Love God, love thy neighbour
When I think of corporate agriculture and genetically modified food, I remember my childhood in a poor, rural part of the US where my grandfather had a small farm. My chores were to feed the cows and horses and help with the crops – vegetables and row after row of corn. In that way, my granddad taught me the basic rules of life. One of those rules — don’t poison the well – was an extension of The Golden Rule (love God and love thy neighbor as thyself). To contaminate the well, any well, even accidentally, amounted either to shameful recklessness, or an act of war against the web of life and God. The health and very survival of the farm and every form of life there depended on our following those simple, moral teachings.
Years later, I learned about another, similar rule: first, do no harm. It originates in the ancient Hippocratic Oath of the medical profession, rather than the farm, but the intent and meaning are the same. In our time, organic framers and environmentalists adopted this rule as the “precautionary principle.” In both cases, spirituality and survival are woven together into a sacred vision of life.
For people of faith, the impact of corporate agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the global food system overturns these teachings. Think of rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, and potatoes. In many regions of the world, these are genetically modified. The laws of many countries say that unless you can provide legal proof that these GMO foods will cause harm, then they can be grown. The European Union, for example, more closely follows precaution than the United States, and that has a direct impact on food patents, dependency on corporate structures, harmful pesticide use, genetic contamination and food safety.
Science, of course, is good – so is commonsense. In a world founded on sustainability and justice, faith and reason are woven together with spirituality and survival. To neglect or ignore those simple rules handed down through the generations is to gamble, recklessly, with God’s green earth. It’s to put profit and the values of the marketplace above the Golden Rule.
The Rev. Canon Jeff Golliher, Phd.
Program Director for the Environment and Sustainable Communities, Anglican Communion Office at the UN/New York