Most people know that Apple releases a new and improved version of their iPhone every year into the electronics marketplace, but how many people are aware that a small Canadian company is in the process of releasing a new GMO (genetically modified organism) apple into the environment? As iPhone fans eagerly await the release of version 6 later this year, what kind of expectations do they have? Perhaps the new phone will have a larger screen comparable to Samsung, a battery that will retain a charge for longer, or a processor that results in faster performance. As for the GMO apple, I call it Apple 2.0 in the title of this post because like the iPhone, it is a human creation meant to be an improvement over version 1.0. In this case Apple 1.0 is the fruit we have been eating and cultivating for thousands of years. If you haven’t already heard, the improvement this company hopes to make is to genetically engineer the fruit to resist turning brown after slicing. At this point you may be wondering what the problem is. We can make new and improved phones using electronics technology, so why can’t we make new and improved apples using biotechnology?
The debate over GMOs can be very confusing, but without going into great detail the GMO debate can be reduced to a simple question; do you seek natural products, methods and systems as much as practically possible, or do you believe the ingenuity of humans will be able to create products, methods and systems that are superior to those we find in nature? I know there are some out there who may be wondering what exactly natural means since at this point in history nearly every square meter of the planet seems to have been modified or degraded in some way by humans. We could spend years debating about the environmental, economic and health risks and benefits of growing and eating GMO foods. I believe this conversation is worth having, and it is starting to happen across the nation, but for the purpose of keeping this post concise we need to zoom out here and focus on the big picture. I think it will take years and even decades before we reach a scientific and societal consensus about the use of GMOs. Until that consensus is reached we need to make decisions about whether or not we will buy and eat GMO food.
So why do I question our ability to create new versions of food in the same way that we improve upon old versions of electronics? First, let’s start with the obvious; we eat food while we do not eat our phones. Your body needs to digest food and convert it into energy and tissues, but will your body be able to recognize and therefore properly digest these foreign man made materials? The answer is that I don’t know. What I do know is that in Ayurveda there is a term called ama, and ama basically refers to improperly digested food that over time is responsible for a wide array of health problems. This is one of the reasons that digestion is considered so important in Ayurveda, and this is why we should be skeptical about this biotechnology. Second, will there be any side effects or allergies associated with eating GMOs? I don’t know that answer either, but I do know that modern medicine in the form of pharmaceuticals is infamous for having side effects. I use the example of pharmaceuticals, but I could have easily mentioned any other synthetic food additive we have invented that produces undesirable side effects including aspartame, olestra, hydrogenated oils, or anti-biotics. It seems that every time we try to create a new health or dietary product in the name of convenience and progress we are left with the same result, the corporations win and the people and planet lose. The bottom line here is that we don’t know what the long-term health effects of eating these foods are, and so unless you want to be part of an experiment with unknown consequences you would be wise to simply avoid GMO foods. These are only a couple of health factors to consider about eating GMOs, but I just as easily could have mentioned the unintended consequences that growing GMOs can have on the environment that we all depend upon.
It is challenging to write this article because with every sentence I can’t stop thinking about all the counter arguments and the hundreds of small details involved. This is a very complicated and interconnected world we live in and we seem to be creating problematic situations faster than we know how to manage them. That is where the application of Ayurvedic principles enters the picture. Ayurveda existed thousands of years before the existence of modern technology and it serves as a guide that helps us make decisions about how to live and attain optimal health. The ancient Ayurvedic practitioners learned how to thrive without the use of modern technology, which brings the question of why we can’t do the same. If you want to take the risk of eating Apple 2.0 then that is your decision to make, but why take that risk when we already know that optimal health is easily attainable by simply eating version 1.0. As for the iPhone 6, let’s hope that they come out with a bigger screen next fall!
Again, I was trying to be concise, but if you do wish to expand on this topic, or any of my posts, please submit a reply.