Orwell on food technology and modernity

by Chris Bertram on July 25, 2003

I posted a pointed to to a moderately pro-GM report the other day. But in the comments section I got pretty revolted by the suggestion that one day we might synthesize all our food. As I said there, I want my potatoes from the earth and my apples from a tree. I don’t think there’s anything especially “green” about feeling this and I’m somewhat embarassed, as someone who is supposed to live by good arguments, by how hard I find it to get beyond the raw data of feeling, intuition and emotion when I try to think about what is of value.

The best I can do, is, I think to notice how much of that is of value in human life has to do with an engagement with the natural world and a recognition of the uniqueness and (sorry about this word) the ‘otherness’ of the world beyond the human. I’m not just thinking about raw untamed nature here (Lear on the heath) but also about the way in which an artist has to work with the natural properties of pigments, a gardener has to work with plants and their distinctive characteristics, and a cook has to work with ingredients. Architects too have to work with materials, with stone, wood and so on.

Contrast this with an attitude that sees the non-human world as merely an instrument for or an obstacle to the realization of human designs and intentions. On this view what is out there has no intrinsic value that we ought to respond to and respect. (And perhaps when we think that it does, we are just engaged in a projection of our concerns onto the world.)

As I’ve suggested, I’m not really sure how to think in this area (is this ethics, aesthetics or what?). And I’m alive to the danger that I’m running together a whole range of different issues that ought, properly, to be distinguished from one another. While worrying about all this, Orwell came into my head. I’m thinking partly of the Orwell of The Road to Wigan Pier who is revolted at technology-freak socialists of his day and who observes that the tendency of of modern development is to turn us all into brains on the end of wires. But a famous passage from Coming Up for Air also came to mind: the one where Bowling bites into a sausage:

The frankfurter had a rubber skin, of course, and my temporary teeth weren’t much of a fit. I had to do a kind of sawing movement before I could get my teeth through the skin. And then suddenly—pop! The thing burst in my mouth like a rotten pear. A sort of horrible soft stuff was oozing all over my tongue. But the taste! For a moment I just couldn’t believe it. Then I rolled my tongue round it again and had another try. It was FISH! A sausage, a thing calling itself a frankfurter, filled with fish! I got up and walked straight out without touching my coffee. God knows what that might have tasted of.

Outside the newsboy shoved the Standard into my face and yelled, ‘Legs! ‘Orrible revelations! All the winners! Legs! Legs!’ I was still rolling the stuff round my tongue, wondering where I could spit it out. I remembered a bit I’d read in the paper somewhere about these food-factories in Germany where everything’s made out of something else. Ersatz, they call it. I remembered reading that THEY were making sausages out of fish, and fish, no doubt, out of something different. It gave me the feeling that I’d bitten into the modern world and discovered what it was really made of. That’s the way we’re going nowadays. Everything slick and streamlined, everything made out of something else. Celluloid, rubber, chromium-steel everywhere, arc-lamps blazing all night, glass roofs over your head, radios all playing the same tune, no vegetation left, everything cemented over, mock-turtles grazing under the neutral fruit-trees. But when you come down to brass tacks and get your teeth into something solid, a sausage for instance, that’s what you get. Rotten fish in a rubber skin. Bombs of filth bursting inside your mouth.

The attitudes Orwell’s character is repelled by are now found less on the left and more in parts of the right (especially the libertarian right). TechCentralStation is a good place to observe them. But this clearly isn’t a left-right thing. Nor is it straightforwardly a matter of modernism versus anti-modernism. I also want to be alive to and to respond to the excitement and fluidity of the modern world – driven, in parts by markets and technological developement. Nevertheless, Orwell (together here with Rousseau, and Wordsworth, and …) is onto something important, I just wish I could better articulate exactly what it is.

{ 34 comments }

1

Scott Martens 07.25.03 at 12:43 pm

I suppose I’m probably harping on a personal favourite point, but you might express it in terms of wanting to feel that the things around you aren’t fakes. This was something of a favourite issue for the Situationists and for Phillip K. Dick and resonates nicely with The Matrix.

Of course, what is fake and what is real is very much a socially determined thing. A house with hardwood floors doesn’t seem any less real to me than one with a dirt floor, even though a tomato bred for taste does seem more real to me than one bred for its packaging qualities, and flavours that come from a farm seem less fake than ones that come from a factory in New Jersey.

