8/13/2011

Food Fears


It's hard to put your mind around the battle going on between organic (and non-organic) farmers, and the big giant, Monsanto. It would seem at first glance, that all are agricultural-based, and would have common interests. There's the rub.

On one side are the folks who grow your food and want to make a reasonable profit for their family farm. On the other, a giant multi-national corporation that is dedicated to creating products for maximum profit, at the expense of whatever gets in their way. You think I'm making this up? Simply do a Google search for, "Monsanto sues farmers" and check this link, too.

The bottom line is this. Monsanto creates genetically modified seed, which they patent and sell to large-scale production farmers, often called, "factory farms." The seed includes a gene that is specific, such as the Round-up Ready® gene that allows the farmer to plant corn seed, and once it emerges, spray the entire field with the herbicide, Round-Up® and all the weeds are killed, while the crop is not. Sounds groovy, right? But here's the problem. The genetically-modified seed with the added gene, can replicate itself. Not only can it replicate, it does so readily. The pollen can drift into nearby fields, onto organic farms, into your backyard. Monsanto has been aggressive in testing nearby fields of farmers who are not using their patented seed. If they find the genes of the genetically-modified seed in a neighboring field, they sue that farmer for patent infringement, even though the farmer never planted Monsanto's seed, and could not have prevented the Monsanto gene from jumping the fence and contaminating his crops. Through no fault of their own, the farmer gets sued for the contamination that came from a Monsanto-planted field. That's like someone comes along and dumps a pile of garbage in your front yard, then sues you because it's on your front lawn!

Sound like something out of George Orwell's "1984"? It's worse than that. Big Brother is not only watching you, he is feeding you and if you don't eat what he provides, destroys your means of eating anything else. The courts have upheld Monsanto's claims. Imagine being a little farmer, making a small living of $30,000 or $40,000 a year off your organic farm. Monsanto steps in and sues you for half or three-quarters of a million dollars for infringement - all because their pollen blew across the fence into your field. Do you have that kind of money? Do you have a few hundred lawyers on staff, like Monsanto does? Of course not. Monsanto wins the court battles and you're out of business.

Why does this affect you and why should you care? Because Monsanto's herbicide-ready seed, winds up in your corn flakes. It's in your bread, it's in the coating on your fried chicken and in those soy products you love to eat in place of meat. It's also in the honey you buy and the rice you cook.

Here's a very interesting story about what's happening in this struggle between farmers and the Big Giant bully. It gives an update on how organic farmers are combining resources to try to preserve their rights to grow organic food, without the fear of Monsanto trying to squash their operations. The link I'm guiding you to is Wood Prairie Farm's website, where I buy my seed potatoes each year. They're a nice family with an admirable organic farm in Maine. Their newsletter on the website is worth reading.

What can you do? Buy locally from your farmers market. Avoid buying genetically-modified foods if you can (unfortunately, foods like corn flakes, bread and soy products are not required to tell you if their products contain genetically modified ingredients). Why does it matter? Because there has been virtually no testing to see what happens in our bodies once the genetically-modified organism is ingested. The old adage of, "you are what you eat" comes to mind. Do you really want herbicide-ready genes bouncing around in your body, doing who knows what? I know I don't want that.

Read the comments section of this post and you'll see the fight is going on in New Zealand, too. And it's also being waged in India where Monsanto tried to make a deal with the government to regulate the sale of herbicide-ready rice. Imagine, a country that has grown rice for a thousand years as food, with people saving their own seed from generation to generation, having to buy only approved and over-priced seed from Monsanto or risk sanctions and fines! Fortunately, for now, farmers have been able to stop this from happening with their rice. Here in the U.S., people are more docile and more ready to eat whatever is put before them and organic farmers continued to be sued for "patent infringement" when pollen blows into their fields from somewhere else. 

11 comments:

Cottage Tails said...

WAY scary. here in New Zealand we are trying to stay GE free.
http://www.declarenzgmfree.co.nz/

Love Leanne

Terra said...

I appreciate your post with a good summary of what is going on with Monsanto and the small farmers. There is lots of organic produce grown in my area, I am happy to say, and of course, our own garden.

Sweet Pea said...

Hi Jim, I found you through Leanne at Cottage Tails.
I have share your post with my readers. Keep up the good work!

http://lifeisapumpkin.blogspot.com/2011/08/what-are-you-eating.html

Anonymous said...

I wrote a paper on this situation for one of my classes, and there were people in the class who flatly refused to believe it. They said "It's impossible, it couldn't happen." Well, guess what...

Susan Albert said...

Another scary thought, Jim: that a corporation controls the gene pool for the major food crops that feed the globe. That kind of power hold the possibility for corruption. Every time I plant the seed of an open-pollinated plant, I think: here's something you DON'T control, Monsanto!

Greg Traver said...

Jim,

What an exceptionally informative (and scary article) Monsanto truly is the essence of an “Evil” corporation, where the profit-ends justify the means. With such a vast reach and influence, from the fields of the heartland to the halls of the White House, it may not be not be possible to stem the tide of the destruction the Monsanto has wrought on our land for years to come. Hence the critical urgency for more to become involved in growing our own food that is not only safe but nutritious as well. Thanks for championing a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

Jan Johnsen said...

Back in the early 1970s I wrote a piece called 'What's happened to Farming? What's happened to Us?' and here we are.....the USDA favored big agribusiness over small farms and the result has been the destruction of our farming culture...Now on to destroy the plants and soil....

Hillary Rettig said...

greetings from Boston; referred here by Dan Krotz...this was a terrific article and Susan's comment is spot-on.

Jim Long said...

It's encouraging to see the comments you've written. Spread the word, send out a link to this blog post, this isn't a local issue and it's not going away. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Jim, What you're saying is true, but the "next generation" of genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops is looming. I believe the release date is 2012 for Dicamba (Banvel) and 2,4-D resistant soybeans and corn. Given the high driftability of Dicamba and the ester formulation of 2,4-D,and the susceptibility of any number of broadleaf crops and ornamental plants to these growth regulator herbicides, this seems to be a particularly irresponsible and dangerous choice on the part of Monsanto. The plan in place to protect nearby fields and homes from drift damage is woefully inadequate. I am particularly amazed that grape growers are not up in arms about this, since grapes are like coal mine canaries for these chemicals. Any stray molecule of either raises Cain with grapes. Illinois was once a major grape producing state, but lost most of its acreage during Prohibition, and never recovered because of the introduction of widespread use of 2,4-D on corn soon after its repeal. With greatly decreased usage of 2,4-D in recent years, the grape industry has begun to return to the Land of Lincoln. This new technology is designed to be used on millions of acres throughout the Cornbelt and beyond. So far, this news has been soft pedaled, mainly to receptive conventional farmers, so that no one in the general public seems to know it's happening. Brace yourselves because this train seems to be unstoppable at this point.

Rhonda Daniels said...

Spot on Susan and Anonymous! As someone smack dab in the middle of Illinois corn and soybean fields (husband and co. farm about 800 acres these days) I know first hand what farmers are told about Monsanto's products. Those of us that don't care to be contaminated are portrayed as freakish, or hippies, or scaremongers. After all, Monsanto is just trying to make things easier for farmers to produce bigger and better yields to feed the world, right? That's they would have us believe, and many farmers do because Monsanto is everywhere. They sponsor clinics, farm events, they're at the feed dealer, in your Ag magazines, and mailbox. I am always glad to see the smaller local seeds-men selling non GMO crop seed...for whatever good it does in these parts. As for grapes? We haven't had any in a few years. They get hit by spray drift every year...