Friday, January 15, 2010

Franken-food Revisited

We've long known that the unprocessed, unadorned food is most likely found on the outside aisles of the grocery store.  Produce, meats, bakery, deli, and refrigerated section are generally on the outside.  Work your way in to find cereals, snack bars, soda and the like. 

Dieticians caution their clients to stick to the outside aisles.  The slow food movement, overlaying a shift towards "real food" and "whole food" diets, encourages people to stick to the outside aisles, where "real" food is. 

But what you see isn't always what you get.  Pork, for instance, appears to be a slab of meat that was cut from the carcass of a pig.  Of course...most of us would rather not think of the logistics of how that slab of meat got from the field to our roasting pan, but we're pretty certain that we could trace it's journey if pressed to do so. 

Science is changing everything. 

With breaking new research, stem cells harvested from shoulder muscles can be used to grow pork.  No pig, no slaughter, no "Sooo-eeeey!"  required.  Excited researchers tell us that this technology will easily translate to other flesh foods, and potentially be used to design healthier meals.  Like burgers that unclog your arteries with "healthy" fish oil. 

The thing is...It's still frankenfood.  It's frankenfood taken to the limits of Mary Shelley (author of the original Frankenstein)'s wildest nightmares.  It stretches the margins of my nightmares.  And the worst part? 

Scientists are excited. 

The article claims that the environmental impact will be impressive.  Somehow, my gut tells me their vision isn't of the multitude of industrial waste involved in the chemical production of fake food.  Plastic petrie dishes (made either from biodegradable corn or chemical laden petroleum sources), latex gloves, masks, the building itself.  Too much can go wrong. 

I'm a life long animal lover.  A vegetarian who doesn't WANT to tumble.  (I'm eating ethically raised poultry but against my desires.)  I was once vegan, for the ethics surrounding the issues of animal consumption. 

But I say slaughter the poor creatures and be done with it.  We can't play G-d by creating new food out of cells and DNA and test tubes.  The idea that they're even contemplating it turns my stomach. 

Laboratory food is not the answer to world hunger.  World hunger is a political problem, causes of hunger are typically financially related rather than a lack of global calories.  It's cheaper to stick seeds in the ground, and anyone can do it, regardless of their educational status.  Besides, from what I understand the third world countries most in need of quick, convenient calories to save the masses would never accept some trumped up chemical soup.  They don't want to simply survive.  They want to thrive by their own hands, and they deserve that dignity. 

We need to get back in fields, we need to recreate the fields, and start supporting our local farmers.  Not just for produce, but for the meats and eggs and dairy products so many of us consume regularly.  Shop outside the the farmer's market, or the local co-op.  We need to fight franken food before our other options vanish.  We've already seen GMO corn, soy and canola quietly infiltrate the food supply.  High Fructose corn syrup avoiders are starting to put up a ruckus as they discover how limiting their diet can be.  (Much to the amusement of us uncornies, who can't tolerate the corn in artificial sweeteners, let alone the rest of the derivatives.)  America dropped the ball on the food dye issue (the bandwagon comes back every now and then, but no one seems to want to jump on.  We'd rather follow at a distance.) 

With genetically modified seeds running rampant, and foreign genes in our produce, it's not surprising that the meat is the next to go.  the question is where are we, as a society, going to put our foot down?  Does it have to have an immediate threat to get our attention?  If GMO's made our skin turn purple and our spleens explode within 24 hours, they'd get banned.  But it doesn't.  Like lead and melamine, it takes awhile before the devastating effects can be seen. 

Unfortunately, when our entire food supply is at risk (not to mention the potential of our future food supply) one has to wonder just how much more vital it is to be safe rather than sorry.  We're already overmedicating mild conditions not suffered by poorer nations.  Digestive disturbances, behavioral problems, and childhood epidemics like the 4-As are skyrocketing.  Do we need conclusive proof to use our brains and say there's something unnatural about growing food in environmentally controlled petrie dishes instead of ouside in the sun, soil and elements?  After all, that's where it was designed to grow.  Fruit on trees, veggies on plants, grains as grasses, and meat on animals. 

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