2

Jeremy Osner` 07.25.03 at 1:21 pm

Thanks greatly for introducing me to this passage — I love it! A thread is running through our history since at least the 19th century that our manifest destiny as a species is to outgrow our environment — more elbow room will have to be found whether on Mars, on the sea floor, in the depths of outer space. Seems incredibly hubristic to me — the “elbow room” that we manufacture, like the flavors we manufacture to replace those intrinsic flavors we have bred and engineered out of our food, can only be less fulfilling, less satisfying, than the space here on earth to which we lay waste.

3

dsquared 07.25.03 at 1:47 pm

To my shame, I find myself reaching for an evolutionary psychology argument that we probably identify things as “non-food” because they are not the sort of thing that our ancestors on the primeval plains might have eaten.

But then I remember how hard Claude Levi-Strauss would have laughed at me for blithely asserting that there is any cultural commonality over the identification of “food” and “non-food”, and I come to my senses. And then all I can do for the rest of the afternoon is hum tunes from the Fine Young Cannibals album also called “The Raw and the Cooked”. She drahrves me crazeee, doo doo doo …

4

ivan janssens 07.25.03 at 1:48 pm

You write: “Contrast this with an attitude that sees the non-human world as merely an instrument for or an obstacle to the realization of human designs and intentions. On this view what is out there has no intrinsic value that we ought to respond to and respect.”
What about animals? If we want to respond to and respect there intrinsic value, shouldn’t we stop slaughtering them so that we can eat them? Shouldn’t we synthesize our meat so that we don’t have to mistreat and kill them anymore?
That reminds me: maybe we should stop eating vegetables also. Steven Pinker once wrote that plants also don’t want to be eaten, wich is why they produce poison. In too little quantities to be hazardous for humans (but much more then most chemical pesticides), but the point is this: if they don’t “want” to be eaten, and if we want respond to that and respect it, should’t we stop eating them? And shouldn’t we synthesize our food?

5

back40 07.25.03 at 2:25 pm

Ivan has identified the strongest impulse to food synthesis, ahimsa.

6

dsquared 07.25.03 at 2:51 pm

You can certainly respect and respond to someone while killing them; most of the Iliad is about this topic.

7

Chris Bertram 07.25.03 at 3:11 pm

Ivan, it hardly follows from recognizing that some X has intrinsic value that X’s value ought to be over-riding in the way you suggest.

8

Lawrence Solum 07.25.03 at 3:39 pm

Very nice post by Chris. I’ve blogged a response at:
http://lsolum.blogspot.com/2003_07_01_lsolum_archive.html#105914386296381481

9

ben wolfson 07.25.03 at 3:42 pm

There’s a great Julius Knipl strip in which a man becomes incredibly despondent after discovering that his fridge is filled with second-order foods–some food masquerading as another food, like tofu dogs or non-dairy creamer.

10

Russell L. Carter 07.25.03 at 4:07 pm

“Ivan has identified the strongest impulse to food synthesis, ahimsa.”

Until a binding armistice is signed by representatives of the bear, shark, crocodile, panther, lion, and python factions, at the very least, I’ll take my rib-eyes quite rare, thank you.

For instance:

http://www.e-sheep.com/jain/

“The attitudes Orwell’s character is repelled by are now found less on the left and more in parts of the right (especially the libertarian right).”

I don’t think it’s left vs. right at all. The issue is more amorphous, but comes down to conflicting tendencies (which may be personal in granularity) toward either alienation or engagement with nature. On the left, you see this in the dialogues between the original Earth First founders and hard leftists like Murray Bookchin. On the right, it crops up in the conflicting goals of the resources extraction crowd vs. the conservationists (typically hunters and fishermen).

11

claxton6 07.25.03 at 4:30 pm

I think part of it is that science and technology (and their imposition/use on the wider world) are very good at breaking their objects down to parts and dealing with them at that level. But there’s a lot of interconnectedness and relations-among-parts which they miss, and in missing can cause harm, or at least problems. I’m thinking (in a fun, woolly-headed, half-remembered way) of Marvin Harris as an example. I believe one of the first chapters of Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches looks at the status of cows in India, and how it’s funtional within India’s traditional, low-energy intensive agricultural system, but also the way that it becomes disrupted with the introduction of western agricultural technologies. I’m also thinking of a Matt Ridley article in Harpers, arguing that we’re very good at working with individual genes, but that our understanding of how genes affect one another is more problematic.

