Monday, March 7, 2011

From Bonaire to... Bananas

I am sitting in the Rural Vermont office, where Jared (my boss) and I are the only ones coming in for the day. A predicted 4 inches turned into two feet of snow outside, and I could barely step out of my apartment this morning. This past week, I was in Bonaire visiting my friends Stephanie and Clark. Together we swam through reefs teeming with life, lay on beaches made of coral pieces bigger than my fist and ate mangoes shipped in from South America for breakfast. What was most astonishing about Bonaire was how, despite it not having a landscape as lush and rolling as Vermont, I fell in love with it. How tremendous is it to be able to love many ecosystems? To adore the nesting robin equally to the reef-munching parrot fish is to realize the true interconnectedness that exists on earth. Upon arrival back in the states, I was still falling asleep dreaming I was snorkeling but nevertheless was at my parent's house in Thetford, Vermont. My Dad and Step Mom suggested I read a recent New Yorker article, "We Have No Banana's" by Mike Peed. The article describes the devastating banana blight: Tropical Zone Four. This soil-borne fungus affects the most popular breed of banana, the Cavendish.
In 2008, Americans alone at 7.6 billion pounds of Cavendish bananas. Monoculture. Monoculture threatens biological diversity and food security, and as Peed's article eloquently outlines: GMO solutions are only short-term. And as scientists seeks to develop resistant Cavendish-comparable banana, the ugly side effects can be more of these super strong blights. Some scientists, according to Peed, argue that many of the diseases and blights we see today are a product of our own creation: products of the over-use of antibiotics and pesticides. In the long-run, GMO research makes more crops vulnerable to diseases, while making it possibly to utilize them as a monocrop. As the Tropcial Race Four blight decimates banana crops world-wide, exposing the mistake that is monoculture, our government has recently approved GE alfalfa, a new GE corn variety, and a new GE sugar beet variety.
A bill introduced last week in the Vermont House would require all food and food products sold within the state of Vermont with one of more Genetically Engineered (as defined by the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) ingredient to be labeled as such. If the food is improperly labeled, the vendor or packager would be held accountable under 18 VSA 4050, "Misbranding of Food". The law would take effect on July 1, 2011. This bill is one way for consumers to place their vote on GMOs. It would allow consumers to employ informed consent when ingesting GMOs, as well as raise general awareness amongst consumers on the subject.
While sitting with my feet in the while sand on Bonaire, my whole body surged with a feeling of urgency. Our ecological crisis is not waiting for us to act. The diversity we appreciate (although certainly not enough) is at stake. E.O. Wilson suggests that humans have an innate tendency to love life. He calls this: biophilia. Although, he recognizes that the world consists of developers, loggers, farmers, vegans, etc., he says that all these interactions with the landscape are equal in their love for it. The challenge now is for us to appeal to the biophilia within each other, to find middle ground, so we can keep the reefs, the bananas, the raw milk, the green pasture and the deep forest.

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