Have you ever covered one eye while speeding down a highway? The results are frightening and potentially life threatening. Why? Because we lack perspective when viewing the world through only one eye. Likewise, we lack perspective when contemplating the world with only one side of our brain. And we lack perspective when we deny or falsely understand the spiritual nature of life and our relationship with nature and with each other. Sadly and ironically, this final lack of perspective has grown so common in our modern American society that, for the most part, we wander blindly, hypnotized by our sight-giving screens and toys, unaware of our inner blindness.
In our blindness, we live our lives largely unaware or uncaring of the violence played out in our society and the violence committed by what used to be our government. Much has been written on the subject of interpersonal, intertribal, economic, international and environmental violence. For the purpose of this essay, I will focus on the practice commonly known as “genetic modification” or “genetic engineering.” These are the phrases used to describe the violent combination of unrelated species. They are the phrases of science.
Science is the default language we use to discuss and describe this unnatural process. Both pro-GMO and anti-GMO camps appeal to science for proof of their respective positions. There’s nothing wrong with the language of science, but science, in and of itself, can only take us so far in our understanding of matters relating to life. In order to more fully understand life, we must also include and honor the language of the mystics, the prophets, and the Shaman.
To the Alaska Native Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska as well as other Native peoples, the salmon is a sacred creature playing a large role in oral tradition, art, and clan, as well as the preservation of life. (1) When my Tlingit sisters and brothers learn that scientists have combined three different marine animals to create genetically modified salmon, they know at a spiritual level that no one has the right to alter and patent that which nature has freely provided for millennia.
In Navajo tradition, corn and corn pollen is sacred. Some people believe they are the descendants of corn. Corn pollen is used in various ceremonies and rituals. (2) For those who hold their traditions sacred, as does my Navajo farming friend, the unnatural combination of corn with bacteria and subsequent patenting is wrong. And the inevitable cross-pollination of such contaminated corn with Native corn varieties is also wrong.
And corn is to the Navajo and Hopi what taro is to Hawaiians. Imani Altemus-Williams writes, “Taro holds spiritual significance in the islands’ indigenous culture, in which it is honored as the first Hawaiian ancestor in the creation story.” Walter Ritte explains the relationship as follows in Facing Hawaii’s Future after scientists genetically modified their sacred plant. “It felt like we were being violated by the scientific community …. For the Hawaiian community, taro is not just a plant. It’s a family member. It’s our common ancestor ‘Haloa …. They weren’t satisfied with just taking our land; now they wanted to take our mana, our spirit too.” (3)
From an aboriginal perspective, the spiritually blind European Americans of yesteryear stole land, food, and water while denigrating or killing Native traditions, culture, and people. And now, hundreds of years later, spiritually blind scientists, business people, attorneys, lobbyists and politicians are enacting yet another wave of violence against heritage seeds, crops, and agriculture.
Like all forms of violence, violence against aboriginal seeds and agricultural traditions is violence against all humanity. What we do to others, we do to ourselves.
We have yet to understand the full extent of the consequences and potential carnage the Earth and her inhabitants will experience from genetic modification. But this we know: Because of genetic modification, natural plants and seeds are endangered. Those who promote the patenting and production of genetically modified organisms are also promoting the extinction of hundreds and thousands of natural species. Modern poison-saturated monocultures may one day make Ireland’s potato famine look like a light meal. When agribusinesses have pumped the Ogallala aquifer dry, the feeding-the-world lie will blow away with the remaining topsoil. And when the bees and other pollinators are dead, our children may not be far behind.
Just because scientists can use guns to shoot DNA from bacteria into our food does not mean that scientists should do so. Genetic modification is violent, imprecise, unpredictable and inherently dangerous. Scientists don’t know and can’t know what life forms their blasts will produce.
Most of us refuse to eat pet food because it is beneath our standards. Yet few of us know that both wild and domesticated animals often refuse to eat genetically modified “food,” not because it is beneath their standards, but apparently because it isn’t food at all. (4) Corporate millionaires don’t care as long as their patented non-food foods increase their profits.
