One of the subjects that had struck me the most in our previous class was the fact that we have been losing a lot of genetic varieties of food. Some of which have even lost out on its taste due to genetic modification. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, up to seventy five percent of food diversity has been lost in the last century. Some of the reasons why this is so is because the corporate side of agriculture have been trying to standardize aspects of the food trade. This is to better suit and cater to a larger market in terms of distance and scale.
A genetically modified seed is made to grow optimally in certain weather conditions. If the weather is as it is supposed to be, the crop will be bountiful but if it is not, there might not even be any crop to harvest. In the recent years, climate change has affected the world in many ways. Having the weather be unstable, the crops might not even grow since the seeds have been modified to work only with the slated conditions. Planting the same crop over a large area which is also known as monoculture makes the crop more susceptible to pests and blight. This creates a danger of losing the entire crop or genetic strain that can not be used any longer. Since there are lesser varieties now, it creates a rather frightening thought that we could lose out on even more varieties of plans than we already have.
In an article by Sifelani Tsiko, she mentions a conversation she has with an elderly woman whom is lamenting about how a variety of pearl millet that she used to grow in the 1940s and 60s had disappeared completely. The old lady also mentions how there were certain herbs and vegetation that was used as traditional natural medicinal cures could no longer be found. This brings up another interesting point about losing genetic varieties of our food, we are also losing natural cures of ailments that we now have to create using man made chemicals. Replacing natural items that our bodies were made to ingest with chemicals that never existed in nature in the first place can definitely affect us in the long run, perhaps even through generations.
To end off, I would just like to add a personal note about a fictional book I had read prior called The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It was based upon a post-apocalyptic world where fossil fuels had been almost depleted and food shortages were an epidemic because multinational corporations were engaged in a war of genetic engineering of the world’s food supplies. The story takes place in Bangkok, Thailand because even though the rest of the world had been devastated, a rogue scientist had managed to protect its agriculture by preserving an extensive seed bank. Though it is fictional, when I learned about the topic of the food diversity and genetics in class, it suddenly made the story seem scarily like an actually possibility in the future.
– Amanda Koh