Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Want You to Know Mohamed

This picture is of me & my friend Mohamed. Mo Mo was our first Somali employee at the slaughterhouse, and he has been there for five years now. Mo is a wonderful person: charming, funny, and just odd enough to be adorable. Over the years, I have grown to have a great deal of respect for Mohamed. There were a lot of late nights that it was me & Mo Mo working very hard to clean the slaughterhouse after a long day of processing. He is a good man.

Mohamed always managed to catch my attention with his interesting perspective on the world. This was influenced by his life experience. Mo grew up in Mogadishu, and spent his youth during the turbulent years of the 1990s. As a teenager, he & some other boys were playing with a rocket launcher. Yes, it really was common for such weapons to be accessed by children in Somalia. The rocket launcher strafed Mohamed's face. He lost an eye and suffered some minor brain damage. Mohamed was eventually able to come to America, and I have never heard him say anything but good about this country. He is now married with four children, and he is delighted to raise them in an environment so different from his own childhood.

Every once in a while, I would find myself conversing with Mo and then catching myself when I realized how different our experiences have been. When Mo was still new to the slaughterhouse, I tried to explain to him how to handle the stomachs on inspection day. Since the lamb & goat stomachs were condemned under inspected slaughter, they ended up in our inedible barrels. During the summer, the gasses in the stomachs would expand, so each stomach needed to be slit to allow the gas to escape. As I described this to Mohamed, he tried to confirm his understanding of the expansion problem by comparing it to the human bodies he would observe lying by the road back home in Somalia. Wow . . .

After spending five years working with Somalis, marketing products to them, and preparing their meats, I feel a deep bond to the Somali community -- and especially to my Somali staff members. Somalia has experienced so much turbulence, and now it is being wracked by a horrific famine. This evening on the news, there was terrible footage of the starving children. It tore up my heart to see little ones literally starving to death, mothers mourning their children, aid workers frustrated by the lack of resources. I know this touches me especially, because when I see the proud Somali faces, I think of my staff, my customers, my friends.

I want you to know about Mohamed. I want you to know about the starving children of Somalia. And I want you to think about them the next time you hear of genetically-modified crops. Too often, scientific advances in agriculture have been pronounced "franken-food" in the media. It is absolutely true that science is being applied to advance agriculture. To me, this is a golden opportunity! Research is being done to develop new varieties of crops (such as corn) that can grow in areas with less rain -- like Somalia! Before you condemn the combination of science & food production, think about the dying children of Somalia. Consider how their mothers would rejoice if crops were more readily available in their region to feed their children. Ask yourself what you would do if your baby was wasting away before your own eyes . . .

While I tend to choose numerous organic products, I recognize how fortunate I am to have the freedom, the access, and the resources to choose these products. I have so much respect for individuals like Mohamed who have come to a new country to build a better life. The Somalis in our country are grateful for the American food system that provides safe, quality, affordable products. We need to be responsive to food policies that help feed the world. We must consider the advances that will be required to provide food internationally. These same advances could even create jobs for farmers in other nations! Science has helped to cure diseases, advance communication, and send humans to space . . . science can even help farmers to conquer starvation! Before you condemn genetic research in agriculture, consider Mohamed. Consider his countrymen. Consider what you would do to feed your own child.

1 comment:

  1. wow. again. a great piece of writing. never do you seem to neglect opening our eyes to the needs of others. thank you!