Thursday, October 18, 2012

How should I teach my child to see a GMO?

There are a number challenges GMOs present to a teacher or a parent. The issue is scientifically technical, but also quite abstract and philosophical. Many of the main problems about genetic engineering are lost to adults who themselves get mired in the controversy over whether eating GMOs is safe.

In an earlier post, I expressed concern about what it would be like for a child growing up in a world where everywhere they look, from the soil under their feet to the glowing green canopies buzzing with life above them, all they see are "products" modified, manipulated and controlled by humans.

We need to protect the magic of the world. We need to give our children the chance to experience what shines through anyways, despite the genetic engineer's incursions.

On this issue, adults need to tread a careful path between demonizing genetically engineered animals and plants, and condoning them. This is the topic of today's blog post.

Children need to know that it is not okay for companies to steer the creative evolution of interconnected ecologies by short-term goals and through poorly understood processes. Children need to feel that the Earth itself has a power, an intelligence and a nurturing capacity. The Earth won't guarantee safety or health for anyone but if we consider the brutally inhospitable outside universe, we've got to realize that we're in a very special place. Children also need to learn that we can't get everything we want and that a part of living well and of fostering deep happiness comes with accepting the opportunities provided precisely by what limits us.

Parents and teachers, angry and frustrated about genetic engineering, may inadvertently teach children that GMOs are evil.

GMOs are not evil.

A genetically engineered cow or apple tree should not have been created in the first place. But now that it is here, what do we do?

We need to show our children that we can still respect this cow and this apple tree. They are alive and participating in the unfolding of our world. We do not want to encourage eugenic thinking. We do not want to fracture our children's natural world into "good" and "bad". If we do, we succumb to the same corrupt and controlling logic that we are trying to overcome.

We need to explain to our children that it is not the cow's fault that she was born the way she was. We need to show them that we still believe that the cow is beautiful in her own way, despite the invasive procedures she has been subjected to. We need to cultivate pity and empathy for the GMOs.
This does not mean that we should be encouraging their spread in ecosystems. Of course, we have to work towards the larger goal of stopping the production and release of GMOs into our environment. Our children need to know about this broader project too. And they need to understand that these are not incompatible or contradictory goals. It is completely consistent to love a GMO, as a fellow being on the earth, while working towards the cessation of their further production. In fact, both goals are one and the same: to open ourselves to the more-than-human world that underlies and floods through even our most conceited and self-absorbed schemes.

Do any of you parents or teachers have experiences about teaching children about GMOs that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about it...

1 comment:

  1. Ramzey, I appreciate your thoughts on this subject, and totally agree that it is not only practical but important to convey the message that GMOs are here now, need to be lived with, dealt with, understood and gradually made a thing of the past. Our family is vegetarian and we have made a big effort to explain to our children all the reasons why we have chosen that diet, so that they understand why we are feeding them what they are given. I am learning over and over again that, when raising thoughtful, discerning, and compassionate children, the most important thing we can do is talk them through every moment of every day. I try to make them a part of the process of living in our family and world as much as possible, giving them opportunities to voice their evolving opinions whenever they choose.

    Thanks for the reminder to reveal the beauty of this world, and to not put the emphasis on the strangeness of GMOs.