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Dec 08 2010

Tomorrow’s Table

I’m healthy and wealthy; I’ve outgrown my past;
When I need to lose weight, I can diet or fast;
Starvation is not in the lot I’ve been cast—
My perspective is clearly not skewed.
I can buy the best produce they’ve managed to breed,
Have it shipped to my doorstep with mind-boggling speed;
In a world of such plenty, I don’t see the need
For genetically modified food

We can learn about foods from the Frankenstein myth
And distill what we know into substance and pith:
It’s much safer, our going without food than with
If the food isn’t natural, like mine
Some time in the future, we might pay the price
For life-saving products like GMO rice
(Of course the poor love it, but we can think twice—
Our neglect will be purely benign!)

Concerned about pesticides used to grow cotton?
The GE varieties best be forgotten;
We want, after all, to show people how rotten
Such produce can be for the Earth
The civilized buyer will treat as pariah,
The virus-resistant new strains of papaya,
A slap in the face of our dear Mother Gaia,
Despite how the poor see its worth

Of course, there’s a view, if you’re willing to learn,
Where the rest of humanity’s still our concern—
Even those who don’t make what us comfy folk earn,
But who still do the best they are able—
If you’re part of the planet (it seems so to me)
And look all around you, and find you agree
With John Donne, when he noted the bell tolls for thee…
There’s a seat here, for you, at the table.

I have noticed a pattern. You may have seen, our historically incredibly good health has allowed the fortunate members of our culture, the beneficiaries of decades of vaccination, sanitation, medication, and other ations, to wax eloquent of the virtues of a romanticized past, and to forego vaccines or other procedures that our grandparents would have viewed as miraculous. Our affluence, essentially, has allowed us to forget our very recent past, and to make stupid decisions without the consequences those same decisions would have led to not long ago.

Similarly, our affluence with regard to diet has similarly allowed us the privilege of choosing options which are simply impossible for most of the world. The problem is, we are forcing our blinkered views on others who are not so privileged as we are. The unvaccinated child is victim of a privileged parent’s ignorance (as are the child’s friends). The poor consumers may be victim of the privileged consumers’ natural food fetish, if the latter can bend regulations to their will. Myths of frankenfoods don’t match the actual safety record, but may be enough to hinder their development in a world where food is not nearly so easy to come by as it is for, well, me.

Scary graphics and bullet points make compelling viewing; “GM foods shown to be safe–film at eleven!” will have people asleep by 10:59. Unless. Unless you are one of those who needs drought-resistant crops. Or cares about pesticide and fertilizer runoff killing the fish you need to eat. Or whose life is changed by biofortified Golden rice. But those people are not watching TV, so they can be safely ignored. And we all know, a problem that isn’t in your own back yard, isn’t really a problem at all.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Pam ronald

    Thanks cuttlefishI like the poem very muchIt reminds us that if we care about others and the environment then we need science poetry plus science is even better

  2. 2
    Joan

    The Bioengineering SongGo ahead and splice them genesCorn is good and also beans.Nuke the meat I have to eat.Ptomaine poisoning’s not sweet.One thing that I fear the most isCatching that there trichinosis. Don’t intend to be that fellaWho gets stuck with salmonella.Preservatives don’t bother me.Things taste great with MSG.Splicing genes? With me that’s fine.Just don’t go to splicing mine.Just a great poem, Cuttle, and thanks to Pam for the enlightening articles. We hear a lot about bio-engineered corn here since Monsanto manufactures it. Grows a fine ear of corn but the caveat is that farmers are not allowed to use the resultant seed for next year’s crop, so they owe their souls to the company store. I am only half kidding with the above poem. I wrote something like it in comments a few years back and got royally smooshed by the on-line granola Birkenstock crowd. I care not. Can’t afford “Whole Foods” on half a salary.

  3. 3
    Veronique

    I have just found your site and I can tell I am going to enjoy visiting you quite often.Pam Ronald put up your poem on Tomorrow's Table and I love it.Thank you for your poetic creations.

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