At the Co-op, we’re having a fascinating debate on whether to use plastic for packaging dry goods we supply, such as rice and quinoa, or bioplastic. The bioplastic is controversial, as there are no bioplastic sources that we know of that are guaranteed to be free of GMO’s.
I’m glad we’re discussing it, trying to find a solution, rather than just letting it slide, or making an unconsidered choice. Just by looking, I believe we’re shifting things.
This, for now, is my personal opinion – I’d love to hear comments that can inform it.
The first thing to realise is that we’re choosing between bioplastic that possibly or probably contains genetically modified material, and plastic, made from oil.
All of us will agree that neither option is ideal, but those are the choices. It’s always useful to look beyond what seem to be the limitations, the obvious choices. A simple example is the question of nuclear versus coal. Neither are ideal, but in that case one can look outside, and see a third option, renewable energy. In our case, a third option would be bioplastic that is certified not to contain genetically modified material. That also has it’s own problems, but it would be a better choice. Unfortunately, I there don’t seem to be any right now (please help prove me wrong!), so, for now, we have to choose between bioplastic that may contain GM, and plastic.
Which then supports the greater good, and does the least harm?
Since this post was originally a response to other’s comments, it takes the form of answering some points raised. It should be easy enough to divine the original point!
I don’t believe customer backlash should be an issue. I prefer to make the right choice, and bring our customers along with us, rather than settle for what they want if I think it’s wrong. After all, we’ve already suffered a form of customer backlash by offering more expensive, organic food, when most people still buy cheaper, chemically-grown food.
We all support things we don’t want to. Our money (through taxes) has supported the pharmaceutical industry, has bought arms, been wasted on corruption, on kickbacks. But it’s also built roads, provided pensions to seniors and support for vulnerable children. The human condition is one of imperfection and ambiguity. I don’t agree that us supporting the oil companies already implies we should do so even more. We also support the GM companies by offering soya, and the arms industry by paying taxes. I don’t think any of us want to provide more support any of those industries.
Packaging that contains GM materials is certainly not harmless to the environment. But I believe that it’s less harmful.
- producing plastic uses 65% (these figures differ, but all seem to agree that bioplastics use less energy) more energy than producing bioplastic
- plastic is very definitely toxic
- plastic lasts a long time and does huge damage to the sea, where much of it eventually ends up. Of course we must encourage recycling, and minimal packaging, but that applies to all forms of packaging, not just plastic.
- plastic is absolutely unsustainable. Bioplastic is more sustainable. Personally I believe that with most of us switching to vegetarian diet, there will be more than enough land to support us all with food, and renewably grown, minimal, packaging.
- buying plastic provides 100% explicit support to the oil companies, while buying bioplastic provides an unknown level of support to the GM companies
GM companies are doing harm, however, the oil companies are perhaps even more so, and are already the cause of untold suffering, poverty, pain and misery for millions around the world.
So, for now I support continuing to use our current bioplastic over plastic, while at the same time searching for a better solution.
- Technology and the environment
- The joys of GM science
- Castro is right on biofuels
- South Africa’s toxic staple diet, and the language of attack
- SA happy to “eat what they can” – GMO producer