Fresh off the pages of The Hunger Games trilogy I launched in Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook. Tomatoland is a non-fiction account of winter tomato farming in Florida. Shockingly, not all that different that The Hunger Games.
Proceed with caution: If you have not read The Hunger Games, you might want to skip this. I haven’t given anything away. Same goes for Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
I am a sucker for distopic fiction, I love it. When I think of the future of our world it’s Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake that comes to my mind, with a dash of Carrie Mac’s Droughtlander Trilogy. It fascinates me that these authors see the same future that I do.
An increased divide between the haves and the have nots, an abandon of any and all civil behaviours and sense in an effort to earn our dollars.
It’s fiction but I think real life is headed there. Like we are living happily in the Capitol watching kids murder each other for our amusement, only it’s big huge business killing workers and destroying the earth to provide us with every manner of goods for our consuming pleasure.
Heaven forbid we don’t have every disposal plastic items ever invented at our immediate fingertips. .
It’s not just the stuff, it’s how the stuff is produced.
I am a biologist, and you know, a purist, genetic modification does not sit well with me. I am in favour of breeding better tomatoes, cows and such sexually, that’s how the world works after all. Both The Hunger Games and Oryx and Crake are rife with genetically modified animals gone wrong. Well, I suppose it’s only the mockingjay that went wrong by the Capitol’s standards but by human decency standards a whole lot more went wrong.
Yet, regardless of how my favourite fictional worlds show the dangers of genetic modification, it is barrelling full steam ahead. They are playing with genes in every organism they can get their hands on. Where will the line between “sure, do some experimenting” and “are you nuts? don’t mess with that” will be drawn?
No, no never designer babies. But then why designer tomatoes. I fear the line between acceptable and not acceptable is blurred and the army marching that line forward is sneaky. It seems like all the lines driven by the almighty dollar have sneaky armies behind them.
Tell the people what they want to hear and hide the rest.
While reading Tomatoland I learned that in many tomato fields of Florida migrant workers are not paid enough to survive, if they are paid at all. Many of those pretty red tomatoes you see in January at your grocery store or at the salad bar, picked by slaves. Yes, slaves. In 2012.
Tomatoes that have been genetically modified to be that perfect colour and shape.
Taste? Who the hell cares how they taste, folks can’t taste them at the grocery store. We just want their money. What? Who’s listening?
We are sorry for that unfortunate message, here at Red Tomato we are dedicated to providing a flavourful product that gets to our customers in excellent shape. And work hard to provide safe working environments for all our employees.
I made that quote up. If I had invested a few minutes I bet I could of come up with several real life examples but I don’t want to. That’s a sad few minutes.
Last week I heard a story on CBC about sugar cane workers in Central America developing kidney disease after working for years in a chronically dehydrated state. Companies have begun testing workers kidney function, if it is elevated and a worker is at risk of develop kidney disease they are no longer allowed to work. Cause you know firing sick workers without any medically support is way easier than providing them with water and rest while they are in your employ.
It is a sad state of affairs when what you think is fiction comes true. Work until you die then we will work your children until they die, all so my customers can have pretty well shaped red tomatoes. Or sugar, the people could never manage without sugar.
Am I living in the Capitol?
I am painting a big stoke with the same evil brush, there are good guys in every story and real life is no exception to that. Tomatoland shares many stories of good work being done both at a grassroots level by freed tomato slaves and at a corporate level. Even an old school botanist determined to develop the best tomato for large scale farming by cross-pollination.
That’s what I love about distopic fiction, whatever terrible things the good people endure, they still have hope for a better tomorrow. I can understand that.
But to be on the safe side I resolve to can and freeze all the tomatoes my family needs for the year next summer when they are in season at my local farmer’s market. And just in case I’ll teach my kids to hunt and climb trees.