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Opinion

Two controversial topics spark discussion

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March 7, 2013

In my two years at UW-River Falls, I have met people that I respect and like on campus that have a completely different view on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and immigration.

I come from an organic farming background, where GMOs are, by definition, prohibited. And yet, I undoubtedly come in contact with, and eat, GMOs daily, even when giving priority to organically grown and local foods in my diet. Some of my friends and peers grew up on farms where all or most crops were genetically modified. While at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference, I learned that there are more people incarcerated in the U.S. than there are full-time farmers.

Farmers are becoming an endangered species in the U.S. and this disturbing statistic makes me want to form closer relationships with farmers of all kinds, instead of condemning those of a certain persuasion. We share values of loving working on the land, feeling good about feeding people and wanting to provide for our own families.

Sponsored by The Awareness Project (TAP), “Genetic Roulette,” a movie conveying strong apprehension toward GMOs, is playing at the River Falls Public Library at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. The showing and the discussion planned afterward could be a priceless opportunity.

The science of genetically modifying life is considerably young, so it is my belief that the ‘cold hard facts’ are in fact speculative both for and against GMOs. My wariness of GMOs comes primarily from a respect for time. Plants and animals developed in such a way over millennia due to environmental conditions on earth.

How can we cope with the changes that condense the evolution over millennia into procedures in a laboratory? On the other hand, GMOs might be uniquely equipped to address current (acutely human exacerbated) problems of pests, decreased soil fertility, and human hunger: where time is decidedly not on our side.

The issue is not this simple or well evidenced. And my aim is not to come to a persuasive conclusion about GMOs. I would like to see my classmates engage in peaceful, open-minded dialogue about the future of farming.

Similarly, what I have to impart about undocumented immigrants is fairly open ended as well.

Sponsored by the Wyman series, Jose Vargas is coming to campus on Wednesday, March 13. Vargas, born in the Philippines, is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who wrote “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” in the New York Times Magazine in June 2011.

Vargas discovered at 16, while applying for his learner’s permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles, that his green card was a fake. As a young boy, he came to America through the hopes of his family (some naturalized American citizens) to provide himself with a chance at a better life and pursuit of his dreams. Through hard work and the help of a network of people that believed in him, he became the accomplished journalist, filmmaker and activist he is today.

As an aspiring writer myself, his accomplishments are heroic. As an American-born citizen, I look forward to someone of that talent, stamina and intelligence also enjoying citizenship, making our country greater.

But even Vargas admits feeling guilty about misleading people about his status to pursue his dreams. Vargas had to provide false documents to continue to pursue his career.
I can only imagine the courage it must have taken to “out” himself to his community and the wider public. I appreciate that he had so much to lose and I am thankful he’s coming to our campus to stir up the discussion of how we define American.

Even if you struggle with Vargas’ status as an undocumented worker, there is so much to be learned by allowing a voice amongst the relatively voiceless undocumented workers in the U.S. be heard.

These two highly controversial issues concern our social and environmental sustainability as a nation. It’s my belief that lasting solutions come from inclusive dialogue, where people from all parts of the spectrum should meet and come with the intention to identify shared values and attempt to come to a understanding.

To feature your sustainability events (two weeks notice), ideas, successes stories, gripes, etc., email: molly.breitmun@my.uwrf.edu.

Molly Breitmün is a non-traditional student majoring in conservation with a minor in GIS. Her interest in campus sustainability was fostered by becoming an undergraduate fellow for the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development as well as by her peers in the Student Alliance for Local and Sustainable Agriculture.