Here is the Preamble to my forthcoming book, GMO's: A Quick and Dirty Guide
I love the word preamble. It sounds like something you would do before going on a walk—gathering your jacket and dog leash, putting some money in your pocket for a cappucino. It means something that came before. “His early travels were just a preamble to his later adventures.” (Merriam-Webster)
My earlier travels have brought me to the point where I wanted to write GMO's: A Quick and Dirty Guide. I grew up on a farm in western Washington, just outside a small town called Chehalis. Growing up as kids, my siblings and I thought of ourselves as hopelessly bored. We even invented a game—it involved touching quarters to the electric fence between bursts. You were ‘out’ when you messed up the timing and got yourself fried.
Looking back on it now, I realize that we led a pretty rich life compared to most kids. We had our own gardens and orchards. We learned to fish at an early age. We had farm animals, of course, for food although some we adopted as pets or feared as rivals. There was a manic, evil rooster my sister named Rasputin. A grumpy Welsh pony my dad rescued from abuse and named Barney Gluepot. There was a cow that we used to ride and play with when it was a calf; when it grew into a one-ton behemoth it used to chase us across the pasture, just wanting to play but when play involves thundering hooves and tossing horns we considered it threatening to our overall well-being so we would scramble into an apple tree and throw crabapples at it until it was distracted by the juicy snacks.
My dad worked for Farm Credit Assocation, and he would often take me on “field trips” to his various accounts. So early on, I got to visit berry fields, grain fields, logging operations, fishing fleets and oyster farms. And because my father’s visits always involved talking to the owners about loans, I got to hear first hand the sometimes tragic stories associated with families trying to keep their heads above water. I remember one visit very clearly. It was an oyster farm.
Sometimes the stories were reversed. I met widows and abandoned women, one in charge of a logging operation—no easy job in the 1960’s for a woman. Farming is hard enough for a family, even harder for a single parent. You have to be tough to make it as a farmer, logger or fisherman. We saw our neighbor outside digging postholes by hand the day after delivering her third child.
Later, when I was in college, the salmon wars were in full force. My roommate’s fiance, a young Indian chieftain, had been shot and killed on his own front porch. Gill nets were routinely slashed and sabotaged at night when they were hanging outside. I also had a friend, a young white man who had inherited and built out a small fishing fleet of seven boats, who told me about the fights at sea—dumping boulders in competitors’ nets, gunfire, woundings. It may sound very wild West, but the hatred between the whites and the Indians was very real, and escalating.
For the last twenty years I have lived an extremely spoiled and bucolic lifestyle in the central coast region of California, in Paso Robles wine country. I met dozens of chefs who were passionate about food, ingredients and cooking.
Throughout my experience in wine country, I reveled in the local availability of heirloom tomatoes, locally grown and produced olive oil, local organic lamb and beef, farmers’ markets, and fresh seafood, including abalone. I would organize fundraisers where I would take people on tours of local food producers, and we would then take our locally-grown produce, meat or seafood to a restaurant that evening and the chef would prepare special dishes from what the guests had seen grown or harvested that day.
Currently, I live in Tucson, Arizona, having grown bored with the wine life and needing a new adventure. I live in a cohousing community. The modern phrase is intentional community, but basically it’s a friendly kibbutz. We have a community garden, peace garden, culinary and beneficials garden, community ducks and geese, beekeepers and many fruit trees—grapefruit, oranges, mandarins, lemons, quince, pomegranates and figs. We have our community compost pile, and I also compost everything from my kitchen in my own little backyard, where I grow a selection of my favorite flowers and vegetables.
Living in wine country, GMO’s didn’t seem to be a huge concern. With the huge number of rootstocks and clonal selections available to the wine industry and its fascination with terroir and sustainability, the subject of GMO’s rarely came up. But now I am living in a vibrant city, surrounded by great restaurants and a passionate art and music scene. People here are mostly city folk, as you would expect, but they’re intensely interested in food and health, so the topic of GMO’s comes up frequently.
My search for the truth about GMO’s began as a personal quest, but it quickly grew into a desire to share information. One of my neighbors is Leza Martin, founder of a local urban farm called Tucson Village Farm, located very near the University of Arizona. Tucson Village Farm is also an educational center, and provides 13,000 students with organic food each year. At a Christmas party, the subject of GMO’s came up and she asked me how GMO’s are created. I gave Leza my two-minute ‘elevator pitch’ on how GMO’s are really created. She said, “I listened to every word you just said, and my head is still spinning.” Leza asked for a copy of my research when I was finished. “We get asked about GMO’s all the time at the Farm,” she said.
Since Christmas, I have collected over 80 questions about GMO’s. GMO’s: A Quick and Dirty Guide is my gift to everyone who wants a fast, easy way to navigate directly to authentic, accurate information on genetically modified organisms.
If you have a question or concern that you would like to have included in the book, please leave a comment! I look forward to hearing from you.