Hi, I´m Gavin Venn: Organic farmer with business background. Started more-than-organic.com, a resource for developing creative strategies to drive transition to Sustainable Food.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of yesterday´s Twitter discussion on Genetically Modified (GM) foods, was the general apathy towards the subject.
Those people sharing their views helped the conversation to develop and bloom, but considering we are now instantly connected with hundreds of others tweeters, involvement was disappointing. Our discussion was an opportunity when many different views could have been expressed. To hear more pro-GM views and those in-between would have been very useful. If we´re not connecting and talking how can we begin to understand different perspectives? By embracing Web 2.0, we have a collective opportunity to go beyond the limited space of a two sided debate. Through connection and discussion we can come together to develop creative strategies based on simple, common sense truth.
Especially concerning is that yesterday´s apathy may be a symptom of our dis-connection with food and nature. This works in a similar way to the alarming trend of young people not bothering to vote in elections, because they don´t connect with politics and politicians. Farming and food production are viewed as topics that don´t directly affect people, because we don´t see and understand how our food is grown and produced. For many people the closest connection they have with the origin of their food, is when they buy it from the supermarket.
Is our dis-connection from nature so severe that we´re blinded from considering the view that the latest generation of GM crops, as the forefront of intensive agriculture´s march, pose a considerable threat to the long term food security of our nations?
Genetically manipulating plants with material from animals for the purpose of improving hardiness, productivity and drought tolerance, symbolizes the progress of intensive farming techniques. Whether you applaud, are repulsed or simply dont give a damn, depends how you view the situation. Interestingly, our views on this may well be significantly influenced by the severity of our disconnection from nature. With this in mind, please forgive my crude, finger painting view of nature that follows:
(Nature is the limitless inter-related causes and conditions resulting in the process of continually restoring balance)
Wild plants springing up on your nicely dug flower bed, are an example of this process of continually restoring balance. Naked earth is vunerable to erosion, so nature strives to cover it. There isn´t anyone in charge of this process, but it´s happening all the time.
Of course, where farming is concerned, there has to be some disruption to this state of balance. I´m not proposing we set sail towards an unrealistic view of farming as some Utopian paradise. But, it´s important to understand that the closer we adhere to working with the natural balance of nature, the more sustainable our agriculture will become.
There is no doubt, that the advances in agricultural science made in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, helped feed many millions of people. This is a very wonderful result of the research and focus of many people. Indeed, our modern society of today, would look very different if we had not gone through these changes, changes that were implemented through the hard work of farmers. However, the unfavourable results of relentless progress are now smacking us in the face:
1. Arguably long term decrease in crop quality. Based on the living vitality of crops.
2. Severe environmental pollution, through leaching of chemically produced nitrogen fertilizers.
3. Increasing reliance on chemical products and systems controlled by big corporations.
By disecting nature to focus on small pieces of it, science, in response to our society´s relentless pursuit of progress, has pushed intensive farming to develop in the direction of operating independantly of the bigger picture of nature. Again, depending on your view, you may applaud this progress. You might say, wow, what a phenomenal achievement, as humans, we´ve used our intelligence to distance ourselves from nature. You might think that somehow humans are now superior to nature. The problem with this view, is that nature is constantly at work to restore balance to everything. Vast monoculture farming operations have to rely on ever increasing sophisticated approaches like GM crops, to deliver the necessary yield because new viruses, pests, soil exhaustion and other conditions have to be contended with. These so called ´adverse´ conditions are nature at work to restore balance. Until we can begin to view and connect with this bigger picture of nature, our intensive farming will have to continue to develop more and more complex approaches to counter the ´adverse´ conditions of nature restoring balance.
This situation is indeed a precarious one for farmers, consumers and societies in general. Especially when we consider the power to continue developing intensive farming techniques lies in the hands of big corporations. Corporations that patent their GM seed.
Fortunately, there is a way we (consumers, farmers & societies), can win back control of our food security. This way is intimately tied to our re-connection with the bigger picture of nature to create sustainable food production.
You are a part of this bigger picture of nature, your actions, no matter how insignificant, affect everyone else on this planet and further. This is your land, your society, your Earth, your children´s future: please make sure you have your say.
MorethanOrganic is a small certified organic farm in North Spain. As I´m committed to maintaining a workable balance between nature and myself, I maintain a mix of cultivated and non-cultivated areas of land.