At least the corn we eat today isn’t. It’s the product of selective breeding. Over the last 9,000 years, farmers have been selecting the seeds of the crops that were bigger and tastier.
And it isn’t just corn. So are peaches, apples, watermelon–every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. Pigs, chickens, cows are also genetically modified by drugs, climate control and artificial insemination. (Chickens actually have to be slaughtered at 5 months or the weight that they carry actually snaps their legs.)
We have a difficult time imagining how are food as evolved. We don’t like to think of it as engineering yet the mass supply of food the West indulges in was no accident. Food scarcity has plagued us for thousands and thousands of years. The domestication of food is one of the greatest technological feats in human history.
If you are reading this, you are probably not thinking about where you are going to get your next meal. That is a miracle.
This is genetic engineering and we might be seeing the limits of what can possibly happen. Mass meat consumption is contributing a large part of greenhouse emissions. A hamburger can take 660 gallons of water and 10 pounds of grain to produce. Not to mention the slaughtering, packaging, transportation for us to pick it up. And equity is still a problem. It is estimated that 811 million people each day are still going hungry. If we switched to a whole food plant base, we could use the excess food to feed the world.
Yet, most of us (including myself) have a hard time making that leap. One interesting answer is in the genetic engineering or plant based alternatives. The problem is many struggle to get past the meat made by plants or grown in a lab. But there is not difference in how we do it today. Food is grown in a lab when we think of the manipulation of plants and animals to produce what we have today.
None of us eat cows or pigs anymore. We are eating burgers and bacon. We continue to add degrees of separation and it changes the story of our food. Food is important part of our lives. We need it to survive but also it is the center of our culture.
The question going forward, what kind of story are we going to tell ourselves?