There are reasons why the book Oryx and Crake is called speculative fiction rather than science fiction. Atwood’s world is based on reality, things that may actually happen, considering how things are going in our real world. In fact, many of the things mentioned, do actually exist already, or at least there are different people working on it.
In the novel, we will often encounter genetically modified organisms (GMO), that is animals created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology, so far we got Pigoons, Rakunks, and Wolvogs.
Nonetheless, the list doesn’t stop there. They even went as far as modifying animals for our consumption by creating genetically modified chickens. No, not chickens, only living chicken parts. At first, I didn’t know if I was terrified or excited with the idea, but a feeling of awe was definitely growing inside of me.
Fortunately (or not) we do not have ChickieNobs yet, but we do have genetically modified plants.
Impressive, huh? However, let’s not forget that all new creations have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the Happicuppa example:
Happicuppa coffee was designed so that all of its beans would ripen simultaneously, and coffee could be grown on huge plantations and harvested with machines. This threw the small growers out of business and reduced both them and their laborers to starvation level poverty (p.179).
In this case:
• Advantages: Easier and faster way to harvest without the need of manual work.
• Disadvantages: Small growers and laborers lose their jobs and fall into poverty.
Throughout the chapter, Atwood gives us some other arguments and of course some counter-arguments regarding gen-mod coffee in their world, surprisingly they are not that different from the benefits and the risks of GMO food in our world, so what are they?
• Reduce crop loss due to pests, disease, or weeds;
• Reduce crop loss due to inadequate storage facilities, slow transportation (by delaying ripening or providing post-harvest pest resistance);
• Extend grow and harvest seasons;
• Greater consistency of production;
• Nutritional enhancement;
• Use of a lot more water and fertilizer than traditional crops.
• Increased use of pesticides (which created pesticide resistance while killing off some beneficial insects).
• Ineligible for export to countries that had not approved the specific genetic modification (most of the countries, including the entire Europe).
• Potential to produce allergens and toxins, dangerous to human health.
• No in-depth studies of the impact of GMO on humans
As a bonus, here are some more
biased facts of GMO:
And some interesting questions to ponder over:
(Obs: Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically modified food with its headquarters located in the USA).
– If they are so proud of the benefits of GMOs, why won’t they label it?
– Although GMO has been around for a while why there are no long-term GMO studies on humans?
– What do they know, that we don’t?
I think that from the paragraphs above, you can already deduce my opinion. Genetically modified food can definitely be beneficial in the short-term and even be a fast solution to world hunger, however, it is not sustainable since insects will evolve and develop total resistance and of course the possible health risks of ingesting modified food in the long-term.
So, What do you think? Is GMO food a way to enhance our food supply or an insidious human creation?
As we saw in the book, and throughout history, we need nature to survive, not the other way around. Thus, let’s not disregard the possibility of Atwood’s novel of being a premonition (just like Crake’s) of what the future could look like to us if we go overboard on trying to change nature. Ah, I don’t mean it that our future will look exactly like in the book, but rather the fact that our own creations can fire back at us.
For more information on GMO food click on the pictures or check the following websites:
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Paperback, US, 2003. Print.
Ceccoli, Stephen. “Explaining Attitudes toward Genetically Modified Foods in the European Union.” International Political Science Review / Revue Internationale De Science Politique 33.3 (2012): 301-19. JSTOR. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
Olga, Lusaka Manda. “Controversy Rages over ‘GM’ Food Aid.” United Nations. United Nations, Feb. 2003. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
Weasel, Lisa H. Food Fray: Inside the Controversy Over Genetically Modified Food. New York: AMACOM, 2009. eBook Academic Collection, eds.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=d60700cf-e13b-4fdd-9439-33cd15c271d2%40sessionmgr103&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=251063&db=e000xna