Vandana Shiva's beautiful explanation of why GMOs suck

For many years I have been hearing her name, loving what she is all about, and a I realized recently that I am a groupie. A Vandana Shiva groupie. Watch her video and you will see for yourself!!

When I went to hear her speak live, I realized that I had never before had someone explain to me better the GMO argument. During the talk she said that giving the patents to the companies who patent seeds is like having a worker walk into a Cathedral with one red brick and then claim that they 1) own the Cathedral 2) own the land the Cathedral sits on and 3) if you copy anything that looks like that Cathedral you own the worker with the red brick a whole lot of moola.

 

Free-range lobster: Food buzzwords rendered meaningless

Certain buzzwords in the food world are almost a requirement in certain circles: organic, local, cage-free, grass-fed, and free-range jump into my mind.Borden - fish, poached egg salad

There is also a general consensus these terms are being diluted past the original intention as more people latch onto them as passwords connoting meaning to the consumer concerned about eating responsibility when, in fact, the word denotes nothing.

Let us take them in order: organic. I was not there at the beginning of the organic labeling discussions but I feel many people hear organic food and they feel the vegetables have received “healthier” pesticides or none at all. That is not true.

I learned in my Master Gardener Class that certain botanical pesticides have as much or more toxicity than their synthetic equivalent. Organically labeled vegetables can still be coated with pesticides and grown in monoculture plots. However, organic does mean the plant is neither irradiated nor genetically modified. Whether “organic” is better for you enzymatically or nutritionally is an issue of current debate.

Local

I spoke to Martin Ruhlig, of Ruhlig’s Produce, this year at the HomeGrown Summit. He shared a story about his relative who was part of a major grocery chain’s “buy local” campaign. The trucks picked up the produce in Michigan and drove it to the distribution hub in Ohio - where it was mixed with all of the other “local” produce and reassigned to their stores within range. What does ocal really mean?

Cage-free

Cage-free poultry does not mean the birds are roaming across the prairie digging bugs and running around. Cage-free just means they are not kept in a cage. It does not say how much room the girls have. It does not address that chickens crammed together have their beaks burned off so they are unable to harm each other in the cramped conditions. The process is called debeaking or beak trimming. I found a truly disturbing slideshow of conditions in a “cage-free” facility, click here for it.

Grass-fed

Hearing that term does not mean the animal has been munching on pastures for its entire life either. In fact, it could mean that the animal ate grass for a week or a couple of months before putting the animal on feed to fatten it up quickly and save money.

Free-range

Again, it does not necessarily mean animals roaming on pastures. The USDA regulation states the animals must be “allowed access to the outside.” A door opened for 30 minutes a day, perhaps. A door opened does not mean animals are walking through it to see the sun.

All of this brings me to my free-range lobster story.

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant in New England, looking at the menu with the server standing over the table.

I look up and address her, “Tell me where your meat comes from.”

“It is from a local farm, organic, free-range. They found a really old breed and it is a small herd.”

“OK, good to know.”

I pause, and still scanning the menu, say to my tablemates - “The lobster looks good.”

The server jumps in. “Oh yes, the lobster is free-range.”

I turn to her, trying not to laugh. “Really, free-range lobster, that is great.”

As people eat more consciously they rely on words to tell them information about the food. Unfortunately, many of those words do not mean what we think they do. We are being co-opted by words that sound healthy, free and humane. The vocabulary has been co-opted as legalese for a distasteful reality.

Here is the link to the article on annarbor.com

Why I stopped eating popcorn at the movies

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.”

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.”

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: Genuity™ Bollgard II® with Roundup Ready Flex Cotton, Genuity™ Roundup Ready® Canola, Genuity™ Roundup Ready® 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.