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framing the future of food

“A person who has food has many problems.
A person who has no food has only one problem.” 

[A written response to the film, The Future of Food, assigned for my “GMO Debate” course]


As Per Pinstrup-Andersen, World Food Prize Laureate and Professor at Cornell University, implies by sharing the above Chinese Proverb to open his book, Seeds of Contention, the debate over the future of food has become the epitome of a “first world problem” in the United States. This idea is unintentionally demonstrated in the film, The Future of Food (2004), through a framed, nuanced presentation of the major issues surrounding transgenic crops. In the broadest sense, such issues include patenting of intellectual property, as well as the flaws in government agency oversight and the associated regulatory processes.

I have concluded that this film is framed from the perspective of an Anti-GM (genetically modified) food plug, but it is refreshing to see an Anti-GM campaign that paints their picture using facts, rather than solely fear mongering rhetoric—as the “Anti” side has become known for in this incredibly polarized public discourse. The first major issue considered by the film’s director is the concept of patenting of living intellectual property, which is particularly unique for seeds and crops. Continue reading

“what is a gmo?” (“gmo debate” part III)

After multiple friends and acquaintances expressed interest in a seminar I am taking  at Cornell University this semester, “BSOC 4303: The GMO Debate: Science & Society,” I have received permission to incorporate details of our readings and class discussions into this forum. This is my third installment. 

 In this third lecture, Dan Buckley, a professor in the Crop and Soil Sciences department at Cornell University, came in to give a preview of the historical and scientific factors of the GMO. His presentation was catered to everyone in the audience, covering the most elementary science behind genetic engineering, but also discussing its implications.

According to Buckley, “What I think is fundamental to those [the GMO] debates is how the technology actually works, and what the impact is. I want to give you an introduction to the major technologies out there, and how they are made. ” Continue reading

global rifts over biotechnology: dimensions and contention (“gmo debate” part II)

After multiple friends and acquaintances expressed interest in a seminar I am taking  at Cornell University this semester, “BSOC 4303: The GMO Debate: Science & Society,” I have received permission to incorporate details of our readings and class discussions into this forum. This is my second installment. 

The topic of the second class was “global rifts,” as an introduction to the social constructionist perspective on the GMO debate.  Why are there global rifts in biotechnology, but not over things like, say … cell phones? According to my professor’s lecture, there are two types of global rifts: primal and secondary. In the case of GMOs, primal global rifts are between agricultural crops and all of their other uses: pharmaceuticals, medicine, industry/biodegradable plastics, etc. Why and how did this happen? Why agricultural crops and not other uses? For example, the same recombinant technology is used to create insulin, beginning in the 1970s. We now can use human insulin instead of taking it from the pancreas of pigs and cows. Continue reading

“the GMO debate: science and society” (part I)

After multiple friends and acquaintances expressed interest in a seminar I am taking  at Cornell University this semester, “BSOC 4303: The GMO Debate: Science & Society,” I have received permission to incorporate details of our readings and class discussions into this forum. 

An excerpt from the course overview section of the syllabus:

Biotechnology is a broad term for the tools used to alter living organisms for human purposes. Genetic engineering (recombinant DNA technology) is one class of methods used in biotechnology. Private sector firms are actively marketing transgenic crops and other products of biotechnology globally. The public sector has been somewhat less active, but is becoming increasingly involved in transgenic technologies, particularly in less-industrialized countries. Developmental questions begin with those we ask of all technologies: at whose cost, to whose benefit? Continue reading