Food Technology: Truly Benefitting the Human Race?

Where Food Comes From....the land

“Locavore Learner” is away at university. This is an article she put together for her Key Questions in Humanities course.  It kinda makes a Mama proud!

One of the best things about technology, in my opinion is its ability to make everyday tasks easier, simpler and more efficient. Not only do we save money, we save time, freeing up our day to focus on other things. One of the most basic chores that humans must deal with everyday surrounds the element of food. Simplified with the help of technology, feeding ourselves has become almost effortless. Grocery stores are filled with every type of food imaginable, microwaves and refrigerators make for easy preparation and you can’t walk a few steps down a street without spotting a restaurant or fast food vendor. The days of hunter-gatherers are long gone, and even within the farming industry technology exists that has revolutionized the production of food. Now, the typical everyday farm produces mass amounts of chemically advanced produce and ships it to areas all over the world.

One of the characteristics that defines technology is that it is man-made. Technology is a creation that is not natural to our existing environment, and that humans have to learn to adjust to. While the numerous technological advances in food cultivation and distribution have simplified our lives, we have to question whether this form of technology is really beneficial. The obvious answer is no. Regarding the use of pesticides, a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that “pesticides can cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, blocking the absorption of food nutrients and other long-term effects” (EPA, 2007). Food technology introduces foreign food elements to the human body: a biological system that is adapting poorly to these changes. Evidence appears with the growing cancer and diabetes epidemics. Our food is changing, but our bodies cannot cope with these changes.

This leads me to pose the general question: are we really benefitting from certain technologies, and if we are at what cost?  By examining the effects of food technology, I have observed that in this case, the effects are negative. Because of its simplifying qualities we are led to believe that food technology has benefit, however in reality, it is chemically complicating our health.  Another observation is that as we continue to feed ourselves with chemically enhanced products, we move further from cooperation with our own bodies, fighting against their natural processes. As Walter Ong describes, this technology is an “artificial contrivance, foreign to human life”. Finally, since food technology has allowed us to be removed completely from its process, we have lost sight of the true meaning and appreciation of our food. When it comes to technology, society should not be so quick to comply: we need to keep sight of the simplicity and appreciation that natural processes provide, and question whether unnatural, man-made technologies are a benefit.

Advances in food preparation and preservation have encouraged humans to compromise health for convenience. Are all these Genetically Modified Foods, pesticides and herbicides really making our life simpler? Chemicals, preservatives, additives and dyes are only a few examples of the countless food alterations technology has provided. Aided with pre-packaging and the fast food phenomena, we have created food that is cheap, convenient, quick and tasty. But is it safe? Food technology has also created food that is so far from its natural state that it is, as Julia Child describes it, so “unnatural, almost immoral and a bane to good eating and good cooking” (qtd. in Stein, 2004).

Since these food technologies are man-made, as humans we are now fighting against our own natural processes. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have been raised by a health conscious mother. Raised as a vegetarian for the first two years of my life, my mother was aware of the natural processes of a baby’s stomach: realizing that meat and other processed and preserved foods were difficult for an infants digestive system to handle. My mother understood that we humans need to cooperate with our bodies to help them grow and heal using our own capacities. Because of my mother, I have always eaten foods with the awareness and knowledge of their contents and origin, and the understanding of how they will affect my body.  I believe that because of this, I am the healthy person that I am today. With the guide of a Naturopathic doctor and my own body’s forces I have overcome sickness by treating my symptoms naturally.  Instead of using drug technologies to dull the immediate effects of a stomach ache, I eat healthier foods that are grown without the use of chemicals to eliminate my stomach ache at the source. With this example, you can see how technology has actually created more problems rather than simplified our lives: in this case, we have had to invent a drug to fight the effects of our invented food. Wouldn’t it be simpler to go back to eating old-fashioned foods that are not chemically processed in the first place?

The human’s removal from the farming industry has created less awareness of what we eat, how it is grown, and where it comes from. In this sense technology poses as an obstacle, a way of inhibiting humans from understanding the big picture. David Wolfe, a nutrition specialist explains, “we do not experience things as they really are! We experience things only through a filter and that filter determines what information will enter our awareness”. We are as a society, becoming less aware and in turn less appreciative of where our food comes from. Growing and obtaining food is not an easy task, and one that many of us take for granted because of the advances in food technology. We are removed from the process and in turn removed from the meaning of food. I am fortunate enough to obtain my food from an organic Amish farm in Aylmer Ontario, and I find that after this experience, I have a greater appreciation for the work the farmers do. Seeing where my food comes from and how it’s grown is important, because when I sit down to eat it, I am thankful. If society were to appreciate the source of its nourishment, I believe it would also be less inclined to waste.

Technology is a wonderful thing and the advances in the past few decades have been incredible. I think it is amazing that today, you can call someone at the touch of a button, travel across the world in less than a day and obtain information at your fingertips. However, when it comes to the human body, a natural existing organism, simpler technologies are the best. Tampering with the food we eat in an effort to make our lives simpler should seriously be considered because it is seriously complicating our health. When it comes to nourishment, it is important to note that the man-made advanced chemicals, food preservatives and genetically modified foods are hurting us. We need to question food technology to be more conscious and appreciative about the source of our food, understand our intended natural processes of the human body to embrace true simplicity.

Works Cited

Ong, Walter. “Writing Is A Technology that Restructures Thought.” The Written Word: Literacy in Transition. Ed. Gerd Baumann. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. 23-50.

Stein, Joel. “Living Through Better Cooking”. Time Magazine 23 Aug 2004. 8 Feb 2011 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,994930-1,00.html>

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Assessing Health Risks from Pesticides.” Pesticides: Topical & Chemical Fact Sheets (2007). 8 Feb 2011 <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/riskassess.htm>

Wolfe, David. The Sunfood Diet Success System. Maul Brothers, 2006.

Locavore Learner, L.B.

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2 Responses to Food Technology: Truly Benefitting the Human Race?

  1. Jo-Anne says:

    Well said Julie. I agree.

    • It is one thing to know to live healthy and another to be able to grow, nurture and teach the people you put on this earth and see the fruits of their labours. Thanks Jo-Anne for your words of encouragement.

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