Somewhere in Facebook is a posting about picketing of bio-tech concepts by well-meaning activists. Various opinions have been voiced on the matter, here is mine.
I have expressed the opinion here on other occasions, that mankind’s time on this planet is marked by an erratic but consistently forward push to improve the human condition. But that progress has not been error free. We have had some significant setbacks over the millennia and must be on guard against that one mistake that wreaks havoc. I am a firm proponent of “sustainability”, but my definition seems to vary significantly from the current concept. The trendy embracing of un-processed, local, and natural foods is laudable but misplaced. These efforts significantly raise the cost and therefore the price of food, making it less likely, not more likely, that the least among us will have access to enough food to stave off hunger. I am pleased that top chefs and high profile celebrities are embracing the idea of nutrition. But if anyone thinks the bottom of our or any society is benefited by these efforts they are missing an important point. I have been involved in the fight against hunger for most of my life. I have learned one absolute and unyielding truth. It is not nutrition until it hits the belly. Food has to be available, accessible, and affordable.
While nutrition is our next challenge, let’s not forget why and how we got to the point where starvation is the exception in the human experience. I have heard, until it is almost sad, that “If you give a man a fish, he will eat today. But if you teach a man to fish, he will eat every day.” That is being extended to include community gardening, small scale aquaculture, and animal husbandry. I have found through hard experience, however, that if you try and teach a hungry man to fish he will eat the bait. Sustainability, to me, has always been better expressed as “Don’t eat the seed corn”.
I recommend to all a book that has been in my collection for years. It was in my mother’s collection before that. “The Hunger Fighters” by Paul de Kruif, published by Harcourt, Brace, and Company in New York, 1928. This book traces the work of food scientists and geneticists from the 1870’s through the early part of the 20th century, including those involved in adapting wheat, corn, meat, and minerals to the needs of an exploding population experiencing an ever-dwindling variety in their diets. It is the story of how our food supply was intentionally changed, not for profit, but to fight hunger, and success in that effort yielded profit. Profit is not the enemy of nutrition. It is the engine of change.
We have an epidemic of obesity in this country and it is growing around the world. It is not the fault of Monsanto or Carlisle, or any other company. Human health is not a simple linear equation, but first we have to get enough food to survive. Obesity indicates that problem may now be solved. Thanks, not derision, is due to those who accomplished that. We Humans used to spend our lives seeking enough calories to stay alive. Now that is an issue of distribution, not agriculture. Making mass produced food nutritious will be a simple fix once the engine’s attention is allowed to move in that direction. Perhaps it will be genetic manipulation that produces plants and animals containing within themselves, the keys to human health. Remember, the engine is profit, not government or social intent. Those are too parochial to be globally effective.