The evolution of the agricultural system in the United States never ceases to perturb and disgust me. As humans, we cannot universally deny that food is a rudimentary necessity for the continuance and livelihood of our species. Yet as I ponder over the relationship our country has with food, I cannot help but cringe. Reflecting over everything from the production, the distribution, the consumption, and even the marketing of food, it seems as if we have a grossly pervasive definition of what it means to nourish ourselves. Perhaps, we have truly lost sight of what food is.
Walk through any supermarket and grab any ten items which are not labeled USDA organic, and read the ingredients list. As you do this, try to imagine the ingredients on a plate: Blue #1, Tartrazine, potassium bromate, and Olestra.
American journalist Michael Pollan writes in “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” “if your grandmother can’t picture it on a plate, you probably shouldn’t eat it.” Now couple that list of ingredients with those that are not labeled, thanks to successful lobbying efforts by mega-agribusiness corporation Monsanto. Less often are we eating food, and instead we are constantly consuming what Pollan deems as “food-like substances.” Whether it concerns genetically modified foods or pesticides that are noted for their toxicity in the human body, our country is creating a national dependency on what is essentially laboratory food. Even worse, we have allowed agribusiness corporations to censor research showing how the synthetic food we consume is quite realistically to our detriment.
Monsanto has monopolized our farm industry by patenting its genetically modified seeds, and also happens to be the same organization responsible for the creation of Agent Orange used in Vietnam.
This is why when hearing news of Google’s 332k funded lab burger, I was less than pleased. The burger is artificially created in a laboratory through cultured beef made up of cattle stem cells. The intention behind its creation is to reduce our dependency on livestock farming. I do salute the attempt to address growing issues in our meat industry, such as bad USDA regulation and the huge bi-product of methane gas increasingly contributing to climate change. However, no matter how high-minded the intentions of the project may seem, the prospect of unintended consequences seem far too murky to deem it a sustainable alternative. There is not nearly enough transparency about how the burgers are cultivated. Quite honestly, I am predisposed to be weary of all things genetically created after reading a French study that published information about Monsanto’s corn being linked to increased chances of cancer in rats. This is all information most Americans are not privy to.
I suppose the way in which we evaluate our relationship to food is indicative of the philosophical position of mankind in relationship to nature. I feel that genetically modified foods and stem cell created hamburgers seem to be shortcut solutions to problems we have caused through man-made destruction of world-wide ecosystems, and I genuinely doubt that the restoration of our land or our bodies will happen artificially.