Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Chance to Derail GMO Corn In Mexico!

(Reuters) - A top Mexican government official said Thursday that the long-awaited but highly controversial approval of genetically modified (GM) corn fields on a commercial scale will drag into next year.
Only one ear of corn showing considerable diversity!

El Presidente Felipe Calderon was scheduled to approve a commercial scale planting of Genetically Engineered corn in Mexico, but now it appears he will leave office without giving the project his blessing. Incoming President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, will be inaugurated on December 1st and his aides have indicated the approval is not expected for up to five months after that date.

This presents us, the anti-GMO forces, with a small slice of time to derail this approval. Mind you, I don't know if anything of the kind is in the realm of possibility, but I do know this has got to be our goal. This task, whether or not it is possible, has got to be the focus of everyone who harbors doubts about the veracity of human meddling in the DNA of our food. Mexico is home to the birth of corn, which means it is also home to a diversity of corn that is not possible to fathom; we do not know what there is to loose.

The government of Mexico is undoubtedly being offered economic bonuses to make this happen. But they should be wary: It is the Devil's bargain. For a few pesos, the amount of money is not relevant, Nieto can sell the pride of his county into a new, and more deadly, colonialism that will bankrupt the economy and throw the pride and dignity of Mexico onto a dung heap from which it may take another hundreds of years from which to recover.

Look at the business plan of genetically modified food production. You buy the seeds (or, as a drug dealer might suggest, “the first one is free...”) and plant them. You have to also buy the inputs necessary to make that crop produce. Look who sells the inputs! Whether the farmer gets a crop or not, he (or she) must invest in new seed next year and all the attending inputs. Mexico is betting these seeds, with all the fertilizers and pesticides, will produce enough food to make the bargain profitable. It doesn't.

A fifteen year study done by the US Department of Agriculture, itself practically a branch office for Monsanto, showed that genetically engineered corn did NOT out-produce the GM corn to any real degree. So, all of those inputs and their expense, were for naught. And this is the scenario President-elect Nieto considers throwing his county's farmers into. We also know the number of Indian farmers that have committed suicide after making this Devil's deal with GM cotton. The first bad harvest, the wife takes off her jewelry to sell for fertilizers and pesticides. The second year, with no jewelry left, the families go into debt and it's a debt many cannot recover from. Is this not just a chemical process of subjugation that imitates the slavery of colonialism?

But the stakes are so much higher than that. If countries were assigned wealth according to their genetic resources, Mexico would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Corn, one of the most important food crops of our world, has it's origin in Mexico. Nikolai Vavilov identified Mexico as one of the most important centers of origin of food because of the tremendous diversity of corn. This diversity is threatened by the introduction of genetically engineered corn.

When Monsanto was asking for FDA approval for their unproven product, the genetically altered corn, they stated in their application that corn pollen was viable for five miles. This figure is important because it lets one know how far away from the genetically engineered product a farmer must be if that farmer wishes to have none of the altered genes in his corn.

The figure, like so much of what Monsanto claims, was a lie. Research since then has demonstrated that corn pollen can be viable up to twenty miles from the source, or, four times as far as Monsanto had reported. Mind you, this figure represents ideal conditions, but until we can predict conditions in the future with pinpoint accuracy, this is the figure we have to have and use.

With the diversity of corn throughout Mexico, we cannot allow genetically modified pollen to spread through those fields! The DNA of every cell of the Monsanto (and allied corporations) corn plant, is modified, or engineered and therefore the pollen's DNA is also altered and whatever qualities has been engineered into the altered corn, will become manifest in the corn of Mexico. Imagine the so-called terminator gene being let loose in Mexico! Thousands of years of corn breeding could be terminated if that pollen was let loose.

It would be far worse than all the Spanish conquistadoras combined.

It would be a scar on Mexico's soul that nothing could ever heal.

It would be the Rape Of Mexico.

We cannot sit idly by and allow this to happen.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honest Food

Ms. Honeybee pollinating a broccoli plant.
We need MORE nature, not less, in
our gardens and our farms!

Over the past decade, I've taken to calling organic and non-GMO food, 'clean food.' I've used 'clean' as my adjective of choice for seeds, plants, varieties and food, using it to meanthis food that is not the product of industrial agriculture and the multi-national corporations that support chemicals and laboratory experiments on the DNA of plants destined to become food.

Having lost a fight to industrial agriculture with Proposition 37 going down to a narrow defeat, and having seen BIG AG at work, I am now calling organic and non-GMO food, 'honest' in addition to clean.

I've not been a part of a proposition campaign before, but I do keep up on politics. I can say without reservation, I was totally blown away by the amount of lying and the dirty tricks played by the 'No' campaign! It was disgusting and the lack of enforcement against them was appalling. The final straw for me was the other day hearing a 'No' operative explain on NPR that 'people just used their good sense to defeat a poorly written law...' I could have driven off the road in disgust, because, of course, that is the truth stood firmly on its head.

There was not one whit of truth in anything they said in their $43 million campaign – and the remarkable thing, in the end, was that they lied so much and it was still so close! I do not have to reiterate each one of their lies, that has been done amply elsewhere, but there was nothing in their entire arsenal that was honest: from the Stanford professor (he wasn't) to the study that said it would increase our food bill (they paid for the study to be done to show that and the history of other countries requiring labeling disproved that by historical fact vs the so-called study's 'findings'); nothing they said was true. Which brings us to wonder why they didn't lie to us about how wonderful GMO crops are? You will note, they did not say a single word about why we even needed GMOs.... like that was a foregone conclusion.

