Amidst all the tension and commotion, Dr. Lucio needed a serious break. So they headed up to Nan’s cabin in the Berkshires for a relaxing weekend with Katey and Philmore. They welcomed the time together in an intimate setting, without microphones, cameras, computers, or snoopy reporters.
Only Ayden Fry was missing, but someone had to hold down the fort. This was Ayden’s opportunity to command the lab. He missed Katey, but now had several promising students and technicians under his wing. Ayden was fulfilling his life’s dream, and MIFF was now largely in his hands.
The view of the Berkshire mountains from Nan’s deck was breathtaking. The leaves were turning colors, and change was in the air. In that blissful setting they lounged about, enjoying nature and some serious European red wine. The ever-Italian Evo had been saving a crisp Borolo, a chewy Brunello, and an earthy Amarone for the occasion. Katey brought a guitar, and sang sweet songs, accompanied by a forest full of harmonious birds. All was well in Evo’s world.
The rain had subsided, and the weather was spectacular. The sunshine felt pleasant in the higher atmosphere, and the delicious winds kept the bugs away. It felt great to let go. But, the scientific debate continued.
“The credit goes to all you beautiful people,” Evo emoted. He raised his glass and threw a kiss Katey’s way.
“Ayden and I were opportunists, just like Prime Slime,” Katey mused. “The real breakthrough was yours, Chief.”
“We all had a hand in bringing this forward…and backwards,” Evo joked, as they toasted to their collective achievements.
“There’s room for compounds like MIFF in agriculture,” Philmore insisted, “especially in the ways you employed them.”
“They were useful,” Evo replied, “but not the final solution.”
Suddenly he had a wild thought. “I betcha some folks believe we started the epidemic deliberately, to become rich and famous.”
“That’s nonsense!” Philmore insisted. “You’re a man of integrity. The whole world is listening to you, and for good reason. You could have exploited the situation and made a bundle from MIFF, but you didn’t. You are one class act.”
Nan kissed Evo’s cheek, and then inquired: “So, pray tell, have you learned your lessons with genetic engineering?”
“I still believe GMOs in the right hands can help humankind. For instance, they saved the papaya industry in Hawaii.”
“Unfortunately, much of the technology is used to push profits, especially in the pockets of polluters,” Philmore countered.
“True,” Evo admitted, “but let’s not be one-sided.”
“GMOs have potential,” Katey added, “but pesticide-tolerant crops merely provide excuses to spray more.”
“At the expense of our health,” Nan added.
“Precisely,” said Katey. “And each new GMO comes with a big question mark regarding safety.”
“The worst of it is this,” Philmore offered: “Agribusiness uses GMOs to control the seed. Farmers need to buy seed each season at inflated prices. Monopolies control the wealth and squeeze small farmers off their lands. It’s a big, ugly power game!”
“I see your concerns,” Evo responded. “But think of the impact of adding vitamin A genes to rice. Infection and blindness would be drastically reduced in millions of poor children.”
“But converting brown rice to white rice removes many more nutrients,” Nan rebutted. “It makes no sense.”
“Plus, the risk of GMOs escaping into the environment is high,” Philmore warned.
“Distrust for politics and big business is growing,” Nan added. “We now expect the worst from corporate America.”
“Especially with our current President,” Katey noted.
“But, now there’s no denying organic is better,” Philmore exclaimed. “We have a mandate for change.”
“The organic movement has been growing all along,” Nan added, “mostly from the simple truth that it teaches.”
“We saw that truth unfold before our eyes,” Evo concurred. “But I still see hope in some GMO initiatives. How about a GMO yogurt that’s lactose-free and contains high levels of B vitamins?Most of us have problems with lactose intolerance. More B vitamins would address many diseases and disorders.”
“These vitamins are already available in healthy dairy,” Nan replied. “What folks really need is unsweetened, full-fat yogurt from grass-fed, organic whole milk. That’s real nutrition!”
