GMOS & SIMPLICITY
I was slow to become anti-GMO, GMOs being gene-manipulated plants and animals. I reasoned that humans have been redirecting plant and animal evolution for thousands of years, by propagating organisms with traits people wanted while ignoring "less desirable" organisms. Such selective breeding, I thought, was just a much slower, more haphazard manner of gene manipulation than what we're doing of now.
But then one day I listened to an anti-GMO activist on shortwave. He said that with GMO plants marketed today mainly we're talking about corn, or maize, into whose chromosomes Monsanto has inserted a gene enabling the corn plant to survive when sprayed with Monsanto's broadband herbicide called Roundup. Spray a weedy cornfield with Roundup and everything dies except the corn.
The concern is less that GMO corn's nutrients somehow are inherently bad for humans, than that GMO corn gets doused with Roundup. Studies suggest that Roundup residue on our food may be making us sick in many ways. Roundup residue and breakdown compounds washed into our streams and rivers don't do any good to aquatic ecosystems, either, especially the vast Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Another instance of a GMO entering our foodchain is that of a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium being inserted into crops that suffer from caterpillar infestation. Bacillus thuringiensis spores are sold to organic farmers, marketed as "BT," as a non-chemical means of controlling caterpillars that feed on garden plants. When caterpillars eat plants bearing Bacillus thuringiensis spores, bacteria develop inside the caterpillars' guts, causing holes in the caterpillars' stomachs, and the caterpillars die. "Leaky gut syndrome" is one of many human diseases we used to never hear of, but which nowadays seems to be of common occurrence.
The anti-GMO activist further said that in today's US supermarkets most processed food contains GMO products, and the more highly processed the food, the more GMO we're getting. For example, Canola Oil is an ingredient in much processed food, and the Canola plant has been GMOed.
In a way, the GMO situation with our food is like most aspects of modern life: It's all become so complex that people can't keep up with the details. Eat a candy bar and you may be setting yourself up for a leaky gut. Post an innocent message on FaceBook, and you're providing information about yourself that may result in targeted ads and email spam. Put money in the bank and someone might hack your account, or the money might lose its value. The News gives so many versions of what's going on that you don't know what to believe.
I regard such loss of control over my own life as serious, and something to be fought. The main weapon against this loss is to choose a life of voluntary simplicity.
I'm lucky because I began simplifying my life back when I was a teenager -- not because I was smart enough to see what was coming, but because people like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Henry Thoreau and The Buddha introduced the concept of voluntary simplicity to me, and it felt right. Also, maybe I just didn't have the brains or the nervous system to endure life as most people live it today.
Whatever the case, here are important steps I've taken in my own life toward voluntary simplicity:
- I live where mass transit (buses here in Mexico) keeps me from needing a car, and having to pay car insurance.
- I studied nutrition, became a vegetarian, and learned how to prepare nutritious, good tasting, inexpensive meals.
- I developed interests and passions that require little money but which greatly enrich my life -- studying and writing about Nature, gardening, learning languages, reading...
- When people in interesting places offered to host me in exchange for helping them with their ecotour programs or farms -- thanks to this Newsletter begun in 2001 -- I accepted.
- For the last 40 years I've worked hard to remain healthy, and have managed to do so without doctors, medicine and health insurance. I've needed luck for this, but I figured the possibilities offered by remaining healthy were worth the gamble... in a world where everything is a gamble.