One Way Forward: Genetically Modified

Designer and Ma Material Futures alumni Mariah Wright is a researcher, who has focussed on future scenarios, particularly regarding food. Her projects include speculative designs as well as collaborations with iconic London-based food experience studio Bompas&Parr. She now works as permanent Future Researcher at Pearlfisher New York.

"In the not too distant future a majority of the foods we eat will be genetically modified. In many countries, crop plants including wheat, corn, and soy have long been grown from genetically modified (GM) seeds. The growth in these patented organisms has ignited a global debate over the impact of GM technology on food safety and on social justice, public health, and environmental sustainability.

Many scientists point to the urgency of developing plants and animals that can feed the surging human population and survive the effects of climate change. Now they are asking, when, not if, genetically modified (GM) foods will become normalized.

Crop Constructs explores the role rapidly evolving GM food crops may play in our future societies. By constructing future scenarios of ten of the world’s most important plants such as coffee, soy, wheat and rice, I examine genetic modification as technology set to redefine our engagement with the natural world."

Scenarios

(Breadfruit) Fruited Rubber
The pursuit to replace crude oil has incited one of the most aggressive agricultural expansions in history. From soya to palm oil, sugarcane to corn, the global appetite for fossil fuel alternatives appears insatiable. 

In this scenario, breadfruit, traditionally cultivated south of the equator for its starchy flesh, is modified by European biologists to become the first domestic plant capable of industrial scale latex production with the potential to end the continent’s dependence on South American rubber trees. 

(Rice) Toxic Territories
The recent surge in CO2 levels have not only enabled plants to grow faster but have caused some to produce excess levels of natural insecticides such as cyanide. 

This scenario envisions a new level of food system transparency aimed to reassure potential food buyers of a product’s safety. Rice, which is prone to high levels of cadmium, arsenic and lead absorption is altered with color expressing genes to visualize it’s toxicity levels.

(Coffee) Private Stock
Coffee is only second to oil as the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world. As climate change increasingly restricts the crop’s yield, genetic modification could afford companies the reassurance of a biologically branded product. 

In this scenario, the coffee plant has undergone a renaissance, becoming an entirely designed biological commodity trademarked at every level, from the thickness of its flesh, to its distinctive taste profile.

Art Direction/Design- Mariah Wright
Photography- Juuke Schoorl