© Kat Morgenstern August 2002, all rights reserved.
Food, without a doubt, is the most primary aspect of plant/human relationships. Without their direct or indirect nurture human life would not be possible. Plants are the only organisms that can transform the energy of the sun into storable and digestible units by a process known as photosynthesis. All animals, including humans rely for their sustenance on this miraculous ability of plants. Thus, our physical energy derives either directly from plant sources or, if we eat meat, from a secondary source (an animal) that has fed on plants and transformed the plant energy into mostly proteins and fats. Humans cannot perform photosynthesis themselves, nor can we survive on meat derived from other meat-eaters.
Our prehistoric ancestors did not know about the science of life as we do, but they were keenly aware of the profound significance of the relationship between the sun, the earth and the rain that made her fertile. Their interactions were regarded as the greatest mysteries of the universe - the mysteries of life and death.
Although modern scientists have rationalised the processes involved and somehow managed to reduce their truly stunning complexity to a few simple formulas familiar to every school kid, nevertheless the actual mystery remains. Where does life come from, and whence does it go? Nobody, neither scientists nor philosophers have so far been able to give a definitive answer to these fundamental questions of life. Though we might understand the physical and chemical processes to a degree at least, the basic question of what life actually is in its true essence still eludes our comprehension.
In ancient cultures this great mystery can be found at the core of their cosmology and spiritual philosophy. Ancient and traditional cultures did not consider their environment in purely materialistic terms. Instead, they lived in a world alive with Gods and spirits that dwelled in the rocks and stones, in rivers and lakes, in trees and in plants. The cycles of the season, the fertility of the land and the gifts of the earth that sustained them were gratefully received as the gifts of the Gods.
No life without food - it is hardly surprising that the earliest rituals and ceremonies of our prehistoric ancestors were centred on the fertility of the plants and animals that provided the continued sustenance for the people. It is perhaps rather more surprising that these obvious connections seem to have been so completely lost in our consciousness today, that we take our food for granted and spend far too little time contemplating the mysteries of life or our place within this great web of cosmic energy of which we are but a small strand.
On the contrary - food is considered a commodity, an instrument for vast profits in trade and a tool for political and social control. 'Food production', as the term suggests, has been stripped of its sacred mysteries and instead become an industrialized process, boosted with artificial soil nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals, which are in fact poisoning the body of the earth. Food has become the object of trade wars and a tool for social injustice and oppression. Now it is also becoming the focus of the gene war as corporate interests fight over the rights to life by patenting the genomes of plants and animals in an attempt to monopolize the food supply and gain control over the very keys of life itself. As if that was not enough, these corporations also feel that they have the right and ability to improve on nature's designs and splice and manipulate genetic material according to their fancy, be it to 'improve' on the natural qualities of these genes or to limit their ability to reproduce without the 'help' of chemicals as a means to control their continued supply, or to 'breed' biochemicals within certain plants for secondary purposes. Biotechnology is a phenomenally huge business - and arguably the most controversial issue of our times. While the ethics of who owns the rights to life (in the form of genes) and the question of whether or not it is safe to 'play' and experiment with the fundamental blue print of life are still being discussed, gene manipulated foods are already in circulation, often without the knowledge or consent of consumers. Are you eating Frankenfoods?
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