Tuesday, July 19, 2011

News Roundup

A non-GMO tomato destined to be a Greek salad soon.
On Facebook, via the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF),  there is the news of the Good Food Awards, something we believe is important, because good, edible food is probably one of the most important allies we have in our fight to preserve old varieties of seeds and against Monsanto and agri-biz.  Mass produced stuff will never come close to clean, local food in winning the stomachs and taste buds of people.  The more people who are exposed to wholesome food, the more folks who are willing to stand with us and pay a little more for the food that is healthier and less destructive to the planet.  

The ground swell against genetically modified organisms (GMO's) seems to be growing world wide, even as the United States government rolls over and plays dead doing anything about GMO regulation. Farmers in Hungary are caught in the middle with their crops being plowed under because they planted GMO corn. We hope something will mitigate the destruction of their crops and income, but we applaud Hungary for taking a stand against the evils of GMO plants that are wind pollinated.  

The United States Department of Agriculture head,Tom Vilsak, a former employee of Monsanto, on the other hand has all but abdicated any consumer or environmental protection according to what we read today. This is especially hard to take in an administration that many of us had assumed would be less GMO friendly and more environmentally conscious.  The approval of GMO alfalfa almost certainly means that non-GMO cattle are going to become much more difficult to grow, putting GMO's in our meats and milk products, because the GMO pollen will infect adjacent fields, the same way GMO corn spreads its pollen far and wide.  
Monsanto has lied repeatedly about pollen spreading out of the fields planted with GMO corn - their estimates as to how far corn pollen can spread have been mere wishes in the heads of accountants, there was no corroborating evidence to back it up and current studies have proven that pollen contamination is a reality.  A reality that we can't turn back.  We will all eat GMO corn from the grocery stores for decades to come even if GMO corn is permanently pulled from the farmers fields today.  If you buy prepared foods from any supermarket, including the likes of Whole Foods, you will find it is created using GMO corn and soybeans.  If you read 'corn' or 'soy' on the package, simply know it is GMO - we don't get the luxury of choosing because marking 'GMO' or 'non-GMO' on a package isn't legal and if it is from a chain store, there is not enough non-GMO corn and soy being produced to be used consistently across their distribution.

A paper in the AgBio Forum postulates:  "Another aspect of the GM debate concerns implications of GM pollen drift. Pollen drift takes place when the pollen (and, subsequently, genes) of one plant is transported, via wind, water, sun, or pollinators such as honey bees, to another plant (Dafni, Kevan, & Husband, 2005). Although pollen drift often occurs in nature and plants have been swapping genes for centuries, it has become a matter of concern in the GM/non-GM crop debate because this type of genetic transfer can lead to "introduction into ecosystems of genes that confer novel fitness-related traits…[and] also allows novel genes to be introduced into many diverse types of crops, each with its own specific potential to outcross" (Snow, 2002, p. 542). Results from this could range from minor to catastrophic and could potentially have major impacts on (a) agriculture, such as the elimination of non-GM seeds from the seed stock; (b) health, if mingling occurs unwitting ingestion of allergens could transpire, and; (c) the economy, since there may be fiscal or legal liabilities associated with selling incorrectly labeled products."

Of course, we believe that this GMO experiment will fall of its own weight - the problem is, how much of a disaster will that be when it does happen?  
There are several reasons to believe that it will be a disaster, not the least is the results of the Green Revolution which was always seen as some massive success; a film on the continuing legacy of that disaster is available here.  The problem is how measure success - and when.  If one looks into the data for the years when the Green Revolution was initiated, the success is so overwhelming that we should be able to rejoice that hunger was solved for all time - of course, we know that isn't the case.  The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was so overwhelming that farmers laden with new hybrids could not afford these inputs and the loss of diverse plantings of their own local foodcrops (because FAO was only measuring output in commercial crops, crops that could be commodities on the world market, not crops that could actually be eaten by the farmer or traded in the local market) destroyed the local agriculture.  The result is that after a five year window, production is not only nothing near the levels we were led to believe, but the lives of the farmers are compromised.  We took independent farmers and made them slaves to the same system that is bankrupting our farmers (and has for centuries), giving rise to the lie that you have to 'get big or get out.'  The truth is a small farm (or garden) is much more productive per acre than a big farm! (Sourced from Robert Rodale's "Save Three Lives" which should be required reading for anyone interested in solving world hunger.)

Monsanto has proven, secondly, that they are one of the world's biggest and most unfair bullies.  The cases against many farmers are a matter of record at this point and are far too numerous to discount.  (I heard some Monsanto apologist deride Percy Schmeiser as being a 'scumbag,' and you can say that about an individual farmers, but after a point, how many farmers are scumbags and who's pointing at whom?  For the record, I heard Mr. Schmeiser speak once and found him humble and sincere - if he is as bad as Monsanto wishes he were, he deserves an Emmy or something.)  There are too many farmers sued or hushed up to take this lightly; Monsanto seems to follow the Church of Scientology's lead on pro-active suing of nay-sayers.  Now the Securities Exchange Commission has begun an investigation, of course an investigation proves nothing until the verdict is made.  Still, if their past is any indication, Monsanto's own ruthlessness may come home to roost.

Thirdly, the health implications to humans of GMO technology has not been investigated let alone proven one way or another. There are NO long term studies on any aspect of GMO pollution in our bodies or our world.  One has to suspect a supposed 'wonderful new technology' that has yet to be vetted in any way long term.  If our fears are unfounded, then allow long term testing to go forward FIRST and prove us wrong! 

And finally, GMOs are just plain wrong.  Even if you can find ways to wiggle out of the environmental damage they will surely create (see the BioAg paper above), they will fail because they can't do what they claim they can do. Already reports are in about failed harvests, harvests that fail to attain anything close to parity with existing crops  and now the new super weeds have arrived on the scene - weeds that are immune to Monsanto's RoundUp and that spells doom and gloom for this current formulation.  Monsanto's scientists are already working on RoundUp Two, or RoundUp 2012 or whatever they will call it, but it doesn't take an agronomist to see the futility of this conundrum; better herbicides equal better weeds and that's all, with ever increasing pollution and ever increasing questionable health out-comes for the planet and those eating the products of these seeds.  

It's apparent our government will not do anything constructive to at least gain us some sort of testing of this technology before foisting it on us.  The things we CAN do are limited, and imperfect at best, but we need to try to eat as little of this stuff as possible.  That means limiting our eating out to a very small select eateries that buy from small farmers that avoid GMO seeds and eating mostly from our own gardens and the gardens of our friends.  That, of course, means, we have to grow gardens - larger gardens and learn to garden for most of our own calories.  OK, so we can't do that today?  Move in that direction and keep moving in that direction.  Learn how to save seeds so we preserve the heritage seeds of the past that are free of GMO technology and will reproduce in your garden.  Gardening this way is the way we preserve a future and is the surest way to strike back - it's a duty to the generations behind us and it's revolutionary.  

We all need to eat.  I think I'm making myself a Greek salad - GMO free!


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