(For articles and information relating to environmental concerns that are important to our devotional practice and service, please check out the new and improved Simple Living and High Thinking bulleting board, located in the Prasadam Room.)
We eat a lot of rice here at New Vrindaban. Personally, when I think of prasad, I think of moist, fragrant, gleaming white rice covered with something succulent. The real mercy of the Supreme Lord, and bonafide sense gratification. The staple that keeps the vegetarian world together.
But beware, my dear devoted friends. It gets harder and harder each day to stay on top of the many genetic and environmental alterations that threaten the purity of the foodstuffs that make up the spiritual diet. For example, this sobering news about a strain of rice recently approved by the USDA that contains actual human genes.
Hereâ€™s an excerpt:
â€œThe issue is the growing of pharmaceutical products in food crops grown outdoors,’â€™ said Hope Shand of the environmental nonprofit ETC Group in Carrboro, N.C. â€œThe chance this will contaminate traditionally grown crops is great. This is a very risky business.’â€™
Deeter points out that there arenâ€™t any commercial rice growers in North Carolina, although the USDA did allow Ventria to grow its controversial crop about a half-mile from a government â€œrice station,’â€™ where new strains are tested. The USDA has since moved that station to Beltsville, Md., though an agency spokeswoman said the relocation had nothing to do with Ventria.
The company, meanwhile, has applied to the Food and Drug Administration to approve the protein powder as a â€œmedical food’â€™ rather than a drug. That means Ventria wouldnâ€™t have to conduct long and costly human tests. Instead, it submitted data from scientific experts attesting to the companyâ€™s powder is â€œgenerally regarded as safe.’â€™
Ah yesâ€¦..â€generally regarded as safe.â€ The motto of the material world. For those asking â€œwhatâ€™s the big deal?â€, these genetic crops could have unforeseen environmental and economic effects (which you can read about here and here) that would further corrupt the sacred ideal of growing and consuming foodstuffs from the local land.
For those of us who choose to avoid any kind of animal product (save cowâ€™s milk) in our diet, we would rather not consume foodstuffs containing our own genetic structure. Weâ€™re stepping over the border into some kind of Frankenstein Cannibalism here, and Iâ€™m pretty sure Krsna would never even think of accepting such a plate of rice, no matter what kind of devotion was involved in its prep.