Genetically Modified Food

patrice newell with chickens

I turn to Shakespeare for the words to express my admonishment against genetically modified food. It's there, loud and clear: 'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.' Memorable words from Macbeth. The witches are gathered around their cauldron, urgently trying to improve on 6 billion years of evolution by mixing together a macabre variety of ingredients: 'Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog.' On and on the recipe goes, adding adders, worms, lizards and various pieces of human being.

Whilst there are strong arguments for genetic modification in medicine, where the experiments are largely quarantined within the human body, I've always opposed letting it loose in agriculture. Quarantining has proved impossible, traditional farming is being destroyed.

Genetic modification is already well established in oil-producing crops like canola, soy, corn and cotton (cottonseed oil is used to fry Australian potato chips) and no farm, no matter how organic, can be safe from genetically modified pollen and seed drift polluting its paddocks. Having already damaged food quality with chemicals, pesticides and hormones, industrial agriculturalists and processed food corporations can't wait to transform everything we eat by cutting and pasting the genetic codes of flora and fauna, mixing plant, animal and insect in combinations that would have Macbeth's witches dancing with delight and cackling approval.

Many, many thousands of years of evolution have gone into olives, with farmers playing chess with varieties, soils and seasons. Genetic modification is determined to cheat at this game, effecting more change in a decade than in all of history. The risks are enormous. That's why I hope that the olive tree can fight off the challenge that those who love the oil will protect the fruit from this Frankensteinian fiddling. We don't mind the toil, but keep the double trouble out of our groves and bottles. Olive oil today is 100 per cent free from genetic modification. (extract from Tree to Table: Cooking with Australian Olive Oil )