Healthcare and GMO Food

23 Jun 2012

In the USA, we talk endlessly about how we have the best healthcare system in the world. And we do. But the diseases that cost the most to fix and are the hardest for our health care system to solve are the preventable, chronic ones: diabetes, obesity, heart disease. The increasing problems from antibiotic resistance in hospitals and problems from chemical pollution in the environment. If we let antibiotics become useless, then what kind of future are we leaving for our children? Our world needs us to get serious about solving these problems.

People who care about “health” are supposed to be against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our food. We are supposed to support organics, and “local” and “natural” foods. “Whole Foods,” so to speak. I would contend that people need to reconsider their stance if they really do care. I speak about not just the environment; as a species we need to reconsider what it means to care about the present and future health of humanity.

What are we opposed to? Round-up ready pesticide genes in the food are one problem. Seeds that are only good for one generation and tie or food supply to the whims of companies with profitability for their main objective. Increased exposure to drought and disease because of monoculture. Patents on genes. Pesticide runoff. There are lots of things to oppose, certainly.

But are any of these things inherent to GMO? We are angry at the industrial food system. The corporatist solution to food is the problem! Pesticides are only needed in large monocultures, and they are not the only possible criteria for genetic modification and improvement. How about nutrition, taste, and hardiness against drought and other natural variations? Let’s make produce that is good for us and good for the planet, using genetic engineering techniques to take nature’s bounty and make it even easier for our farmers around the world to grow. Isn’t that what our ancestors did when they bred our current crops from their wild ancestors?

In addition to spending money on MRI machines and drugs to treat diabetes, let’s develop better-tasting, more nutritious, and hardier crops. Let’s use these to build a new american diet; one where we do not have the same chronic illness in our lives as a byproduct. Let’s develop new antibiotics and new techniques for treating everyone’s illness, of course. But the best defense is a strong offense - we can reduce our exposure by reducing our dependence. Let’s solve two problems at once!