So, I think this outstripping of relationships by parts can work at a variety of levels — genes and genes, the human body, or culture and technology (the level of India’s agriculture, but also Orwell).

12

LA 07.25.03 at 5:50 pm

I don’t think you should be embarrassed about following your intuition. It has intrinsic value too.

13

zizka 07.25.03 at 6:04 pm

I missed the original debate, but there are real difficulties with the whole idea that food can be synthesized. There are a lot of chemical reagents which we are able to synthesize, but don’t because natural ways are so much cheaper. Acetone, ethanol, and methanol come immediately to mind, but there are are more obscure reagents used in medicinal testing which are extracted from spiders, horseradish plants, poisonous snakes, etc. The world of life consists of an enormous number of little chemical factories, many of which have specialized themselves to produce large amounts of particular chemicals (if only as waste products).

In my distant youth people were talking about hydroponics and how it would replace messy, unscientific, dirt-based agriculture. Hydroponics is more scientific in the sense that it’s totally known, totally controlled, and a true engineering process. But as I understand, we’re no closer to producing hydroponic food in mass quantities than we were in 1955 when I read about it. (Marijuana, yes).

Ultimately the “sythesizing food” idea, if it’s not jsut reworking biologically-produced hydrocarbons, comes down to finding a synthetic way of bulk photosynthesis cheaper than the biological forms, just as desalinization of sea water for agriculture would require finding a synthetic method cheaper than the normal hydrologic process of evaporation by sunlight followed by condensation.

In short, in both cases we’re talking about competing with already-existing processes which operate on a massive scale with minimal input from ourselves.

Technological futurists (e.g. Lomborg and Julian Simon) present themselves as bold, cutting-edge thinkers, but the content of what they’re saying is often an inane kind of cheerleading.

14

Jeremy Leader 07.25.03 at 6:35 pm

Remember, growing plants and raising animals for food are both synthetic. Real food grows wild, and is eaten raw and unwashed (well, unless you’re a racoon).

Seriously, Chris, part of me agrees strongly with what you write here. Another part of me argues that the whole “natural vs. synthetic” dichotomy is itself artificial. How is something that humanity invented a few thousand years ago more “natural” than something invented a century ago? Why is a sausage-skin stuffed with fish less natural than a sausage-skin stuffed with pork or beef?

15

Cosma 07.25.03 at 7:14 pm

I’d be reluctant to try fully synthetic food, too, but that’s because the first versions will almost certainly taste awful.

More seriously, Chris, I find the attitude you’re expressing here simply incomprehensible. I try to wrap my mind around the idea that oil-based pigments are more natural, intrinsically valuable, and respect-worthy than, let us say, completely digital paintings, and I just fail. Similarly for thinking that there’s more inherent value in quarried limestone and planed wood than ferroconcrete and glass. I personally think the older materials are generally prettier, and that we are more skilled at using them well (if only because they are older), but more respect-worthy? I just don’t get it at all. “The Tao is in everything, even broken tiles and shit”, as Zhuangzi says, and that goes for polymer extrudate too.

(I’m going to pass over the Orwell passage, out of respect for the honored dead, saying only that I’d infinitely prefer a fish sausage to the usual English kind.)

16

drapetomaniac 07.25.03 at 7:27 pm

>“The Tao is in everything, even broken tiles and shit”, as Zhuangzi says, and that goes for polymer extrudate too.

well said. and i’m afraid i find it quite comic that someone should so sneeringly disavow being a ‘green’ and then retreat into a quasi-religious argument about nature.

>Until a binding armistice is signed by representatives of the bear, shark, crocodile, panther, lion, and python factions, at the very least, I’ll take my rib-eyes quite rare, thank you.

since when have human beings taken their moral or philosophical direction from what pythons do? this is simply stupid.

17

back40 07.25.03 at 7:52 pm

[slipped Jeremy, Cosma and drape…]

That’s a common view zizka that may be altered by information.