Corporate-based science lacks the ethics to restrain itself. And as long as corporations control U.S. domination-based government policy, CEOs and presidents will push the global spread of genetically modified crops for profit and power as they see fit, whether through war as they did in Iraq with Order 81 or through “Free Trade” agreements as they did in Columbia with Resolution 970 or as they are attempting to do now through the Trans Pacific Partnership. (5) (6) (7)
GMO spinmeisters lies are now known for what they are: lies. GMOs have nothing to do with feeding the world. GMOs are the product of genetic violence and, at the highest levels, violent people use GMOs to increase their wealth and to control other nations regardless of the harm to animals, plants, soil, air, water, and human beings.
A United Nations report uses the language of science to state that small-scale organic farming will feed the world. (8) And even the pro-GMO USDA is using the language of science to finally question the risks and benefits associated with GMOs. (9)
In spite of the scientific evidence against GM agriculture, corporate-backed scientists continue to speed down nature’s highways scientifically and spiritually blind, blind to the destruction caused by their arrogance and reckless release of unnatural life forms into the environment.
Einstein stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” In a culture that reveres science, let us have the courage to reclaim and honor our spiritual selves and our spiritual connection to each other, to nature, and to the Earth. Let us temper science with humility and ethics, and let honest science inform our spiritual beliefs.
When we sit down to enjoy our food, let’s ensure first of all that it is indeed food, not a genetically modified imitation that animals refuse to eat. And let’s ensure that our food is not seasoned with Round Up, 2-4-D (half of the chemical composition of Agent Orange), or any other unholy and unnatural concoction the chemical companies insist we eat. Once we’ve done that, we have good reason to give thanks for our sacred salmon, corn, taro, and every other life-enhancing food we eat.
By doing so, we ensure that our money is used to support organic farmers and farming. We ensure the preservation of honeybees, monarch butterflies, and songbirds. We promote the health of soil, air, and water. And we honor our ancestors, our sisters and our brothers, as well as our posterity.
Let us give thanks for our food.
Brett and his 15-year old son, David, are currently running from coast to America coast promoting a GMO-Free USA. Brett wrote this blog on the Navajo Reservation in Dilkon, Arizona. Brett and David blog at RunningTheCountry.com. Support their run and mission at RunningTheCountry.com/donate.
1. Xáat – Salmon, http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/programs/CURRICULUM/Tlingit/Salmon/salmonII.pdf
2. Emily Fay Capelin, “Source of the Sacred: Navajo Corn Pollen, Hááne’ Baadahoste’ ígíí (Very Sacred Story),” A THESIS Presented to The Faculty of the Southwest Studies Program, The Colorado College, May, 2009, https://www.coloradocollege.edu/dotAsset/44c82cd0-cbb2-4297-9b40-15bd46552c2a.pdf
3. Imani Altemus-Williams, “The Struggle to Reclaim Paradise,” Waging Nonviolence / News Investigation, April 12, 2013, http://www.nationofchange.org/struggle-reclaim-paradise-1365778092
4. Institute For Responsible Technology, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/faqs
5. Adnan Al-Daini, “Patenting Staple Foods (Bremer’s Order 81) Is Ruinous to Iraq’s Agriculture,” Common Dreams, June 24, 2012, https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/24
6. “Colombia farmers’ uprising puts the spotlight on seeds,” GRAIN, September 4, 2013, http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4779-colombia-farmers-uprising-puts-the-spotlight-on-seeds
7. Ellen Brown, “Monsanto, the TPP and global food dominance,” The Ecologist, December 7, 2013, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2188967/monsanto_the_tpp_and_global_food_dominance.html
8. “UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way To Feed The World,” Huffington Post, December 17, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/17/un-report-organic-farming_n_4461577.html
9. Christina Sarich, “Breaking: New USDA Report Proves Environmental Impact of GMO is ‘Questionable’,” Natural News, February 26, 2014,