Saturday, July 25, 2015

GMOs Won't Work In the Long Term

The problem we’re facing, however, is not about lack of sustainable solutions. The problem is that Big 6 pesticide companies like Monsanto — supported by USDA and backed by the U.S. government's export-driven trade agenda — have built up an agricultural economic system that puts multinational corporations' profits above people's well-being, and locks farmers into these unsustainable practices. – Marcia Ishii-Eiteman Apr 16, 2015  in GroundTruth (

It's tough these days to be against genetic engineering of our food. Articles in Slate and The New Yorker make us look like looney fringe nut cases and the House of Representatives voted by a large margin to ban labeling of food that have genetically altered ingredients in them. It's bleak. Science, they tell us, is against us and we are just paranoids.

However, I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of this bad press seems to have rolled off the same printer – there is a remarkable consistency through all of this that seems to look like one source fed these writers – that their research was something akin to calling up Monsanto and saying, “Do your GMO crops produce more?” And publishing Monsanto's answer with Monsanto's test results and calling that science.

Just like calling up the tobacco companies and asking if their products caused cancer and getting their 'no' answer and quoting their studies that prove that their cigarettes did indeed not cause cancer. In other words, a lot of what we are reading about the success of GMO crops is paid for by the biotechies pushing the stuff. And when you get a study that proves them wrong, they go after that researcher, not by refuting the research, but by slandering the researcher and attempting to ruin his or her career. It takes more guts than most people have to see their careers ruined and their name dragged through the mud, ergo, not much research disparaging genetic alteration gets very far along.

Thank God, in recent months, glyphosate has come under scrutiny. That is a shining chance to thwart at least that segment of genetic engineering. Not only is it a carcinogen, as declared by the World Health Organization, but touted as appearing in such benign places as mothers' breast milk as reported by Moms Across America, who noted that their sample of women were aware of GMOs and had worked for some time to avoid GmOs. Of course, the herbicide has been used to dry out grains like wheat (which s not commercially genetically altered) after harvesting, so simply avoiding GMOs will not stop glyphosate in your diet. In addition, testing showed considerably more glyphosate in the mothers' urine samples – way over what was found in the urine of European mothers in a study conducted in 2013. Now several counter studies to the breast milk study have responded indicating that the MAA study was wrong, but of course, Monsanto can buy (and has bought) favorable test results in the past, so who to believe? When there is any question about research, I like to trust those who aren't benefiting financially from the results, but who is that? Please note the MAA study is only preliminary but the World Health Organization's findings have got to be accorded some significant weight.

Those of us familiar with the lying nature of Monsanto are not surprised that the biotech giant has lied (and continues to lie) about glyphosate, the main ingredient in their popular Round Up weed killer. Remember they told us it was not only benign once in the soil, but also that it did not persist in nature; both claims are obviously incorrect. Did they somehow just overlook these facts or did they consciously lie about them? Take your pick, with Monsanto's track record on DDT, PCBs and their lies about those and other products, I'll believe the latter. If corporations are people, Monsanto should be placed on a lie detector.

But honestly, we do not need to argue these facts with all the biotech apologists and paid off cronies. We have a bigger truth that they cannot assail.

GMOs will lead to inevitable starvation in those countries that use them as the primary source of their food..

That is the simple honest truth.

It is provable that we have far fewer varieties of plants on our store shelves today thanks to the GMO boom and it will only get worse. It is this loss of genetic diversity that will be the death of us. Instead of having a robust variety of different kinds of the same produce, there are only a few genetically altered varieties to work with. Our acres and acres of corn are all planted with very similar genetic varieties. This means a pathogen that can attack one field, can attack many fields and suddenly you have a destroyed corn (or soy or whatever) crop. Prices go up – poorer folks suffer disproportionately, hunger in America.

To the labs creating these 'new' varieties in their labs, this is seen as a boon. After all, they can find the flaw in the pathogen and GMO a new variety that resists it and have more products to sell. But in truth, that becomes a new marketing gimmick – a new variety every year making investors and the company richer.

Conventional breeding would breed a different way. First off, we'd have many varieties in the field and some would be resistant and would find more people planting it next year. Conventional breeders would attack the problem in a different way. Genetic alterations of a crop operate in a specific way called “vertical” breeding – one trait is changed for the crop to survive. The one gene variation is easy for a given pathogen to circumvent. Conventional breeding happens “horizontally” and is much harder to thwart by a given pathogen. These are generalizations and there are exceptions, but generalizations tend to become generalizations because they are more often than not (and by a margin) true.

This was the genesis of the Irish Potato Famine. The blight attacked the two kinds, genetically similar, of potatoes grown in Ireland and these potatoes were the only food that most of the Irish peasants depended upon. (Before some one calls to me task for oversimplifying it, I know the “God sent the blight but English brought the famine” but this is an article on crop diversity, so please forgive me, we can deal with the famine another time). The same thing could happen here in a heartbeat. We are one of the most food insecure societies on earth because of our current dependence on genetic engineering. This will only get worse if Congress continues to take the biotech money and biotech lies and allow our health, our environment's health and our food diversity to continue to deteriorate at the alarming rate it is currently.  

