Awareness key to understanding and grappling with a lot of the dense and complex issues surrounding the world food system. Many people make an effort to eat locally-produced sustainable meats and organic vegetables, generally avoiding beef that has racked up many “food miles” and genetically modified produce, because the alternatives are automatically “bad” or “unsustainable.” These kinds of hard line stances stem from a lack of awareness, despite people’s best efforts: it is possible for meat even with quite a few food miles to be more sustainably produced than local meat (Litfin 162). It is also certainly possible (and even likely) that even the freshest local produce is genetically modified in some way.
I think most people conflate the idea of GMOs with laboratories and shady people in white coats, injecting who-knows-what into their apples and creating “frankenfood.” Even a simple Google search of “GMOs” will present article after article of how harmful GMOs are or how one must actively seek out labels that proudly proclaim their product is GMO-free. But taking a closer look at GMOs, it does not necessarily always look like that. Corn, for example, is one of many crops that has been bred over the years not selecting for nutritional qualities, but selecting for high yield instead; and yet, people still buy fresh cobs for summer cookouts, use corn oil in their cooking, and consume high-fructose corn syrup in large quantities without a second thought. Where does the definition of “genetically modified” begin, then? While it’s easy to understand this underlying fear, it is misplaced; GMOs are not inherently bad or good. Rather than demonizing seeds for being modified in this way, we must strive for awareness of what and who genetically engineered foods affect, and why they came to be in the first place.
Litfin, Karen. “Localism.” Critical Environmental Politics, edited by Carl Death, Routledge, 2014.