We Are What We Eat

In our first unit, we discussed the importance of culture, or a particular society’s beliefs, customs, and ways of life. Genetic modification has helped to shape different cultures as it is forcing people to change their beliefs about food and their meal-time rituals. The practice of genetic modification originated in America but through cultural diffusion, has made its way across the globe.

Food is a cultural maker and an important part of a person’s identity. What we eat, where we eat, and who we eat with tells us a lot about our society (Delaney, 2011: 275). In this blog, I use pictures to illustrate how the use of genetic modification varies across cultures.

America: Approximately 70% of the foods in our supermarkets are genetically modified. Genetic modification has expanded into almost every area of US food production.

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Europe: GMOs are largely considered “new” foods in Europe. The European Food Safety Authority evaluates which genetically modified foods are imported into the nation.  Their system may be effective as it ensures a high level of protection for human health as well as the environment and consumer interests.

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Africa: Africans have varied opinions on the inclusion of genetically modified crops in their farms. Farmers want to produce hefty yields, but do not fully understand the potential consequences that come with planting GMOs.

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Mexico: Many Mexican farmers fear that genetically modified corn threatens their native varieties of blue, red, and multi-colored corn. A Mexican judge recently launched a complete ban on the growth of GMO corn field trials that the nation had planned to move forward.

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India: In India, Bt cotton seeds are advertised heavily to Indian farmers, who believe that they may bring high yields and material wealth.

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Asia: China and India are the two largest producers of GMOs in Asia. However, in Japan, the total area of GMO Free Zones is expanding.

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To get an idea of how GMOs are dispersed, one can look at the chart below. The countries listed are the top producers of GMOs in the world. The amount the US produces nearly doubles in a six year period with other countries experiencing a similar trend. As a world superpower, the way we use GMOs may be influencing the way GMOs are used on a global scale.

Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country USA Argentina Brazil Canada China Paraguay
1996 1.5 0.1 0.1
1997 8.1 1.4 1.3 0.0
1998 20.5 4.3 2.8 <0.1
1999 28.7 65.7 1.4* 4.0 0.3
2000 30.3 10.0 3.6* 3.0 0.5
2001 35.7 11.8 5.7* 3.2 1.5
2002 39.0 13.5 6.3* 3.5 2.1
2003 42.8 13.9 3.0 4.4 2.8
2004 47.6 16.2 5.0 5.4 3.7 1.2
2005 49.8 17.1 9.0 5.8 3.3 1.8
2006 54.6 18.0 11.5 6.1 3.5 2.0

*illegal cultivation of gmos: calculated area

Clive, James. 2013 Countries Growing GMOs. Electronic Document, http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/agri_biotechnology/gmo_planting/142.countries_growing_gmos.html, accessed October 15 2013.

European Food Commission  2013 Genetically Modified Food and Feed. Electronic Document, http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm, accessed October 15, 2013.

Gioccardi, Anthony     2013 Mexico Bans GMO Corn. Electronic Document, http://www.nationofchange.org/bombshell-mexico-bans-gmo-corn-1382450977, accessed October 22 2013.

GMO Free Europe Campaign.   2013 GMO Free News From Japan. Electronic Document, http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/gmo-free-regions/japan.html, accessed October 22 2013.

Thompson, Claire    2013 ‘Bitter Seeds’ documentary reveals tragic toll of GMOs in India. Electronic Document, http://grist.org/industrial-agriculture/bitter-seeds-documentary-reveals-tragic-toll-of-gmos-in-india/, accessed October 22, 2013.

We Md   2013 Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat? Electronic Document. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/are-biotech-foods-safe-to-eat, accessed October 12.

Images 

Bt Cotton. Digital image. Non GMO Project. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

GMO Free Regions. Digital image. GMO Free Regions.org. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Golden Opportunity? Digital image. Rappler. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Miracle Grow. Digital image. Grist. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Monsanto’s Failed GM Maize. Digital image. Sustainable Pulse. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Save the Date. Digital image. GMO Free Regions.org. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Say No to GMO. Digital image. Anh-Europe. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

TLC Cooking. Digital image. Howstuffworks.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Vaccines. Digital image. The Liberty Bell Beacon.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

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