We already have the technologies and techniques to synthesize food as extensions of age old practices of fermentation. We have used these technologies for eons for everything from producing the woad to decorate our awesome selves to blowing our bored minds.

Photosynthesis is not the only way life produces complex hydrocarbons from mineral carbon and other elements. Chemosynthesis is an older and more robust method that works in a broad range of temperatures and pressures, everywhere from sea floor volcanic vents to the dirty ice of comets (we think).

We have the technology to perform each step in the process of synthesizing food starting with nothing but mineral elements. Chemosynthesizing bacteria can produce a wide range of hydrocarbons. Photosynthesizing algae can too. Other bacteria and fungi can metabolize those hydrocarbons and produce other hydrocarbons. Plant and animal tissue can be cultured in baths of hydrocarbons. If we can’t find a bacteria or fungi that produces what we want we can create them either by conventional breeding or direct genomic alteration.

Some of these methods are commercially viable. Obviously the beer/cheese/wine/miso types are common and ancient. Myco-proteins produced by fungi are marketed as meat substitutes (Quorn). The production and use of bioreactors for the production of everything from beer to pharmaceuticals is a growing industry.

Chris has correctly stated the issue as one of intuition or aesthetics rather than technical or economic possibility. Food synthesis is here. It always has been. It is becoming more diverse and sophisticated. In future nano life may be replaced by nano machines (a very fine distinction) and fabrication by directed atomic deposition.

The question is how do we wish to live rather than how we can live. Given rocks and energy we can make what we need in a material sense. Not easily or cheaply at present, not as a viable substitute for agriculture, not yet, but in principle it can be done and so our principles become a central issue, an interesting subject for conjecture.

Is there something necessary and useful about the intimate, even violent, connection between life forms in mutually sustaining cycles? Cows eat grass, we eat cows, bacteria eat us and grass grows on our composted corpses. Everybody eats somebody. Thank you, in time we’ll return what we have made temporary use of, live long and prosper, a world without end, amen.

Or perhaps there is a higher necessity to break the cycle of violence, to abandon our animal selves and become something else. Our eyes identify us as predators, our instincts are suited to that role, but our teeth and claws identify us as something else, perhaps something more, or at least something other.

Is this an illusion? Have we simply confused ourselves with our admirable pattern recognition capabilities? Has the feminine art of choosing and sorting fooled us into making false distinctions to the exclusion of the masculine art of seeking and reacting? Is the casual bonhomie of the egalitarian hunting pack being replaced by the hierarchical cladistics of the gatherers and the creche? Is there something important about the tension between these ways of being and knowing that is lost when either becomes dominant? Should our obvious physical contradictions – the eyes of a predator and the teeth of prey – be preserved and celebrated in behavior so as to be fully, omnivorously human? Can we contemplate continued evolution, completing an apparent transition from predator to post-predator? Something new.

18

JRoth 07.25.03 at 7:54 pm

Working backwards:

Frankly, the armistice comment was a offhand response to a simply stupid comment that anyone who appreciates nature mustn’t eat any part of it (OK, it wasn’t that stupid, but I was going for symmetry).

Actually, for what it’s worth, most humans abide by some version of the Golden Rule, by which carnivores, at least, should have no objection whatsoever to being eaten.

I think cosma draws exactly the wrong conclusion from her differing responses to stone and concrete, wood and glass (although glass is actually a pretty natural material, relative to much of what goes into buildings). I firmly believe that it is not coincidental that she finds more natural materials to create a more desirable built environment. After all, are we not creatures of nature? More or less synthetic materials can be very useful in creating environments, and can even be used to wonderful effect. But for characteristics of aesthetics and comfort, more or less natural materials are hard to beat. Again, I think it’s a copout to ascribe this to their newness. I don’t foresee a world where concrete floors will – intuitively – be preferred over wood. Or cinderblock over brick over stone.

It’s mankind’s oldest conceit that we are somehow separate from nature and the natural world. But we aren’t, and our intuitive – you could say animal – responses to natural materials (and whole foods) derive quite directly from that.

Quick addendum: so why are some products so enormously desirable in highly synthetic skins/forms, and so absurd wrapped in natural skins (I’m looking at my iPod as I write this)? Because they are organically artificial, if you will. A computer doesn’t “want” to be in a wood cabinet – it belongs in an engineered enclosure. But we belong in more natural enclosures – we are not machines, and we are not engineered.

