This past Saturday, I volunteered for Victoria’s “Hox Zodiac” event. The Hox Zodiac event is inspired by genetics (the Hox genes), food, the Chinese zodiac, and the broad theme of equality across all humans and animals on Earth. During the event, varying foods and drinks are offered; every food and drink is representative of a certain animal of the Chinese Zodiac, for each item is either something that animal would eat, or is an offering of that animal’s meat itself. The themes of food, animals, and genetics made me think of an important connection between them all – a thought that could possibly inspire future renditions of the Hox Zodiac Dinner. The connection is that of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).
The production and consumption of GMOs alters biodiversity, the diets of peoples and animals, and the overall chain relationship between plants, animals, and their environments. Furthermore, the foods listed on the Hox Zodiac, such as oranges, apples, corn, tomatoes and so on, are all foods which have slowly become much more complex categories in and of themselves. For example, as Maru Garcia explained in class, there are various species of corn that were originally grown throughout Mexico. Now, however, much fewer species of corn are grown, for individuals are prioritizing productivity, profits, and plant resistance to disease and insects, etc much more than they are prioritizing the diversity of corn species in Mexico. I am not trying to make a case for or against GMOs, but rather I am stating the complex history behind many of the simple foods in our diet.
By 2012, 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown in the United States were genetically modified, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Cotton is another crop that is commonly genetically modified and sold widely in the market. There are both risks and benefits to genetically modified food. One of the main reasons that persons genetically modify food is to develop virus resistant crops that are better able to survive the growing season. Genetically modified crops can also require fewer pesticides, as they are able to resist the diseases that insects sometimes spread to crops. Some genetically modified crops are resistant to insects altogether. In addition, crops that are able to resist insects can also have certain human benefits; for example, the small holes that insects form can become nests for dangerous fungi, but insect repellant crops possess fewer of these insect holes.
There are many dangers of genetically modified plants. Firstly, the natural phenomena of gene flow can allow plants/genes to travel from the farm to other areas outside of the farm, which may disrupt natural processes in nearby environments. In addition, certain crops may monopolize over others, which can disrupt biodiversity and become dangerous if the plant becomes susceptible to other farming dangers. I think that Victoria’s Hox Zodiac would be an interesting platform through which the connections between genetics, food, and animals could be showcased artistically. In addition, I would be interested to know what Victoria’s colleague Siddarth thinks about GMOs, brains, and neuroscience. Nonetheless, Victoria’s exhibit was inspirational to attend, and I am so happy to have learned about the Hox Zodiac this past quarter.
It is my mistake that I did not remember to think about / mention my ideas for Victoria's book about plastics until the end of this blog post. My initial thought is that I would research and write about the dangers of plastics in sex toys, condoms, etc. However, I do not want to make students feel scared to use condoms and other sexual health products that contain plastic, so I am not sure if that idea would be the best for the book. Perhaps the chapter could focus on natural/organic products for sexual health, including tampons and other women's products. The vagina is very absorbent and susceptible to chemicals, so I think it is important for everyone to be aware of the ways in which chemicals interact with the vagina and overall sexual health.
Gewin, Virginia. “Genetically Modified Corn— Environmental Benefits and Risks.” PLoS Biology 1, no. 1 (October 2003). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000008.