Food sustainability is a hot topic. Food everything is a hot topic. The most recent episode (#235) of Science for The People (née Skeptically Speaking) is exceptionally good* on this topic. Host Desiree Schell and guests Valentine Cadieux and Emily Cassidy cover standard topics of food sustainability, but address controversial areas like GMOs and “eating local” with nuance that gets beyond simplistic arguments over whether GMOs are safe or if “eating local” is environmentally friendly.
They also raise the issue of honoring food cultures as an important element of pragmatic discussions about feeding the ever growing human population. A potential result of our desire to provide adequate calories and nutrition to impoverished areas of the globe is the destruction of traditional food cultures in poor societies, while promoting those of rich societies – a kind of benign, cultural imperialism.
Science for The People is rather unique in providing truly long-form interviews that give the hosts and guests a chance to dig into the issues. The irony of this is that the discussions raise questions that cannot be answered in the time available for even these interviews. This episode raised a lot of questions for me about the importance genetic diversity to food sustainability. If we want to make GMOs about serving people’s needs not corporate profit margins, we need to make it possible for small organizations to produce them. We also need the modifications (either GMO or results of domestication) added (either inserted or bred) into more varieties. The regulatory regime and social climate toward agricultural science impedes these things. At the same time, regulation is necessary to ensure safety (GMOs are safe, but that does not guarantee every GMO ever made will be) and proper usage (eg, minimizing leakage of resistance genes to weeds). No good answers here. Just, hopefully, good questions.
*Disclosure: I provide research assistance to Science for The People. So, while my opinion is inarguably correct, it is biased.