Continuing on our series covering the case for Going Organic, we find ourselves at the dreaded ‘ETHICS’ discussion. For those following along, we’re on our fourth blog dedicated to this topic. If you’ve missed the previous, you might want to go back and check them out.
You’re probably thinking, “Why is this a dreaded topic?” Well, the answer is pretty simple. I don’t believe in pointing the finger or calling out
another person, practice or company. Rather, tolerance helps battle negative emotions, a negative mind & spirit and the consequent unhealthy body (but that’s another topic). So back on the subject of ethics…However, when it comes to food industrialization, I find ‘tolerating’ the industry a slippery slope to ‘condoning’ questionable industry practices. So I call attention to our collective higher sense
of self on this topic of ETHICS.
“Awful”….”dreadful”… “disgraceful” … “so sad”…. These are many words I’ve heard and also used myself to describe the way livestock in the US have been treated. While
it is not my intention to use this blog to lecture about the ethical
treatment of animals, as a civil society, it simply cannot be
overlooked. Plenty of books, movies and animal rights
organizations have documented, often in great detail, the commercial
practice of raising livestock. These organizations have addressed the details, so I will leave well enough alone here.
While the answer for some is complete vegetarianism or veganism, this may not be a solution that works for everyone. So, my recommendation is to join the ranks of LessMeatism! Anyone can do it!
the demand for animal protein weren’t so high, we wouldn’t find our
livestock in such crowded, unclean living conditions that cause the need
to receive a medicine cabinet full of drugs to prevent the quick spread
of disease. We wouldn’t feed them hormones so that they grow abnormally large muscles or more fat. Being
Hindu myself, it comes rather natural to regard all of these animals as deserving of respect as living creatures. Similarly, many humanely-focused, organic farms are out there- many right there in your big box grocery store. Check out www.certifiedhumane.org to find farms that carry the ‘Certified Humane Certification’.
But not all ethics are related to the treatment of animals when it comes to Going Organic. Another type of ethical consideration is about plants…..namely the genetic modification of them. Perhaps you’re wondering what genetic modification has to do with ethics….so here it is.
‘Genetically Modified Organisms’ (aka, GMO) are made through “genetic modification,’ a
process where a plant’s genetic DNA is altered to achieve a specific
effect. The most common type of genetic engineering is used in the food industry to make a plant resistant to certain types of chemicals or insects. It actually sounds like a great idea at first. What a farmer wouldn’t do to avoid losing a crop to bugs or being choked out by weeds! Well, as most things in life…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is and GMO is no exception!
In 1997, 8% of all soybeans grown in the US were genetically modified. In 2006, that number jumped to 86%! Here’s the catch. A very large pesticide manufacturer (opposite of ‘Round Down’)
decided that if they could alter a soybean plant so that it would not
be killed by that company’s pesticide product, a farmer could spray
literally tons of this pesticide on the crop without worrying about
killing the plants. Sounds tasty, right? Now
imagine that same company profiting not only off of selling tons of
pesticides, but gouging the farmers on the sale of these ‘magic beans’. Now
imagine that company making it illegal for the farmer to save some of
these ‘magic beans’ so that they can save money seeding next year’s
crop. Seriously….this means that these
farmers only have one source for seeds and they are legally bound to buy
a whole new crop of seeds each year. Sounds like a monopoly – not very ethical, right?
Let’s take it even further into the larger-sense. Each year, more and more of our staple crops are going GMO. Remember the ‘birds and the bees’? Well, they haven’t forgotten that their main mission in life is to pollinate our fruits and vegetables. So, like busy little bees, they fly from plant to plant, crop to crop, and farm to farm. But what happens when these bees visit GMO farms, then find their way to Organic farms? Our Organic farmers are the historians of nature. An heirloom tomato is call heirloom because it’s ‘bloodline’ is sometimes over 50 years old or more. Suddenly we have GMO pollen mixing with our Organic crops. This kind of cross-pollination is endangering the future of organics. Definitely an ethical issue!
The last consideration about GMO deals with what types of DNA we’re blending. For example, there is a GMO breed of tomato that is genetically modified to contain the DNA of fish, yes FISH! Turns out this fish DNA actually provides a natural insecticide for the tomato. That may be all well and good, but what if you are one of the millions of people allergic to fish, or one of the millions opposed to eating anything that harmed an animal in the process? Whose responsibility is it to tell us that there is fish DNA in our tomato?
The general consensus among the organic community is that GMO foods may be the Pandora’s Box of our generation. Will our great grandchildren know what a ripe, juicy purple heirloom tomato tastes like? And how do we preserve these wonderful gifts of nature for our future generations.
ETHICS are a key factor for you when making the decision to ‘go
organic’ you may choose one or more of the actions below:
1) join the ranks of LessMeatism by eating
vegetarian a few nights a week
2) visit www.certifiedhumane.org and buy from these farms when possible
3) vote with your dollar by avoiding GMO foods
4) watch the movie Food Inc. to learn more about GMO
5) read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan to learn more about the industry of food
For now, I’ll leave you with an insightful Native American Proverb you’ve likely heard before, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”