Spring 2013 Literary Gem Omar Charles
Omar Charles, a student of Allison Stuart at General George A. McCall Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article "A Month Without Monsanto," by April Dávila, a story about the potential health effects of genetically modified foods, and her need to learn where her food came from. He is a Literary Gem for the Spring 2013 writing competition.
Writing prompt: April Dávila discovered that around 70 percent of processed foods on American supermarket shelves contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Does this concern you? What matters most to you about the food you eat?
By Omar Charles
The sky is gray and the supermarket is filled with the sad faces of sick people looking for safe food to eat. There is nothing. But a group of organic farmers has discovered where the safe food—free of GMOs—is being kept. It is green and pesticide free. It’s beautiful. Soon a group of people breaks into the large greenhouse and takes seeds, small plants, and uncontaminated soil. The people soon begin to grow their own food in hidden locations throughout the country but the GMO Enforcement Agency is hunting for them. The situation gets tense and people are arrested. The people are worried. They need help, and they need it fast.
Like most 11-year-old boys, I like superheroes. I’m intrigued by their backstories and love a good villain. If there was ever a story with all the elements of a good graphic novel, it’s the story of GMOs. I recently learned about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) while doing a school research project for my 5th grade class. The more I learned about GMOs the more I realized how disconnected I’ve been with my food and how much control large corporations have over my plate. I felt an immediate concern and a bit of anger mixed with disappointment, similar to how April Dávila, author of the YES! Magazine article, “A Month Without Monsanto,” felt when she clicked on a link to a story about kidney and liver damage to rats that were fed genetically modified (GM) corn.
I’m a 21st century kid who has not known a world without genetically modified organisms. There is no way to know what GMOs will do to me within the next 10 years because of the lack of testing and the ability of large agribusinesses to play by their own rules. I asked myself if I could ever go back to eating the way I used to, and I can’t. GMOs are dangerous; I may live a shorter life span than my parents. GMO crops require more pesticides, and animals are fed GMO grains that make them sick. Factory farms are breeding grounds for disease in animals. In turn, they require massive doses of antibiotics. Today, factory farm animals are consuming 80 percent of all antibiotics in the United States according to the FDA. It is no wonder we cannot resist infections as effectively as before and why there is such a rise in “superbugs” we cannot fight. England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said the following regarding antibiotic use: “If tough measures are not taken to restrict the use of antibiotics, we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century at some point."
Those who had escaped capture by the GMO Enforcement Agency were eating non-GMO foods and becoming stronger. Organico was born the healthiest of them all and became a hero to the people. They began to fight back against the evil Montstrato.
It’s a basic human right to have food that will not harm me or the environment. It’s important for me to know where my food comes from. As children we already have a bad relationship with food. There is no connection between spinach and me. This is because food companies have done a great job making everything I eat unrecognizable, from chicken nuggets to everything in Hot Pockets. Food is fast and doesn’t even allow time for a conversation. Keeping us in line is one of the most powerful biotech companies in the world—Monsanto. With a 90 percent share of all genetically modified crops grown in the United States, Monsanto has found its way into almost every food product I consume. Last year, it spent $50 million to kill California Proposition 37, which would have made GMO labeling the law in that state. I should not have to fight government agencies or large agribusinesses to have food that will not harm me.
It’s easy to solve problems by calling on a superhero. As much as I would love that to be true, I realize I have to be my own superhero. I have to take control of what I eat and pass healthy food habits to my children.
After a while, the good seeds outnumbered the bad seeds and Montstrato was defeated. The people celebrated together with the animals in fields of kale.
Omar Charles is a fifth grade student at General George A. McCall Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Omar became a storyteller at age five when, hoping to help his mother overcome her fear of spiders, he told her about a spider named Eeke that took baths and wore a shirt and tie. He is currently working on a graphic novel about genetically modified organisms to help kids make healthy food choices. In the future, Omar hopes to study filmmaking and animation and save the world.
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