a harmonious manner, towards the sustainability of our own species as well as that of all life? Clearly not. But I would assert, perhaps to confuse my argument, that the loss of our cosmic memory has lead us to manipulate the genes of species, not the other way around. Either way, we are looking through a microscope and unknowingly affecting the whole. Through tunnel vision of hubris, we are missing the point- again.
6. Round-up is "relatively safe" (p96). This wasnt a main point, but it warrants attention. Though McWilliams admits that Round-up has been found "toxic to humans", it quickness to breakdown lessens possibility of exposure. But if we didnt use Round-up at all, we'd have even less possibility of exposure. Further, and more importantly, supporting the life-patenting giant Monsanto is anything but "relatively safe." I hardly need to highlight the ethical invasions upon life for blatant corporate greed that has been embodied by the agri-giant. And if not Monsanto, these lab-generated chemicals arent something that will likely ever empower communities to become self-sufficient in their own food supply- the true sustainable agriculture. Round-up, for that reason, is highly unsafe and unsustainable. The "corporate-driven cat and mouse" noted here by McWilliams is more than just "not ideal”; it is a horrifying example of the darkness or our era that breeds human inequity and undermines sustainability.
7. GMOS should be placed in nuturing hands. (They might do some good if it weren't for the malevolent companies who push them to take over the world.) James, you seem intelligent (in that disconnected, academic kind of way). Im sorry to get personal, but don’t you get it? The nurturing hands dont want GMOs for the reasons outlined above.... These nurturing hands are happily involved in a life-affirming movement called Sustainable farming- and that does not include GMOs.
I am one of those nurturing hands. Let me speak from experience. Im learning that I am much more effective in life and work if I stop projecting my mental imperative on the life around me, and listen to the pulse of nature to inform my work and daily life. I've opted out of a career in landscape architecture, from working to affect physical form through concepts and precepts i learned in graduate school, from behind a flat computer screen, to being a farm hand, essentially, in a community garden. Because there is room to make contact with the earth and pause to hear the voice of nature. I couldnt find the peace or the inspiration in an office to hear nature. In the office, I found that the built environment is designed not based on inspiration from nature, but on deadlines and generic shapes that are easy to create in the latest version of Auto-CAD.
Nature doesnt speak in english to me and I can hear nature much better when im not purely 'in my head.' If I am receptive, and willing to meet nature creatively, nature speaks to me. This way, I can grow in understanding of life, informed by the whole, instead of just one (mental) faculty that purports to be the best way. I dont want to be the steward of a technology born out of one, fragmented and isolated system. I want re-member that I am deeply connected to the whole, awaken the other latent 90% of my brain.
You see, its a paradigm shift- instead of thinking that Im at the top of intelligence here on life, I respect that my species is actually at the bottom of a cycle of "non-remembering" referred to in the Vedas as the Kali Yuga, or dark ages- reflected also in Mayan and Egyptian cosmology. In this light, I recognize that instead of being at the forefront of evolution, life is cyclic, and in the current cycle, im largely disconnected from earth memory; I may have a lot to learn! I look to nature to be my teacher. This is a road less traveled.... more in the geomancy section of this website.
8. Plant breeding, such as cross-pollination is the same thing as GE. Our long standing history with plant breeding has only recently begun to manipulate and modify how genes codify themselves. When we cross pollinate, we suggest the memory of one plant to another and leave it to nature to work out the intricacies. We then select the plants we like based on traits we are looking for. This preferential selection of the whole organism is not a direct manipulation of its DNA.
9. Yields. Again. I have a hard time celebrating yields of GM crops that exceed those of conventional numbers, because organic farming methods have far exceed, on a per acre basis, yields from conventional or GM crops. Jim Jeavons Grow Biointensive Method is worth consideration. His yields surpass conventional or GM production of every crop from double to more than 10times. In fact, it is intensive urban farms that are finding the highest yields in our history. This is true resource efficiency.
10. GM will enable crops to flourish in arid and heavy-saline soils, seen to be valuable in areas like Africa that have degraded soils. Soil degradation and desertification are direct results of un-sustainable, 'conventional' agricultural practices. Organic methods suggest composting ag by-products and animal manure, forestation and other practices to improve degraded soils and rebuild topsoil and stabilize climate. Nowhere does McWilliams suggest such sound practices. This GM solution seems to suggest a continuance of bad practices that lead to faster desertification while we modify crops in turn to the new conditions.
11. "The idea that nature is not perfect- that it is humanity's task to responsibly improve it to our advantage- has deep roots in a noble tradition." Well, this spells it out: it goes H-U-B-R-I-S. This sentence falls in a section praising Darwin, the godfather of permission to think we are the strongest survivors, at the great frontier of living intelligence. I am, as a humble student of great Mother Nature, calling you out, fools of the patriarchy: Darwinian evolution has been de-bunked. There's much evidence to indicate that evolution happens in great leaps or jumps, including the records of ancient civilizations such as Sumerians, not random mutation: Dr. Robert Muller and Dr. Robert Rohde from UC Berkeley found that all every 62 million years all of the life forms on Earth spontaneously upgrade their DNA and become new creatures. Physicist David Wilcock has found these changes are not specific to the earth, but to the entire solar system which goes through cylces that relate to our position with the center of our galaxy. Again, something many ancient civilizations referred to in their artwork and diagrams. DivineCosmos.com features scientific research at length focusing on the origins of consciousness, that all matter is connected through a field of consciousness and we are undergoing a massive, evolutionary leap in our present era, starting from an age of decline or darkness at present.
I could go on, but 5 pages for a blog post is sufficient! I'll leave you with this interesting tidbit: why do the informed employees of Mansanto refuse to eat GMO foods in their cafeteria? take that home.... and have some organic wine with your organic dinner.
peace be with you