By some estimates, it would take approximately $30 billion per year to end world hunger. Comparatively, the National Cancer Institute spends around $4.8 billion annually in the fight against cancer. A significant disparity to say the least. This certainly points to the magnitude of hunger as a global threat. The fight against world hunger has been fought for decades and the number of solutions attempted are innumerable, including many organizations who dedicate themselves solely to ending world hunger by creating food banks, community gardens, educational programs, and projects like the Freedom From Hunger and Action Against Hunger, just to name a few. In this fight we can’t forget Genetically modified organisms, better known as GMO’s, originally made to produce more food at a lower cost. In theory it sounds simple, more food equals less hunger. However, the unfortunate truth is that GMOs adversely affect our health and the environment around us. In an attempt to solve one problem, we’ve only created another.GMOs are all around us, growing in fields, sold in stores, sitting on our shelves in the pantry, and freshly prepared on our plates, waiting to be eaten. They are hidden in plain sight, practically unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Genetically modified organisms were originally created to prevent pests from infesting the crop and to make the crop fit our needs, such as producing a bigger crop so we can get more for “bang for our buck” so to say. GMOs were then introduced to food industries and they realized they could create food that would not only be cheaper to make but could also make it to be sweeter and addicting making customers want to come back for more as the food they were consuming never quite filled them up and because it was just so darn good. Since then, food industries have not slowed down and continue to draw customers in by adding more and more ingredients that the average person not only has never heard of but can’t even pronounce to produce new and exatic flavors. GMOs are rapidly drowning out organic products making it more and more difficult to find products that are non-GMO, which is not only an issue to our health, but can also be seen as a concern to our everyday life and the world around us. That is why this issue can relate to six of the seven Catholic Social Teachings (CST); The Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Call to Family, Community, and Participation, Rights and Responsibilities, Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, and The Care for God’s Creation. The first Catholic Social Teaching is the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. This says that all life is sacred and should be dignified as we are all made in the likeness of God. This first teaching serves as the foundation for the other six Catholic Social Teachings because it explains why we need to not only respect our life but also the lives of others. The Life and Dignity of the Human person is more of a vague teaching that opens or minds to explore and branch off of this idea to become more specific to how we should live our lives and treat others as they live theirs. Essentially this states that we should be treating our bodies as temples of God. That being said, we should pay more attention to what we are consuming, not only what we would consider highly processed “junk” food, but we should also pay attention to how our food was produced and grown; was it genetically altered? Even though many of us may not realize it, we consume food made with GMOs daily. A lot of the food we consume may not be or say directly that it is a GMO, but more likely than not the ingredients used were genetically modified. This affects our diets causing us to continuously consume food that is doing more harm than good. If we are constantly trashing our bodies with foods that are harming us, it can be quite difficult to live a healthy life and to treat our body as a temple. The second Catholic Social Teaching is Call to Family, Community and Participation. Naturally our species need to be connected to others in some way, we are social creatures. We are all part of families and many families make up communities and our many communities make up societies. A community is not only limited to the people that live in the same area, but it also refers to those that share the same beliefs and ideas, for example there are church communities, farming communities, etc. As communities we support each other and, as a whole, support other communities both directly and indirectly. Some examples of direct support would be by giving donations of food, money, or clothes, helping with construction projects such as fixing up an old building or applying a fresh coat of paint to an old fence, etc. But we can also support communities indirectly everytime we participate in events such as concerts, we even support communities by simply going to the store or by wearing branded clothes such as Nike or Under Armour. Whether we realize it or not, we are supporting the use of GMOs by purchasing products that contain them. Instead, we need to look into buying fresh produce from organic farms or items that have the non-GMO label. If enough people start avoiding food made with GMOs, food industries will see the lack of interest and stop or at least produce less GMO food. That’s where the third Catholic Social Teaching, Rights and Responsibilities, comes into play. As humans, we all have rights that cannot be taken away, rights that are essential to life. For example, we all have the right to life, the right to an education, the right to clean water, and the right to a healthy diet. The problem, especially in America, is that a lot of our food advertised is not at all healthy for us. We turn on the TV and there are commercials upon commercials advertising the newest flavor of chips or drink. We go into the store and see the cute fresh produce section up in the front, but then behind that are racks of “food” made with ingredients we cannot pronounce. Now with our many rights come our responsibilities. If we see that people are not getting clean water, we protest. If we see that someone is not being treated fairly, we stand up for them. It is well known that America is one of the most unhealthy countries, we all see that our streets are littered with fast food restaurants, and our local grocery store shelves are piled high with junk food. But we have not done anything about it. We are good at covering it up by taking the new and improved weight loss supplements guaranteed to help you lose 30 pounds within a few weeks. We have seen the problem, now we have to own the problem. We need to take responsibility to fight for more healthier food options. This ties into the fourth Catholic Social Teaching of Options for the Poor and Vulnerable. Another reason why people are leaning towards food made with GMOs is not because they want to but because they can’t afford anything better. To better put this into perspective, a large bag of apples costs around $5, whereas a bag of chips costs around $1-2 per bag. That equals about four bags of chips per one bag of apples. If you have to pack lunches everyday, the $5 bag of apples would be a great option but would only get you through maybe one week, but the four bags of chips for the same price can get you through two weeks. Some can’t even afford to buy anything at the store so they go to their local food banks, who depend on donations, to get food. The people who donate don’t always donate the healthiest produce for a couple of reasons, one being that fresh produce doesn’t keep for very long, and two, since things such as chips, crackers, canned products, ect. that are packed of GMOs are cheaper, they can buy in bulk to donate which, in turn, feeds more people. But it is our responsibility to make sure that the poor and vulnerable have the same resources that everybody else has and that means access to affordable, healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins. The fifth Catholic Social Teaching is Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. As workers we all have the right to be treated fairly which means getting a fair pay for the work that we do and that we are put in safe working environments. An issue that follows GMOs and the dignity of work and rights of workers is how it affects the small family owned farm businesses. With such a thriving market of food made with GMOs, it can make business quite difficult for the smaller community farms. Some of them cannot compete with the large factory farms who use GMOs and have to work more than one job or have to give up their farms. It also makes things even more difficult for small farming businesses because they have to plant all new seeds, they cannot harvest and use seeds from their crop to replant, especially if their farm is close to a large factory farm, because there is always a risk that the GMO seeds and the seeds from the organic crops will mix. That is why it is super important that we support the small community farms as much as we can by buying our fruits and vegetables locally from places like farmers markets. The last Catholic Social Teaching that relates to the issue of GMO use is The Care for God’s creation. God created us to be the caretakers of the the earth, therefore, it is our responsibility to protect and care for the wellbeing of the animals around us. GMOs not only affect us but they also affect the animals who eat them. We tend to forget that the animals eat plants and the fruits that grow on them. So when we grow a field full of genetically modified corn, animals like deer venture in and feed off of the crop unaware that there is any difference at all or that it is indeed harming them. And how can we blame them, they are only doing what is in their nature. We need to take it upon ourselves to protect the wild animals by reducing or eliminating GMOs. In conclusion, the use of GMOs is not something that should be ignored or depicted as normal and completely harmless because evidence shows that they have a great affect on society and the environment. It is not just one issue, but a whole string of issues concerning our diets, the economy, and the wellbeing of the wildlife around us. We all have rights and responsibilities that shouldn’t go unnoticed or be avoided. We need to stand up and speak out if not for our health, then for the health of the animals.
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