Now, after absorbing the sting of defeat (I do not like to lose!), I have been reflecting on the history of GMOs in the US food supply and, guess what? I can't find an honest representation in anything Big Ag says and wants us to believe as far as GMO's are concerned. Nothing they are doing can be backed up by science or common sense.

  • Feed the world.... Not by lowering the number of species we depend on for food! That is the way of starvation!
  • Help farmers.... Not by lowering the number of varieties available to plant. This is another starvation trap waiting to be sprung on us... This is run up to the Irish Potato Famine game being played out in America today.
  • Feed the world, Part II... Not by ridding the world of its seed heritage and attempting to replace it with patented seeds owned by multi-national corporations that don't have allegiance to even one country; only to profit.
  • Help farmers Part II.... Not by making farmers totally dependent on seeds from a company that has no skin in the game, see above.
  • Save the ecosphere... Not by polluting the ecosphere with all kinds of poisons! What does all this herbicide do to the critters in the soil (which are the real source of fertility, not chemicals)? No one knows because no one's bothered to study it.
  • Save the ecosphere Part II... Not by killing off so many insects that pollination is imperiled by a lack of insects.
  • Feed the world Part III... The world already produces enough food for 12 billion humans, with only 7 billion on the planet. Most of the starvation in the world comes from a lack of political will to change it.
  • Our products are harmless.... Are they? We don't know that. Only now are tests being performed that will determine the veracity of this statement. And when the tests are performed, they will face scrutiny from professional scientists that are getting Big Ag grant money. Like the NPR program I heard recently about the French researcher whose work showed 80% death rate of rats fed GMOs after two years. They cut over to an American researcher who stated the study was 'flawed science' because the Frenchman used a rat that was susceptible to tumors and cancer. If the story had ended there, all listening would have come away thinking 'silly Frenchman...' but NPR went back to the French scientist and asked him, “Why those rats?” He said, “I was replicating the Monsanto study used to get FDA approval. I used the same rats they used, but I ran my study two years while Monsanto's study ran 60 days.” (Emphasis mine)  Remember, Monsanto called Agent Orange safe too.
  • They increase yields.... Ah. Except, even the US Department of Agriculture, which is practically just a different address for Monsanto, did a 15 year study that stated, “there is no appreciable increase in yield” over the length of the study. In other words, all this hype about GMO plants is all for naught.
  • No till agriculture is good for the environment.... Not if you count a loss of top soil as bad for the environment! Current agriculture practices of spraying the very life out of the soil has not produced a viable method of controlling weeds and retaining top soil.
  • We will control the weeds without labor costs.... Not for very long you won't. And this is one of the things that really toasts my bagel: No one in agriculture, big or little, chemical or organic should have believed this one at all. If you spray One Thing for a bug or a weed, in a few years, the bug or weed becomes resistant to your One Thing, I don't care what it is. Invariably, it was only a matter of time before the weeds would be impervious to Round Up. I am shocked that Round Up Version 8 wasn't waiting in the wings. Apparently, it wasn't, which makes me think that Monsanto really didn't have a clue about what they were doing. Nature evolves. Maybe they were believing the anti-Darwin factions in the mid-west. But even if you believe in Creationism for the past, you have to admit that evolution is alive and well in the garden and the farm. Nature abhors monoculture and repetitiveness. Do the same thing long enough and nature finds a way to disrupt it. American agriculture is on the verge of a horrendous collapse because of it's disregard for the laws of Nature. You can lie to us, but you can't lie to Nature.

Companies pushing GMO agriculture have nothing to show for an almost 20 year run at this. They have no outside documentation to prove ANY of their claims. None. To the contrary, multiple sources are beginning to take issue with almost everything said about GMOs.

Here's the problem: if GMOs are allowed to proliferate, their pollen spreads to non-GMO plants, inserting itself into the environment in ways that are not understood (because no one bothered to research them) and may wreck considerable havoc with our world in the future. They may not, but from the track record of Monsanto and Big Ag, I am not reassured.

Honest food, our real food, can be corrupted. We, as consumers, as eaters, as bearers of children and as custodians of the earth and the future (comes with the territory, you don't get to opt in or opt out), have got to stand up for good, clean and honest food. Our next fight with Big Ag looms and we know now that they will lie to anyone and everyone from the start to the end.

Our next round is to get Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County declared GMO-free zones: no GMO organisms can be grown in the county or the city. This will help us ensure that the plants grown here are not contaminated with the genetically altered genes and will allow us to save seeds from the past that are the key to survival in the future. They are not GMO, they are not controlled by some malevolent corporation, nor can they be.  And it will send a message to those companies that they have just begun to dig into their profits to defend against an informed populace that is mad as hell and getting madder.

More on that ahead.

I wish you and yours a joyous and resplendent Thanksgiving and hope you will enjoy the whole day with loved ones and not be seduced into the madness of Black Friday or even Gray Thursday. The tradition of Thanksgiving is to look at what we have with gratitude and humility that we should be so blessed. I wish you the peace of that gratitude and humility.