Not for Human Consumption

This wonderfully titled article ‘The Influence of Glyphosate on the Microbiota and Production of Botulinum Neurotoxin During Ruminal Fermentation‘ is about indications that a herbicide used to kill weeds, also inhibits the healthy microbes in a cows digestive system whilst increasing the amounts of the microbes that cause disease. Putting to one side all the necessary conversations on GMO foods, Pesticides, and financially driven agriculture, this article is interesting in terms of logically asking what it means to be human and the very practical implications of asking this. Not as a conflation, but as a comparative logic of interaction and example of the theme of microbiota, the article suggests a multi-species view is necessary for considering what is safe for a a single species to consume at the most local level.

That is to say we cannot say that something is or is not safe for human consumption if we conceive of the human, as 100% exceptionally human (or in this case cow as 100% cow), in terms of a human being an individual or particular separate species to which certain things are or are not toxic. Why? There is much anthrozoological literature on the infinite entanglements between multiple species that make up the world, including humans, and perhaps its better to call them life-forms, but anyway. There is also significant literature you can find on how the majority of our DNA is made up of viral, bacterial and so called ‘other’ life-forms DNA which utterly confounds any idea that believes ‘your genes’ describe who you are and what species you are.

However in this article’s case we are talking about how a certain compound is not considered with regards to human consumption, because the way of thinking involved in testing fitness for consumption is based on ‘human exceptionalism’. It does not consider that the healthy human is not just made up of 100% human stuff (whatever that imaginary uniquely human flesh, cell, or compound might be). However humans do not just rely on other species as food material to be eaten like a input/output machine, they also make up the human body.

So when a compound it produced that kills certain plant life and organisms that feed on crop-plants being grown in fields, it is shifting the balance between the ecosystem of plants in the field. It is therefore not surprising then that it will shift the ecosystem of species that make up the human or the cow that eats the crops with the herbicide in them. This article in summary in saying that the herbicide kills the good plants and helps the weeds in your digestive tract.

So the question is can something be said to be good for human consumption when not good for aspects of the human that keep the human healthy? And, where are the weeds, the pests, the fields, the humans, the crops and the cows? Each is a pest to another, or perhaps a crop, but only when it is envisioned as a war between humans dominating ‘the other’ at the top of the pyramid. Perhaps when plants are grown that we might eat, or decisions are made about what is safe for human consumption, the question of what it means to be human is very practically important.