Imagine for a minute, 2 prehistoric people sitting around a fire 500,000 years ago. One of them puts their meat on the fire to cook it and explains to the other that when this is done the people who eat the food don’t get sick as often and the meat lasts longer so less people starve to death. This prehistoric person then goes on to say that they spend far less time chewing and eating so they get to spend more time with friends and family talking, exploring new ideas and solving other problems they have.
On the other side of the fire the man says, “Well, I tried this out on that wolf that comes around who is already sick and it didn’t get any better. I think because of that we shouldn’t cook our meat because we don’t know what might happen to us in the future.”
We’ll it turns out that we do know what happened in this story. According to Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, the prehistoric people who cooked their food evolved into homo habilis, an early predecessor of humans that became who we are today. Without cooking we might still be trying to figure out how to not be eaten by bears and lions as our everyday activities.
Compare this scenario to our newest food technology GMO’s. A GMO or genetically modified organism is a food that has DNA that was altered with the DNA of another plant. This can happen through selective breeding, introducing species from different parts of the world to each other or introducing desirable genetic traits into a host by insertion, which it then absorbs naturally. This technology is our future and it is not going away. If we want to get past all of the hurdles our current food system is facing like water shortages, weed and pest infestations or chemical issues then GMO is the best way.
Some people say that it is not natural so it can’t be good. That is why I gave the example of our early ancestors. Imagine if cooking food, a seemingly unnatural process, was banned. Then humans may have never evolved into the amazing creatures we are today. We also may have never discovered the beautiful things that make us human such as religion, art, civilizations and science because we had to spend so much time just trying how to figure out how to find enough safe food.
The science that has been presented by opponents of GMO’s, such as the now infamous Seralini study, has been refuted by scientists on both sides of the GMO argument for being sloppy and poorly documented. I’m not going to site a bunch of sources but they’re out there, look them up. As a matter of fact there have been more thorough studies done in Japan recently showing no negative side effects from GM soy beans on rats that use the same technology as our GM corn.
Well then what about the cancer it causes? According to Kevin Folta, professor of horticulture science at University of Florida, “the basic science says there’s no plausible way these well-understood genes could cause or promote cancer”.
It’s easy to say we shouldn’t be using science to make a more nutritious, safer food supply for the world when you are not hungry. But think about how many people will be affected by starvation this year due to malnutrition. Well according to the WHO, “malnutrition is a significant factor in approximately one third of the nearly 8 million deaths in children who are under 5 years of age world wide”. How many of those children could be spared with a better food supply? How many of those mothers would say no to a plate of nutritious GM golden rice?
Genetic engineering is going to be a big part of our future just like cooking has been for 500,000 years. The transition to acceptance is happening now and imagine all of the unknown possibilities the future holds for us if we can figure out the problem of a safe food supply for all humankind. We can’t even imagine what is to come, just like our ancestors, but it is time to close the door of starvation, disease and malnutrition and open the door towards a more advanced world.