Spring 2013: April Dávila’s Response to “Genetically Modified Food” Essay Winners

April Dávila, professional writer and author of "A Month Without Monsanto," responds to essay winners of the Spring 2013 "Genetically Modified Food" writing competition.

Dear Sharon, Erica, Ryan, and Russell,


I have been carrying around your essays in my purse for three weeks now. I printed them out, stapled them together and tucked them in next to the notebook I carry with me at all times. I have pulled them out many times to read and re-read them while trying decide what single response could address them all cumulatively, and the decision I came to is that there is no one answer. Somehow, in the context of the debate around genetically engineered food, this seems highly appropriate, so I’d like to take a moment to address what struck me about each of your pieces.


Sharon, I was struck by the wisdom in your piece. You created your own personal journey by experimenting with your food choices, and at the same time you were able to frame the debate in a global scale.


Erica, as a fellow sci-fi nerd, I’m thinking of framing your closing sentence and hanging it in my kitchen: “foods, like superheroes, need to wear their logo on their chests, so I know what to expect when I see them.” I couldn’t agree more.


Ryan, I loved your conclusion that we, as consumers and voters, need to consider taking it upon ourselves to be educated about what’s in our foods. Your experience in Vermont, living in an environmental cooperative, sounds amazing. I grow cherry tomatoes in a pot on my back porch in Los Angeles to give my kids just a hint of what it means to grow food.


Russell, you asked the question that is only just beginning to form in the minds of Americans—what does it mean for us as a people if one company owns our entire food supply? As you note in your piece, Monsanto does indeed have heavy lobbying power, but our country was founded in resistance to tyranny. Nothing is more American than the power of the people.


The pages of your writing that I’ve carried around at my side these last weeks are now wrinkled. They are bent at the corners, passages are underlined, and something I have to assume is purple crayon is smudged on the margins. Stuck to the back is a green post-it note with a stick-figure masterpiece drawn by my daughter who is about to turn six.


She was just a toddler when I started the Month Without Monsanto project. Before I know it, she will be in your shoes, setting off for middle school, high school, and (yikes) college. I worry a lot about her future, because, well, I’m a parent, but when I read your essays my concerns are supplanted by hope. To see young people engage in critical thought and open discussion fills me with incredible optimism.


Stay curious. Keep asking questions. And whenever you’re given an answer that doesn’t sound quite right, ask some more. Do your best to remove your expectations and simply gather the facts. Be willing to change your mind. Above all, keep writing— there is power in a well-crafted story.


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