In my high school’s hallway, sandwiched by glass and sunlight throughout the day, 405 babies hang by hooks and threads. Some of them are dead, out of neglect, others are barely living, and a few of them bloom like fireworks. I created these babies, their lives, with four biology department members, and handed 396 for adoption, keeping nine babies to myself. I named them rather simply: Lettuce, Kale, and Spinach 1, 2, and 3.
The plants don’t sprout from ground and dirt; they are raised in plastic bottles half filled with vermiculite. I embarked on so called “Hanging Water Bottle Garden’ project, combining a farmer’s diligence and a father’s love by bringing fifty plastic bottles of juice from the cafeteria for three months and redesigning them into comfortable cribs. It was no easy job; they needed drilled holes on the bottom, tiny holes in caps to let water fall, sponges to slow down the water, an opened side for air, and black paint for the dirt. After about four weeks, a few plants grew up from a tiny seedling to a well-rounded green vegetable, ready to go out to society.
But I’m not satisfied. The fact that the plants will be sold and used in a fresh balsamic salad…it’s just not interesting. I felt that same way after cutting up the squid and manufacturing them in the dry squid factory at Samcheonpo. I could blame all this to the World’s Scholar Cup, which introduced me to the wonders of genetically modified food like Flavr Savr, biofortified soya beans, golden rice, etc. The plants I grew look boringly ordinary compared to sugar beets; the squid I bought at Samcheonpo seafood market look tiny compared to Frankenfish.
These bioengineered food and life have opened my eyes to the world of bioengineering in agriculture. The experiences I had on biology, like managing a hydroponics system farm and dry squid business, were of course valuable; yet, I dream of greater things, like biofortified spinach or larger squid. And I intend to use them not as simply a way to satiate my fantasies, but as a way to benefit the society, by creating cheaper products and more nutritional food to those in need.