“They’re developing crops that tolerate toxic metals, salt, drought, frost, and other stressors, allowing plants to grow where they would otherwise not flourish,” Evo added.
“That might work,” Philmore responded. “But GMO plants that make drugs scare the hell out of me.”
“Granted,” Evo conceded, “but molecular biology has the potential to do good, and is safer than earlier methods. The technology should not be dismissed summarily. We need to go where sound science and common sense come together.”
“I guess it’s all about integrity,” Philmore consented.
“Not everyone is bought and sold,” Katey pointed out.
“Yes, but many of our physicians and leaders are ignorant to real health,” Nan suggested. “And the profit motive is pervasive.”
“Unfortunately, not many doctors have a holistic view,” Katey remarked. “They are not in harmony with nature.”
“That’s the western model in a nutshell,” Philmore replied, “a complete disregard for nature.” Meanwhile, nature on Nan’s deck could not be denied.
“Science’s legacy is largely good,” Evo countered. “Without it, the technological advances of the last century would not exist. Old age and leisure would be rare. We’d be burdened with disease. Science has made it much easier for us.”
“And now it threatens to destroy us,” Nan countered. “We’re now burdened with diseases never seen before.”
“Very much so,” Evo responded. “It’s corrupt, I’ll admit.”
“Plus, our enemies will use it against us,” Philmore added.
Evo and Philmore–scientist and farmer–were once worlds apart in their thinking. Yet, they came to see each other’s point of view, and the need to work together. The same was true with Evo and Nan. Their synergy had the power to help mend a fractured world.
“This all worked in your favor, Philmore,” Evo quipped.
“Honestly, I’ll never forgive myself.” Mr. Potts flushed with emotion.
Evo shared the same mixed feelings. Every bit of happiness was tinged with regret. The events of this merciless summer had opened his eyes to many things. He now saw Big Pharma and Big Agribusiness as opportunists that prey upon our weaknesses. They, like Prime Slime, exploited a broken system.
Granted, Evo was no saint. His sexual exploits and blatant disregard for women left a stain on his past. But he made great strides in compassion and self-awareness during this eventful summer. It helped him clean up the slime in his personal life, and grow as a scientist and leader.
“The notion that bacteria are bad is misguided,” Evo exclaimed. “Our brutish efforts to kill germs have been disastrous. We need to learn to live in harmony with microbes.”
“Pasteur’s legacy is today’s drug-based medicine,” Nan added.
“The germ theory doesn’t cut it,” Katey conceded. “Healthy plants and people live in harmony with most germs.”
“If we continue to eat poorly, and treat the earth poorly, more slime will emerge,” Nan reckoned.
“Prime Slime was a correction,” Philmore offered. “And, in one sense we’re lucky. Next time it might target people.”
“You have their attention now, Chief,” Katey said. Philmore and Nan agreed. They toasted to Evo’s leadership and the prospect of a greater good.
“We could do without the drama this time,” Evo conceded.
“Breakdowns often precede breakthroughs,” Philmore noted. “Our society was fractured. But now there’s hope.”
“That’s fully evident on this deck,” Evo assured them all, as he lifted his glass once more. The Amarone was beyond yummy. Meanwhile, Katey gave a quick thought to Ayden.
“A toast to integrity,” Philmore offered. “Our work won’t be easy. Evil forces would have us return to the status quo.”
“That is no longer tolerable,” Evo insisted, as he picked up his iPhone. He too was thinking about Ayden.
“Is that you, Chief?”
“Destroy Prime Slime, Mr. Fry!”
“Just do it!”
“O.K. Chief. No sooner said than done.”
“I’ll talk with you later about a technical directorship at Brookstone, and about heading up the MIFF enterprise.”
“I’d welcome that, Chief.”
The conversation ended with a collective sense of closure. The era of Prime Slime was over, but its impact on the future of food and health care had just begun.