My garden is growing, the farmer’s market is bulging with fresh fruits and veggies, and the Olathe sweet corn is in. My diet is better this time of year; I can’t resist the peaches and berries, and the garden is providing a steady crop of squash, beans, tomatoes and greens. Life is good.
However, it seems like there’s a lot of controversy these days over genetically modified organisms (GMO). I have been advised to avoid corn, soy, sugar, papayas, canola, summer squash and dairy products. At least, I should only eat organic, non-GMO versions of these foods.
I have no doubt that some of the stuff we put in our foods is bad. I like the idea of being a locavore and eating fresh foods from where you live. (That puts the papaya off the list anyway.) I don’t use pesticides or herbicides, so most of what I grow is probably organic, but I do put yard and kitchen waste from my house and my neighbor’s in my compost pile, so maybe there’s some organic or inorganic substances in there. (I don’t think organic chemicals qualify as organic, but that’s another topic.)
But, it seems to me that we’re being a bit too broad in our condemnation of genetic manipulation of food. According to the critics, any genetic manipulation makes a food GMO and bad for you. Given the number of starving people in the world and in the US who would like any food at all, arguing too broadly about food needing to be organic and GMO-free seems somewhat unproductive.
We are living in an age of extreme exaggeration, where every issue is catastrophic and can only be either good or evil – nothing in between. (I’ve seen the movie, San Andreas, so I understand ‘catastrophe’….and I don‘t just mean the acting) They say fracking is evil, as they drive to the public demonstration. They decry coal-fired power plants and then send protests through our coal-fired computers and iPhones. We can’t see the middle ground, where maybe compromise and collaboration just might get more done than antagonism.
Anyway, I like corn on the cob. Growing up, it was a part of every summer gathering along with deviled eggs and watermelon (yellow-meated, grown locally, full of seeds for spittin’). This time of year, it gives me pleasure to pick up some sweet corn, shuck and cook it, liberally apply salt and butter, and chow down on a cob.
I’ve differed with friends over the correct manner of eating the corn. Do you chew laterally across the cob, like a typewriter or vertically around the cob? Salt and butter distribution seems to be a factor in the decision, but given the strong emotions, I suspect data will not settle the issue. My father didn’t particularly enjoy corn on the cob. He had a gap between his front two teeth, so when he chewed, he left a row of kernels. Needless to say, it required greater effort to strip the cob, in spite of the fact that he was a lateral chewer.
(He also explained to me that back in the old days, people kept bare corn cobs in the outhouses if they had no toilet paper. The white cobs were the softest and most prized, yellow were the most plentiful, and lord help you if you had to use the multicolored ones!)
Recently, I was surprised to learn something interesting about the history of corn. It seems that back in the 1920’s through the 1940’s scientists experimented on corn kernels and other things (including humans) using radiation. In the late 1950’s a geneticist named John Laughnan determined that some of these old irradiated kernels actually produced a more intense sweetness than any of the “natural” corn. Super-sweet caught on and today nearly all sweet corn is from the super-sweet, irradiated, genetically-modified variety.
But anyway, I’ll just keep on eating and enjoying that nasty ol’ super-sweet, irradiated, GMO corn on the cob. You can make your own decision, and if you choose to avoid sweet corn because it’s a GMO, there are no hard feelings. It just leaves more for me … please just pass the butter and salt before you go.