Mind you, this is only one of many reasons we need to move away from the genetic engineering option to the traditional way of breeding new plants and also move away from the massive amounts of pesticides we use to grow our food.  

It has felt lonely these last few days, fighting the genetic alterations of our food. But the end game of this is too big to loose!  If we do not save our varieties of seeds and continue the tradition of saving our seeds from the big bullies, we will find our food supply locked up by the corporations and then what do we have?  We all wish to eat.  

Let it be healthy food, not patented and laced with poison or contaminated with genetic engineering. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Sad Day

Only minutes ago we learned that the US House of  Representatives voted to pass the ironically (or cynically) titled Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.  This measure has been called by people who really support accurate food labels called the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.   (The actually vote tally can be found at this site, which also tells which representatives voted for it and which did not.)

The discrepancies lie in whether or not you believe that people have a right to know what is in their food.  This act repeals all local laws on labeling in favor of a non-existent Federal law that will never be implemented by at least 275 representatives are bought and paid for by the bio-tech industry.  There is no other reason to deny Americans the rights enjoyed in most of the first world as regards the ingredients in our food. This is an outrage against the American process and a travesty against the American people.  In the past, pre-internet, perhaps such a vote could be swept under the rug, but hopefully today, we have enough people who understand the severity of the problem to push back - to make this vote too expensive to justify.

This was pretty discouraging news.  It was a blow to so many people who believe that genetically engineered food has already come too far, too fast, with too little oversight and find this race to stuff it down our throats without telling us about it is misguided and plain stupid.

"Well it's safe," we are told.  The only source for such assurance of safety are from the manufacturers who have a financial (big financial) stake in this stuff making back some of the millions of dollars they have invested in it.  The biggest player in this market is Monsanto.  You are aware, of course, that Monsanto made PCBs and lied about their safety.  You are aware, as well, that Monsanto created DDT and lied about it's safety.  They were complicit in Agent Orange - and you'll recall their were heinous side effects in that. So this is the company that is saying it's safe.  The US governmental agencies, when they say it's safe and only taking Monsanto (and the rest of them) at their word.  There is no independent US governmental testing here.  I'd like to point out, that even after poisoning the world with DDT and PCBs, Monsanto continued to do business and continued to make money and was not fined or aggressively prosecuted in any of those events. So "it's safe" to Monsanto doesn't mean a thing to us.  ALL those tests we hear about on genetically modified plants were done by scientists, directly or indirectly, on payrolls supplied by the biotech industry.  

And, if you'll allow a digression, in not one of the campaigns for labeling did you hear the anti-labeling forces say any good things about genetically engineered foods.  Their campaigns against labeling were frauds based on some study that said the labeling laws would raise the cost of food by $250 a year - then after the election we find out what we suspected was true - it was a phony think tank, a phony study and they paid the electoral fine for being a liar and walked away with a victory.  In campaigns through out the west, we say state's laws on campaign finance blatantly disregarded and flaunted without a flinch and the fines paid without a whimper as they walked away with another victory.  

You can easily see why one would think Congress was simply bought. Anyone who has taken an objective look at the process of genetically altered food and how it is grown does not think it's a solution to any real problem in the world - in fact, it actively contributes to the problems in the world.  Genetically altered plants, provably, use more water, more pesticides, more fertilizers (both of the latter are dependent on oil), create more groundwater pollution and are horrifically anti-environment (Iowa and other centers of farming will soon be rendered worthless for growing crops because of the abuse of industrial farming and adding in genetically engineered plants is simply "industrial farming on steroids").  

The problem is the whole world cannot be bought.  Our markets abroad will continue to shrink as America imports organic corn from abroad to sustain those of us who will not eat genetically altered food at all and other countries continue to oppose any genetically engineered product for their people.  

More Americans will read labels more closely and labels that simply say "corn, soy or sugar from beets" will not be purchased even if they don't have GMOs because those are the three crops that are mostly on the shelves of our super markets.  We already as a matter of habit avoid all food grown in Hawaii because of that states poor health record on GMOs and pesticide spraying.  

We believe that the only way to be food secure in any region is to be seed secure.  We believe that seeds should never be patented and "owned" by any one - certainly not by a rapacious corporation.  We believe that non-hybrid seeds should be saved by average citizens and these same citizens should be able to protect their seed from infection of genetically altered pollen.  We believe it is immoral to own life - and seeds are alive.  We believe we have to save the seeds that feed us and carry on the tradition of our ancestors in being keepers of the seed and allowing this diversity to persist and be passed on to our children.  

We move on now to fight the DARK act in the Senate.  There is little hope that, despite campaign pledges to the contrary, President Obama will veto this heinous crime of a bill against the American people.  Please contact your senators at once and ask them to please vote no on HR 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.  

Do it for yourself. Do it for your children.  Do it for the environment.  Do it for all of us.