GMOs or Something Else?

When you think about the main arguments against the use of GMOs, they are usually centered around the detrimental impacts of genetic modification on human health and the environment. However, GMOs alone do not directly impact society. The way we make GMOs, how we distribute and use them are essential to our understanding of why we promote them. Maybe food activists shouldn’t focus on GMOs in particular, but the variety of cultural factors that shape the way we eat.

According to author Richard Schiffman, “the problem with genetically modified foods is not that they are genetically modified; it is that they have been designed to become cogs in the machine of this destructive system. It is the system that needs to change, not the seeds (Schiffman).”

Sciffman argues that GMOs can be beneficial to society and that Americans devote too much time and energy into trying to combat genetic modification. He describes, instead, the devastating impacts of modern agricultural practices on the environment. The real problem, according to Sciffman, is that we are cutting down the Amazon to grow soybeans and diminishing our groundwater reserves. Whether or not the foods are genetically modified or not is besides the point—we can’t continue to deplete resources and grow more and more to feed a growing population.

This reminds me about our discussion in class about Hurricane Katrina and the environmental and cultural factors that contributed to the hurricane’s devastation. It wasn’t one factor or nature alone that was to blame, but a variety of historically entrenched factors and cultural inequalities. Similarly, GMOs can’t be blamed for society’s ills—Americans choose to eat a lot, to eat unhealthily, and to continually deplete resources. It is not GMOs but how we choose to grow and use them that can be problematic.

Schiffman, Richard   2013 GMOs Aren’t the Problem. Our Industrial Food System Is. Electronic Document,, accessed November 22, 2013.

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