David vs. Goliath. Ma & Pa corner store vs. Big Box stores. These are images that resonate with all of us. As I debate between purple carrots from Johnny’s Seeds in Maine and cucumbers shaped like apples from Seed Saver’s Exchange, it is easy for me to ignore the big box equivalent of seed companies: DuPont, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer CropScience and, of course, Monsanto.
I am very happy to ignore them because every time I actively think about them I can feel my blood pressure rising. My blood pressure pounds in my ears because of GMO (genetically modified organisms). A recent article in The New York Times threw a spark onto the pool of gasoline that washes around my belly regarding this issue. The article was about the rapid rise in seed prices and the concern the administration has about the monopoly certain companies have on the seed market.
“Agriculture Department figures show that corn seed prices have risen 135 percent since 2001. Soybean prices went up 108 percent over that period. By contrast, the Consumer Price Index rose only 20 percent in that period.â€
The lack of competition means that companies can charge more and their rationale for doing so is the amount of research they need to do to create more GMO seeds. According to the article, “more than 90 percent of soybeans and more than 80 percent of the corn grown in this country are genetically engineered.â€
We insert DNA to make certain plants resistant to certain herbicides (mostly Roundupâ„¢, or glyphosate) so the farmer can spray fields without having to worry about damaging the crops. We insert genes into a plant’s DNA to make them more resistant to certain diseases because the plant itself produces its own bioinsecticide. We combine those traits together. Why not?
And the names are out of a science fiction comic book: Genuityâ„¢ Bollgard IIÂ® with Roundup Ready Flex Cotton, Genuityâ„¢ Roundup ReadyÂ® Canola, Genuityâ„¢ Roundup ReadyÂ® Flex Cotton, Roundup Ready Corn 2, YieldGard Corn Borer, YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2, and YieldGard Rootworm.
The same people who engineer plants resistant to certain insecticides manufacture those same pesticides. So you need to purchase both. It is not surprising the government is concerned about monopoly practices.
GMO plants were introduced to the U.S. market in the 1990s. I did not know they existed until I went to England and read on labels that a product was “GMO free." What is a GMO? I had no idea, but I soon learned, no thanks to our system of labeling in this country.
Corn, soybeans, canola and cotton are the plants that are the most likely to be genetically modified. Vegetable oil made from these plants (today is not the day for the hydrogenation discussion) is everywhere in our industrial food chain.
I am a fan of David, of Ma & Pa stores and of not putting a food into my body that is capable of giving off its own pesticide. I am a fan of not planting plants that could infiltrate our entire collection of seeds, breeding into who knows what (pollen doesn’t understand real estate boundaries). I am a fan of having genetically modified food labeled in this country, so that I can choose with my eyes wide open.
Until that day, I just eat carefully, and sometime my choice is one of sadness. One of my favorite treats when I was growing up was popcorn at the movies. Hot, salty, warm and perfect. Roundup Ready Soybeans â„¢ and YieldGard Rootworm with Roundup Ready Corn 2 â„¢ took that treat away from me.
Here is the article on annarbor.com.