Playing God in the Garden – Book Analysis

Micheal Pollans Playing God in the Garden addresses the many unseen aspects of farming and the technologies that are being designed to make planting effortless and safe. Pollan discusses how New Leaf (the plant company which has created the new biotechnological seeds) advertises a safer and less expensive way of farming, while concealing the harmful aspects of its product. The idea of genetically altering organisms has always made me uncomfortable. When I began to read this article, I assumed I would take the side of the conventional farmer. After reading this article, however, I wonder if either way of planting is safe and effective. I see advantages and drawbacks in both conventional and biotechnological methods. I have to wonder if anyone really knows what he/she is ingesting when he/she buys a potato at the market, or gets a super scoop from McDonalds. Biotechnology would replace toxic insecticides with supposedly safer toxins for killing beetles that may be harmful to the crops. Meanwhile, biotechnology makes planting easier and cheaper for the farmers, which makes the crops more affordable for the consumer.

Although these biotech products have not been tested and could be toxic to those who eat them, the FDA only requires crops to have a reasonable certainty of no harm. From an economical standpoint the biotechnological plant is the best for all parties, but is that enough? Should people risk devouring harmful chemicals because it is more cost effective? Absolutely not! Manipulating the genetic make-up of a plant so that it is less expensive is, perhaps, good for the farmer and the consumer. Once it becomes more prevalent, however, what if companies decide to create cows and chickens in science labs, or humans for that matter? While the idea of biotechnologically creating plants may pose many questions, conventional ways of farming brings with them many obstacles as well. Pesticides that are sprayed on crops can be extremely toxic. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration does not require the labeling of toxins on foods, which makes conventional ways of farming unsafe and ineffective.

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My first suggestion would be to change conventional farms to organic farms, thus making them safer. Unfortunately, it is not easy for a farmer to change his/her ways. Organic farming does not produce as much capital as conventional farming. Organic farmers tend to focus more on the process, rather than on the products, while traditional farmers produce crops for collateral. The cost of changing a conventional farm to an organic farm is also expensive. The problem of safely and effectively producing crops for the public is a difficult one. How can one grow a clean, cheap harvest? I see two solutions to the problem of safely producing crops for the public: do it yourself or buy locally. This way, one can choose whether pesticides, biotechnology, or natural farming will be used on foods. Otherwise, one is left to trust the harvesting practices of an unfamiliar vender.

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