OK, now the question is, How do I draw a distinction between, say, “natural” hardwood floors (cut, kiln-dried, planed, sanded, stained, encased in sealant) and “artificial” concrete floors (mixed and poured – done)?

I won’t bore anyone with a guess. But I have an idea.

19

David Sucher 07.25.03 at 8:17 pm

“As I said there, I want my potatoes from the earth and my apples from a tree.”

Are you quite sure that you would be able to determine if your potatoes and apples were NOT from the ground? i.e. I suggest that it is the IDEA of things being natural which drives one’s perceptions.

(That does not mean that in the current state of agriculture one cannot tell a local picked-from-the vine tomato from one which from 2000 miles away picked green. But that is a matter of current ag practice, not theory.)

20

Martin 07.25.03 at 9:08 pm

The following is from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, “If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” So I din’d upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

21

Micha Ghertner 07.25.03 at 10:41 pm

“The attitudes Orwell’s character is repelled by are now found less on the left and more in parts of the right (especially the libertarian right).”

Don’t forget about the “virtue” conservatives who feel that in vitro fertilization, cloning, and other forms of a genetic manipulation are a grave threat to human dignity, as Eugene has been discussing lately

22

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23

zizka 07.26.03 at 2:55 am

Back 40: I would not call any fermented or cultured food (e.g. by yeast)synthetic. It’s a product of a life form, and the fermentations I know of are parasitic on photosynthesis. I suppose that at this point we’re pretty close to engineering microorganizations to digest cellulose for us instead of cows doing it, and I suppose that that would count as synthetic food in some respects.

I did miss the original argument. But other conversations of this type seemed driven by the belief that it would be possible to end hunger by synthesizing proteins and carbohydrates, and my skepticism is about a method that would do that in bulk quantities any where near as effectively than the traditional method.

Many of the end-hunger technofreaks I have known combined an utter and aggressive hopelessness and passivity about population control or social change with a really giddy and ungrounded optimism about the technical fix.

Ending the cruelty to plants by producing synthetic food using microorganisms to produce food instead sounds thoroughly loopy to me.

Beyond “Let’s do it because it’s technically possible” (or to see if it is techically possible), what is the point of it? I’m highly skeptical of the ending-hunger argument, especially because it’s usually come to me from people who seem generally indifferent to social problems. Esthetically, I’ll take it case by case. I already am fond of beer, kim chee, sauerkraut, etc., and have no bias against fermented foods. I will eat TVP or tofu though they’re not favorites. But none of these strike me as synthetic.

24

Rana 07.26.03 at 2:59 am

The question is how do we wish to live rather than how we can live.

This is central to how I approach this issue; as an environmental historian and ethicist, I have real trouble drawing clear lines between “real” and “synthetic,” “natural” and “unnatural,” etc. Each is ultimately a human concept developed out of a specific historian concept and used to render the great complexity of the world into assimilable chunks.

So I tend to look instead to see which practices favor connections, respect, community, richness and a sense of being part of something larger than oneself, with all the duties and privileges that brings. Working with a tomato to make it more edible seems more respectful than bending it out of its genetic inclinations to become something quite different — the classic flounder in a tomato example comes to mind. Perpetuating a variety of “heirloom” species and seeking to add to their numbers seems “better” to me than reducing that diversity down to one simplified variety. Similarly, synthesized (as in produced in a lab) products created not to fill a need but to replace an existing and rich system with a sterile, limited one seems problematic.

I guess it comes down to intention — are these goods produced out of pride, greed (cheapness) and desire for control, or are they produced to improve others’ lives, to enrich the larger community, and to be humble citizens of our world?

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

25

Matt McIrvin 07.26.03 at 6:47 am

Some disconnected remarks:

I’d kind of like a wooden computer. (The early kit machines often did end up in handmade wooden cases. I’ve seen an Apple I in a museum whose case was wooden and rather rough-hewn– it had a rustic frontier quality.)

Rudy Rucker said something interesting in his crazy futurological quasi-novel _Saucer Wisdom_: that engineers working on nanotechnology might eventually find out that they’re really just trying to do biotechnology. That the nanotech mechanisms that really work well are by and large the ones that chemical and biological evolution have already settled on, or elaborations of same. In some distant future we may end up growing some things that are mass-produced items today. Of course this would involve more tinkering with nature, but we’ve done a lot of that already when we grow things for our consumption.

