Thanksgivukkah: Twice the Holiday Fun, Twice the Biotech Trouble
While Thanksgiving always falls on the last Thursday of November, Hanukkah moves around every year. For the first time since 1888, it just so happens to start the night before Thanksgiving. Since the holidays won’t collide again for another 79,000 years, my family is having a very special “Thanksgivukkah,” to commemorate the occasion.
The two holidays couldn’t be any more different. On Thanksgiving, Americans celebrate the fall harvest and give thanks for another year of health and loving family. On Hanukkah, the Jewish community commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was ransacked and defiled. This is done by lighting candles or oil every night for eight nights in a menorah, or ritual candelabra. It’s also traditional to eat foods fried in oil, like potato pancakes (latkes).
The one thing Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have in common is an emphasis on the dinner table. Both holidays are steeped in delicious traditions, and this year, both are steeped in trouble from the biotech industry.
The USDA is currently reviewing J.R. Simplot’s Innate Potato, which is genetically engineered to reduce black spot bruising. If approved, this potentially harmful food could end up on our Thanksgiving and Hanukkah tables in the coming years. And since Simplot has submitted its petition for approval in Canada, Mexico and Japan, genetically engineered potatoes could end up in the celebratory meals of people around the world.
While genetically engineering a potato to travel and freeze better may sound harmless, the USDA currently doesn’t have risk assessment requirements in place to make sure these potatoes are safe for consumption. When will we find out whether or not this technology is truly safe? After we’ve already eaten GE foods and harmed our health?
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are two holidays in which we honor traditions that bring our families and communities together. But the thought of eating food on these holidays that could harm my friends, family, the environment and my personal health truly leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This Thursday, my family will serve potato latkes with our turkey. But next year, we may have to leave potatoes off the dinner table.