We are natural, we are engineered

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Seeds are both natural and engineered, just as we are. In fact, in the act of creating modified seeds, “a great deal of effort is required to separate undesirable from desirable traits.” (Wieczorek 2012) Seeds follow the same paths that we do, so I think it is inaccurate and perhaps unwise to elevate and revere processes that are considered “natural” over ones that are thoughtfully and intentionally manifested. We are a product of both because we live in a connected society where ideas, identity, concepts and nurturing occurs in a community, not in isolation.

Developing a new seed variety takes a long time- on the whole 12-15 years- but seeds are also self-generative; they reproduce without any intervention. (Wieczorek 2012) How does this compare to our own biological, developmental, and philosophical processes? Our conceptions of the world are formed through experience and language. Is that a naturally occurring operation, or is it manipulated by the culture and environment in which we live?

In our final contemplative practice of the course, we were asked to think about ourselves as “seedlings” and our minds as complex living systems. If we view our bodies and our minds as sprouting and maturing like seeds, acquiring new knowledge and new perspectives, then a seed becomes like an idea or personality, something both tangible and intangible. What traits are we trying to cultivate in ourselves, and what paths should we follow? Should our intents grow through community and collective influence, or should we isolate and individualize our processes?

The seed analogy provides two development trajectories. One represents conformity, the other, innovation and creativity, but what if they existed in conjunction? Genetically modified seeds could be a creative expression of culture, or they could display a lack of diversity and homogenization. In Wieczorek’s article, she states that, “while the benefits of genetically engineered crop varieties have been widely recognized, there has been extensive opposition to this technology.” Perhaps this is because modifying nature is seen as an isolating practice, one that leads to more conformity rather than variation. My assertion is that both are needed; who we are is defined by strategic choices to optimize positive traits and also by nature.

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