Watch what you eat, seriously

Thisanjali Gangoda

In recent years several of my friends have become very invested in the organic gardening movement and in veganism. I watched them exact their diets and their way of life to become more healthy and conscious of their food consumption.

Though the idea of being conscious of what you are eating seems very obvious, with food being so central to every aspect of life, we rarely question how it is produced, handled, and what it’s made of. The supermarket can be deceiving with its colorful, gleaming isles of assorted fruits and vegetables, luring you in to buy produce based on sheer vanity. The frozen foods and dry goods that are packaged so neatly seem to be perfect in shape and size, yet half the ingredients in them can’t be pronounced or properly identified by the average consumer.

We are all guilty of this, having grown accustomed to a certain “look” that we assume to be best when it comes to making choices about our diets. But it doesn’t make very much sense; why should an apple be so ruby red? Do cucumbers need to glimmer so in the light? What do all those preservatives in Doritos do to the human body? And mainly, where is all this food coming from?

My gardening-enthused friends and I recently watched the documentary “The Future of Food,” and it was as enlightening as it was shocking. It answered most of the questions I asked above and gave me a rather terrifying perspective on the food industries of today.

Much to my surprise, I learned that there are many global food corporations that are closely tied to biotechnology industries. At first glance this may seem like a traditional progression of scientific innovation, as biotechnology is the technological usage of biological organisms for advancements in research and human development. There are, however, much more critical issues to be addressed when scientific advancements are used to exploit people and their ways of life merely for profit gains.

The documentary addressed issues of globalization, government regulation, international trade and the positive and negative effects of biotechnology. Many problems with these issues revolve around the monopolization of the food industry by a few multinational corporations. They dictate how certain food products are grown, processed and, most importantly, how it is distributed.

They work to make the food industry as efficient and as profitable as possible at the expense of health, quality and safety. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are in nearly every manufactured food. GMOs can range from corn, wheat, rice, to pork and beef. When these organisms are modified at the cellular level to withstand natural elements such as excess rain and sun, it acts like a “super-food,” defying nature at great lengths. The effects are so vast scientists and engineers cannot properly account for them. Now that life can be patented, biologists, farmers and communities all over the world are pitted against huge food and pesticide companies.

Despite the obvious ecological and health-related issues of GMOs, multinational corporations refuse to give up intellectual rights to universities and research facilities to further understandings of the effects of GMOs on a multitude of global factors.

With further education and awareness about these issues, I believe the people can take these matters into their own hands. I never knew of the intricacies of the food industry, but, now that I have some idea of all that it entails, I want to be more thoughtful when I go to the grocery store. Supporting local business and growth is essential to establishing a sense of community – and it is as honest as food can get.

There is no mystery when you know exactly where your fruit and vegetables came from and who tended to them. Though I sometimes frequent the farmer’s market in Kent, I never understood how simple and beautiful it was until now.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]