Pollan, M. (2001). The botany of desire : a plant’s eye view of the world. New York : Random House, c2001. Chapter 4

Another amazing read from Pollan, I don’t know how many times my jaw dropped and I just HAD to tell my partner about what I was reading in his chapter on genetically modified potatoes. He jumps back and forth between his story of growing his own NewLeaf Monsanto made potatoes, visiting organic and GMO potato farmers and going to the Monsanto headquarters; to the history and relationship of potatoes and people.

As Pollan starts to grow his NewLeaf potatoes, “The small print on the label also brought the disconcerting news that my potato plants were themselves registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Administration.”(Pg 190) This was the first of my jaw dropping experiences, so we’re eating pesticides? I guess unless we buy organic there will be some pesticide residue left on our food, but it’s still food underneath that we are eating. Pollan later says, “In fact, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even officially regard the NewLeaf as a food.”(Pg 236) How are we letting this happen? Well it all comes down to politics and money of course. Potato farmers who use genetically modified crops are often stuck in a vicious cycle; there is such a high demand for perfect looking potatoes “The perfect McDonald’s french fry”(Pg 229), and potatoes are so finicky that using GMOs make it a lot easier for them to care for their crops and sell them after. But when Pollan meets one of these potato farmers, “When he talks about agricultural chemicals, he sounds like a man desperate to kick a bad habit.”(Pg 218) This made me really sad that these farmers don’t have much of a choice if they want their fields to be successful.

Pollan also visits an organic potato farmer, when feeling the soil he says, “The difference, I understood, was that this soil was alive.”(Pg 223) Non organic farms use so many chemicals that the soil is barely soil anymore, this has me thinking what actually matters, a pretty looking potato with questionable contents or a little blemished potato that is wholesome and considered food. I’ll take food please.

One thing I loved about this reading was the footnotes that added extra information, after reading about McDonald’s being one of the biggest Monsanto supporters I noticed the footnote at the bottom of page 229. The footnote explained how a growing number of large food companies have stopped using GMO’s because of customers! I think I loved this footnote so much because it gave me hope after reading about the GMO horrors.

Overall, this reading made me more aware of what GMOs actually are and how they are affecting our environment and its terrifying. “‘Genetic Instability’ is the catchall term used to describe the carious unexpected effects that misplaced or unregulated foreign genes can have on their new environment.”(Pg 208)  The main thing I learned is how random and risky playing with plant genes are, no one really knows the effect that it will have on the us or the environment. The possibility of “Biological pollution” disscussed on page 211 has the potential to wipe out certain crops, seen in the Great Potato Famine that Pollan talks about on page 229. When Pollan talks about how Bt toxin from NewLeaf potatoes are seeping into the soil, “This may be insignificant, we don’t know.”(Pg 211) This sums up why I don’t believe in GMOs, we DON’T KNOW what the consequences will be from messing with nature, all that we do know is Monsanto is making a killing.


One thought on “GM-no’s

  1. Interesting blog entry! I read the other chapter (on apples), and Pollan never mentioned anything about GMO’s and their negative impact on plants, so it’s fascinating to see what he said in the chapter about potatoes. Reading your blog, it’s interesting to see how many farmers aren’t organic because it makes their crops less efficient and easy to work with, but at the same time fills their produce with questionable contents. The entire GMO idea has been a major controversy for a long time now, and I agree with what you say here – we don’t and never will entirely know the consequences of using GMO’s and messing with nature.


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