You are what you eat – But what if you don’t know what you’re eating?

There are many pros and cons in the polarised debate between the ‘biological’ food advocates and the genetically modified (GM) food proponents.

Personally I am not an advocate of biological foods, raw foods, super foods or whatever the latest food fad might be, nor am I arguing that the production and consumption of GM foods will unquestionably cause natural and economic disasters.

Instead my concern with GM food is that it will contribute to a process that has been going on for some time, namely the commodification or fetishisation of food. By this I mean the restrictive view of food as an end product, in and by itself, separated from its source and production process.

Most consumers, dare I say, have views on food that do not extend beyond their shopping trolley, aisles with products and price tags. They want affordable everything more than anything, all the time if possible. Most of us are ignorant or uneducated when it comes to the production of food, or perhaps simply do not care.

It is important to take a moment and realise that food is something fundamental. Every single one of us needs a daily intake of KJ. Yet we have never before been so far removed from, and not in control of, its production process.

Crop and harvest enhancement have been going on since humans transitioned from being hunter gatherers to early pastoral groups. Apart from such issues as the over-utilisation of soil and the use of harsh pesticides, optimising food production is not necessarily a detrimental process.

With the introduction of GM foods however, knowledge of its production has become even further removed from the individual. The journey of food has gone from food growing in the wild, to cultivating it for small groups, on small industrial farms, then mega farms, and now it has entered the laboratory.

It would be a mistake  to simply dismiss the invention of GM foods as harmful. Quite the opposite: we should be excited about expanding scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, it would be wise to see this development as opening up avenues for use as well as abuse.

I do not wish to express the view that everyone should grow their own food, or that the big food corporations are hogging it all for the benefit of a few, but it would also be naive to think that any surplus generated using GM foods would be used to feed the world.

The main issue, in short, comes down to decreased food awareness and food sovereignty: we know less about our food and are increasingly powerless to do anything about it.

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