We might be in California, the most plastic of all states but Mendocino County is full of happy, healthy hippies: wrinkles smile everywhere, living off the grid is normal, the organic supermarket is the same size as the big chain one and salons offer Bio-Energetic Sensitivity & Enzyme Therapy Massage. It’s even legal to grow marijuana – for health purposes of course. It’s very granola for your city sister and on my first trip to Fort Bragg I headed straight for the chain supermarket, Safeways, in search of my perfect fruit bowl. Organic is your preferred choice but I’ve been quietly scathing of the muted vegetables and ugly fruit as just another thing to obsess about. What’s wrong with a little spray, we grew up with it. Toxins hardened us up, right? But a cell biologist here, Dr Lipton has shattered my smooth-skinned bubble with his book Biology of Belief. It’s not about sprays, it’s about genetically modifying the cells in our food. I thought genetic engineering (GE) was a brilliant time saving invention. I had no idea.
Here’s my rudimentary understanding of the issue. A GE tomato will have Grow Like Fuck instructions in its cells. Biologists know cells pass information between themselves via the incredibly thin, but incredibly efficient cell membrane; one cell with red-hot news can get it round the fifty trillion cells in the human body faster than Rupert Murdoch can get a press release out. Recent experiments have shown cells can pass information between different species too – plant to plant, plant to animal – which is radically new thinking in biology circles. This means GE tomatoes can pass Grow Like Fuck instructions on to different plant species and explains why inviolable Superweeds are popping up in commercial GE fields. If we eat those tomatoes then our animal cells can absorb the same information. That’s the calamity. Our cells then think they have to Grow Like Fuck too. I don’t want Superweeds growing in my intestines. Or brain. Or my children’s. Have it got it right?
So many products are genetically engineered in America – I now look at a punnet of blueberries with every one the exact same super swollen size and recoil. Too perfect. We’re spoilt in New Zealand. I’ve turned into a pedantic label reader, nicknamed Safeways as Superweed and switched to the organic supermarket – the only shortcoming is that its way too earnest to stock gossip mags at the check out counters. The hippies are getting through bro, my fruit bowl is finally blotchy. I can hear you sigh with relief, although I know I’m still flushing the toilet too much. I promise to stop once the ‘Dactyl stops putting her shoes in the bowl.
PS My friends, Jodi and Simon are importing organic All Good Bananas from Ecuador, look out for them in Moore Wilsons.