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

engineering proposition 37

In 1911, California became the 10th state to establish a ballot initiative political structure, under the pressure of progressive Republican Governor Hiram Johnson. Though amended since, this unique system has given Californians the opportunity to launch political agendas, predominantly surrounding morality and civil rights, which other states may not have the capacity or legal incentive to pursue. One example is Proposition 37, which placed the issue of labeling of genetically engineered foods, consumer rights, and transparency in the food system into the limelight in 2012. In this attached paper, Continue reading


frankenfood: do we have a right to know what is in our food?

My attempt to report on the recent GM Maize study, “long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” from a “neutral” standpoint — research paper on a scientific controversy for my science and technology course.

Frankenfood: Do We Have a Right To Know What Is In Our Food?

Introduced into the food system inconspicuously, the use of transgenic, or genetically modified, crops has created an all-too-common political discourse between scientific communities and the public. Continue reading


bias is a two-way street: my rude awakening

As a dairy science student here at Cornell, I am often concerned that my views are becoming encapsulated within the walls of Morrison Hall, and not my own brain. While much of what I have learned about the food industry is from the dairy perspective, it comes from people who have been born in, and never have lived in the world outside of, the dairy industry. Studying Development Sociology has been incredibly eye-opening in allowing me to see society with a different lens. While I am not sure that my opinions have changed on a lot of the current hot-topic issues, it has been valuable to hear the other sides of such arguments. I had not realized how much my eyes were being opened to the food industry — as both a social motivation and a business model — until the day we were evaluating the milk price and DHI reports, and Daniel raised his hand and inquisitively asked, in regards to the negative profit margins: “Why be a dairy farmer?”

While I am not from a dairy farm, this still really hit home. Continue reading


my stance on contemporary food system issues

What do ancient Roman art, the Juicy-Juice commercials (“100% juice for 100% kids” that aired during “Arthur” and “Barney” on PBS), high school art class, “Snow White,” and Chipotle’s new “Back to the Start” Youtube sensation have in common? This certainly is not obvious. Old art portrays blemish-less, brilliantly hued fruits and vegetables; Juicy-Juice commercials deceive the health benefits of processed fruit, advertising directly towards youth and their poverty-stricken parents; in my ninth grade art class, I lost points because my apple in my stand-still oil painting was not a brilliant enough red, and was a bit lopsided; Disney is famous for their perfect fruit, like Snow White’s brilliant, red poison apple; Chipotle’s new ad plays on the idealistic, Old McDonald’s Farm that consumers are convinced still exists. Each of these media for portraying today’s food is (possibly unconsciously) contributing to the true naïveté of today’s society as to where their food comes from, how it is processed, why it is blemish-less, and what social structure such food provides. Continue reading

Me and one of the lambs I raised in elementary school.

my connection to our food system: past, present & future


For my “Development Sociology: Agriculture, Food & Society” course this past semester, I was asked to write a short essay about my connection to our food system. I feel that giving a copy of this assignment may be the best way to truly introduce myself.

Choice in Food: A Basic Human Right 

When one of my peers or professors inquires about my family’s background in the agricultural industry, I am not an ounce ashamed to explain where the money that pays for me to attend Cornell comes from. Continue reading