I’ve been reading a lot of Clay Shirky’s writings about virtual communities and “social software” lately. One of the things he stresses is that the technical issues and the social issues can never be completely disentangled, because they interact with each other so strongly. I suspect that the same thing may be true when dealing with big social problems in the real world: the dichotomy between technical and social approaches is to some extent a false one. A new, copious source of food is not going to feed any hungry people if you can’t get the food to them because of some social or governmental breakdown. Tech (communications, power, etc.) can help catalyze positive social change, but if people don’t want it it’s not going to happen.

26

Chris Bertram 07.26.03 at 11:33 am

Cosma: we have some very good sausages round here. You should try some.

Drapetomaniac: I didn’t sneeringly disavow being a green, I just didn’t think there was anything distinctively green about what I was saying.

Lots of people: I’m very well aware of how problematic the idea of “nature” is. After all, everthing that happens in accordance with the laws of physics is, in some sense, natural. Ditto the problematic nature of any natural-synthetic cut.

27

Dan Simon 07.26.03 at 10:18 pm

Chris, you say, “I just wish I could better articulate exactly what it is” that makes you prefer natural foods to synthesized ones. Well, I’m always happy to help out.

28

Chris Bertram 07.27.03 at 8:14 am

I’ve just looked back over my original post in the light of some of the views attributed to me in discussion. I don’t, as a matter of fact, claim there that some foods are ‘natural’ and others are not. What I do distinguish between are human attitudes towards the non-human world and how they are realized in things like food (and in other fields of human practice).

To illustrate the distinction: Toulouse sausages, parma ham and camembert cheese are all synthetic products. But they emerge from a tradition and a history of craft engagement with nature that is radically different from the methods employed by the industrialized food industry.

To notice that there is a difference here, and an important one from a human pov, isn’t necessarily to advocate deindustrialization! (Before anyone accuses me of that.)

29

Jason McCullough 07.27.03 at 8:14 pm

Maybe “mystical traditionalism” is the best name for this?

30

Rana 07.28.03 at 6:06 am

Maybe “relational technology”? (I’m not sure that a “mystical” component is essential here. If a non-material element is an essential component, perhaps “spiritual” would be better.)

31

Rana 07.28.03 at 6:07 am

“Engaged production” would also work.

32

dsquared 07.28.03 at 4:05 pm

But “Arts & Crafts” would be the name everyone would recognise …

33

clew 07.29.03 at 3:14 am

There’s another possible difference between “natural” and “artificial” foods (and buildings): which production would I rather be downstream of? I don’t know about bioreactors – I expect some of them are clean and some awful. I’m pretty sure I’d rather be downstream of a pasture dairy or a permaculture farm than a CAFO or a Jersey additive plant.

And since I am, eventually, downstream of most everything, I have a practical reason to buy local organic milk now.

Old buildings are usually made of stuff that will rot or reuse well (to extend the ‘downstream’ metaphor). I think most of my fondness for them comes from the long tradition of prettifying and reusing them, and some from my own knowledge of how to modify them, and some from my association of concrete and aluminum with building styles that seem ill-engineered to me. On the other hand, a relative just built a house out of recycled styrofoam and concrete and Wirsbo, and it’s quite nice in an old-fashioned way, because the design is very like that of stone and cob cottages in similar environments – only much better insulated (the styrofoam) and heated.

I have drifted from food… or no, I haven’t completely; heirloom and some non-transgenic GM foods and some hydroponic food has a variety of flavors that also have a long tradition of prettifying and reusing them; and I don’t mind being downstream of their production.

34

Tripp 07.29.03 at 9:48 pm

A few random thoughts:

Nanotechnology might converge into biotechnology, but what about the wheel? It’s a pretty useful invention that doesn’t seem to exist much in nature. so I’m not sure that nature holds ALL the best answers.

Regarding living downstream from a dairy farm – it depends a lot on who is running the farm. I’ve taken a drink from a nice, clear stream only to find a dead cow upstream.

Before we can safely synthesize our food, we better know for sure what all the nutrients and advantages we get from non-synthesized food, and that will take awhile.

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