My Love-Hate Relationship with Science / by Sara Snyder

I don't think I ever loved my science classes. Except maybe the one where we made "whale blubber" out of crisco in third grade and stuck our hands in freezing water. That was cool. And I still remember it some twenty years later if that counts for anything. 

But science, to me, has always been a ridiculous process that produces bullshit results. If you pay attention to normal human behavior conclusions are often easy to see without the long-winded process. 

And the first world holds science in such esteem. I get it, we need legitimate answers with real data. But after reading a bit on GMOs and the Green Revolution, I'm not certain the media has a grasp on framing/defining the science in a way that is productive to lengthier discussion and discourse. 

We, the collective informed citizens of the U.S.A., despise Monsanto for altering the DNA in our crops to avoid their trademarked pesticide and speed up the growth patterns of some fruits and veggies.  Yet, they are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars of private funding into research for the food system when the public sector has only recently invested 2% of national funding into the agriculture space. Sure, it is easy to argue that it is all for selfish corporate monetary gain. But would we have the capabilities to advance without their investment? 

Artist Rendering by Sam Van Aken

Artist Rendering by Sam Van Aken

Science, as I have come to understand, sprouts innovation. Monsanto jumped into cross-breeding agriculture, a method farmers used for centuries (old or new innovation- does it matter?), to bring the public a tastier, fuller world. And us food people, we like that. We love feeling 'one with nature' and using smart tech to power new tastes... me included.

One of my favorite projects is the Tree of 40 Fruit, where artist, Sam Van Aken, grafted 40 different stone fruits onto one tree so each variety produces during its optimum season. Some of the species married themselves to their neighboring branch and created amazing new species of hybrid fruits. This tree is celebrated both as an artistic and scientific work from its obvious beauty to the serious data Van Aken collects to understand the process. But what makes the Tree of 40 Fruit different than one of Monsanto's cross-breeding experiments? Is it possible that a company or individual's current reputation alters our perception for their future work?  

I'm not totally convinced that Monsanto will always be the bad guys in the horror film that is our food system. But I'm not about to say they will rise to the occasion and not be major murderous jerks of all things naturally edible. What I can confidently stand behind is that we NEED creative solutions to figure out how to feed 9 billion people by 2035. 

Science has to spark innovation and we have to make it happen. STEM needs to be taught in a more dynamic way because, let's be real, who doesn't want to play with expensive toys and wear a cool white coat in the name of bettering society? Somehow that part got left out of the blubber experiment. No, I'm not still bitter.

We must breed a culture around experimentation, failure, and collective awesomeness. And who knows what could be next?   Potatoes that thrive by growing in salt waterPeru (shameless self-promotion about my video on Peruvian Ajiaco soup) might not be pleased with Pakistan and Bangladesh becoming the new potato capitals of the world. What about an entire urban farm  sent through the Internet that is no bigger than your underwear drawer? But that's kinda actually a real thing: