Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GMOs: An Agricultural Tower of Babel?

by Tony Konvalin

There are many out there that feel anything we do to increase production and efficiency, thereby apparently reducing price, is a good thing.  Others put forth that the only way we can feed the world and produce enough food is by genetically engineering it.  But is this correct as the true total cost, including subsidies and increased health costs, of the food we eat is yet to be tallied.  Also, from what I can find the issue with food is not a quantity issue but a distribution issue so making more at any cost is not the answer.  However, more importantly we need to ask if the producing of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) pleases God or is it an Agricultural Tower of Babel?

Now I have probably already tipped my hand as to where I stand on this subject but if God’s word is sufficient for all of life, and it is, it must say something about this topic.  Of course you will not find a passage such as 1 Agronomy 1:1 that says “Thou shall not make GMOs” but this does not mean that God does not speak to this area of life, He does.  God speaks to every area of life, either directly or in principle.

I realize that when one speaks to the topic of food there will be those that say that what we eat and what we produce is an area of liberty and we can basically do as we please.  Some may even go to Peter’s vision in Acts  10:9-16 to say that we can eat all things.  Well, first the passage in Acts is not dealing as much with what one has for dinner as dealing with religious preconceptions about what was clean or unclean, to say that Peter can indeed eat and fellowship with the Gentiles who were considered unclean by the Jews.  The “liberty” card is usually used whenever ones toes are being stepped on and one becomes uncomfortable.  While we do have liberty it is all within the confines of God’s order and commands so we need to be careful of where we proclaim liberty.

To see what God’s plan was from the beginning one needs to go back to, well the beginning, Genesis 1:25-27 and Gen 2:5,15 to see that God placed man in a garden to care for what God provided.  God could have easily made the garden to care for itself and produce in abundance all that Adam and Eve required but God decided, in His infinite wisdom, to have man cultivate and till the soil.  He placed man not so much as lord over the land but as a steward of God’s provision, as caretaker and overseer of it.  While this call was prior to the fall it did not change after it.  What changed after the fall was man’s relationship with the soil as it was going to now, in a sense, fight back and not produce as man would have liked.  God did not tell Adam to go out and try and manipulate the ground, the foliage or the animals but to care for it to bring forth what God wanted from the soil even with the curse that was placed on it. 

So what does man do today but try and avoid the curse anyway they can.  I spoke on some of this in my last article on work.  We create food, if you can really call it that, which is modified so as to be able to produce more crops by being pesticide resistant and in the process nutrient deficient.  Man, instead of simply dealing with the various issues created by the curse through hard work and natural methods has tried to be God and create new organisms.   At the heart of much of this is a desire to avoid work and the trials of it and to be as God. 

As I mentioned the Tower of Babel in the title of this article, I should add that it is, among other things, a picture of man seeking to use technology to create their own heaven, their own redemption.  Gen 11:1-5 speaks of the technology used, that of brick and mortar, and the passage even speaks of them being baked.  Now we may not think of bricks and mortar as a technological advance but it truly was.  Man was seeking to use what advances they had before them to make a name for themselves (Gen 11:4) and in a sense find redemption on their own.  They sought to make something of themselves and avoid being scattered.  However, God would put a stop to that and He can do the same with us.  God can bring down the technological tower we have created and rely on.  At issue is not necessarily a matter of avoiding technology, as that is often difficult, but it is a matter of what we do with that technology.  It is a matter of what we rely on, God or self.

But what of those that farm and have worked to make mixed breeds of animals and plants?  Is this a form of genetic manipulation?  This is dealt with in Joel Salatin’s book Folks, This Ain’t Normal (Pg: 225-239) as he shares how genetic engineering deals with manipulating “kinds” whereas the natural mixing of breeds and plants is keeping kinds together.  God created “kinds” (Gen 1:11,12,21,25) and we should not seek to make, to be as God, and create new kinds. 

This tendency to want to be as God is not new as we see it in the Garden, at Babel and we see it still today. When we manufacture, manipulate and modify the natural order that God has provided we in essence seek to be as God.  Being creative is an innate attribute we have as a creation made in the image of God. However we need to realize the limits of that creative desire and understand that simply because we physically can do something that does not mean we should.  Adam and Eve could physically eat of the tree but they were not to so we too need understand our limits and be careful that we do not turn our call to dominion into a call to be as God.  

Does all of this mean we simply need to accept the thorns and thistles that make producing food difficult?  In one sense yes as they will exist in some manner until Christ’s return.  But I think we can, by the sweat of our brow, fight those incursions that make the ground unfruitful.  We need to do so in a manner that aligns with God’s order and in a manner that magnifies Him and not us.  We need to make sure that all we do honors God’s creation and is not in the end simply more of a curse, as we are finding with the genetically engineered food substitutes that have been created.

Let us seek to be reliant on God and what He provides.  One of the results of the curse on the land is to remind us of our reliance on Him for our redemption.   Let us be content with the trials we face due to the curse.  Not that we are to be complacent but understand that we cannot avoid the curse and must work within the confines God has set before us.  God has provided all we need to live for His glory and we need to come to grips with that.  Can we create technology to better glorify God, well that is a topic for another post but in short yes as long as we understand the difference between using technology and being dependent on it. 

So, yes the genetic engineering of our food is indeed an Agricultural Tower of Babel and it will crumble.  The question is how long will it be until God pulls the tower down and how much damage will have been done in the mean time.  Should we not instead work to pull the tower down and thus reveal our reliance on God and not on ourselves? 


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