Sunday, May 29, 2016

Power to the People

The start of the week was extremely rough due to the language barrier and me not having any luggage. Communicating with individuals was a full body activity that I was an unwilling participant in. After receiving luggage, I dove right into communicating in French with a open mind and clean clothes.

The smell of cheese, meat, and fresh vegetables filled the air on my first day in Toulouse. Every step I took lead me deeper into fresh food coma. All the produce was strategically placed in boxes laid out for all eyes to see. Pointing, yelling, and the exchange of cash for produce was being played in a continous loop as we ventured further into the farmers market. We were not in Texas anymore. Customer service was not priority, lines were none existing, and every man for him or herself was in play. If you saw what you wanted you had to take it or better luck next time. The further we got, the larger the crowd and the more hectic it seemed. After a while I noticed that farmers market was like organized chaos. Everyone knew were to go for what they wanted but had to push through others to get there. By the end of the day, I tasted the best strawberry I have ever had and was exhausted from only being out for less then 4 hours. Unlike in Texas, going to the market in Toulouse seemed like a full day activity.

By day two, I managed to pick up a few sayings and learn a lot about the differences in French agriculture compared to Texas'. The Chambre D'Agriculturemail Haute-Garonne taught me a lot about French agriculture, such as, the fact they are creating a agricultural system similar to Americas' with one big difference, no use of GMOs. According to, a GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic egineering so that the DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there.  GMOs have many benefits but the main one is that it allows farmers to produce more nutrious food. Genetically modified organisms are the basis of American agriculture but in France their are large groups of individuals who protest the usage of such things because they believe it is harmful to the human body. Without the use of GMOs many people can ask the question, "How can we feed the masses in France without any enhancement devices?". The answer to that question is "we can't" or at least that was the answer given.

On day three, I realized why the produced I had seen early in the week seemed so fresh because it was. People literally grew produce without using and pesticides or insecticides, just soil and water. They then sold a batch of fully grown produce to individuals each day.  The vegetable farm we visited informed us that they are sold out of produce within the first few hours of being open. Unlike in Texas, were food is not as fresh and is more than likely artifically grown thousands of miles away from were it is being sold at, in Toulouse produce is being grown right in its back yard and is hand picked. By the end of the produce farm visit, I came to the conclusion that the reason the strawberry I consumed earlier tasted so good was because it was grown without chemicals, additives, and in close proximity to were it was being sold, unlike in Texas. Food is great in Toulouse.

Throughout the week I learned that agriculture experts, such as the industry professionals we spoke with at the INRA Ag Research Center, agreed with the usage of GMOs but some of the people in Toulouse believe otherwise. In the Texas, opposing views would be settled by the law and all parties had to abide by it. In Toulouse that didn't seem to be the case. GMOS are forbidden from being used on produce that will be sold but not necessarily in research. Individuals didn't like that so they burned down a lab in the IRNA facility that was used for observing some GMO plants. The individuals who committed this act were not reprimanded. French Government seemed to give a literal meaning to the statement power to the people.

I experienced this first hand. Recently a law was passed, that the communist part of the population didn't like, from what I was told. These individuals thought it was a good idea to protest the opera causing it to be canceled. A public event hosted in a beautiful opera house was canceled because people disagreed with the law and law enforcement did nothing to stop it.  In the states, that wouldn't have happened. In the land that is known for giving individuals freedom of speech and press that wouldn't have happened but when in France power to the people.

Overall my first week in Toulouse, France was amazing and filled with life changing activities and experiences that I feel blessed to take back with me to the states.

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