Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) advocates are seriously worried about our planet’s bio-diversity. Here is a report from the recent MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse.
As a small boy I used to go out to the fields at the end of the road where I grew up and examine all the beautiful winged insects that landed on the wild prairie. I could spend hours doing this, trying to get close enough to a butterfly to check out the patterns on its wings, listening to the humming of different sizes of bees. When I was next door looking at the radiator on old man Brown’s antique car, I was horrified to see a mangled Monarch caught on the web of metal.
The realization that our civilization was in direct conflict with nature had a lifelong impression. I learned that our lives are governed by choices. We can choose to engage in commerce responsibly and with as light a touch on all the organisms as can be arranged, or we can just drive ahead and knock down out of the air anything unlucky enough to be there.
At the recent Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service Conference in La Crosse, I attended a seminar on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It helped me realize that the automobile may not be the worst thing knocking beautiful insects out of the air. The butterflies are not even getting the chance to fly because genetically modified seeds are flying all over the planet. These seeds are our attempt as food producers to control a situation we seem to not understand.
I’ve come to believe that weeds, insects, and other enemies of our crops are out of balance because we are out of balance. Mono-cropping (planting a single crop) of large tracts of farmland attracts unnatural concentrations of bugs and other destructive organisms. Our mistake is to try poisoning them with Round-Up, atrazine, and 2-4-D (Agent Orange!) rather than address the unbalanced system causing the problem in the first place. With the intense chemical soup applied to kill the hungry hordes, we are creating superbugs and weeds (through resistance building), which spread into neighboring fields, forests, streams and lakes.
Willy Street Co-op has been participating in, monitoring, and appreciating the work of the Non-GMO Project for years. We share their desire to have manufacturers label GMO ingredients in their products. We feature many products that they certify. We wish more companies would sign on. The steady march of the GMO business model is based on patents—patents on seeds, patents on chemicals… essentially, patents on life itself. It is documented that winds can cause GMO seeds to drift and infect neighboring plant communities. As time progresses the GMO contaminated area grows, and eventually the battle to contain the GMO agricultural model may be lost.
At the seminar in La Crosse, I learned that GMO contaminants have been detected in plants like wild mustard along roadsides (infested by nearby GMO canola), and that nearly all organic fields near GMO fields show some invasion. Major chemical companies like Monsanto are winning in courts when farmers try to sue to maintain the purity of their crops. Insects that feed on plants infected by GMO pollen that has wind drifted onto nearby vegetation (and it could be miles away!) are now testing positive for GMO DNA. Some of these are now resistant to pesticides, meaning that it is taking stronger doses of chemicals to kill them.
In Thailand, Bt cotton has invaded non-GMO cotton, and non-GMO papaya has also been compromised by GMO varieties. In the Philippines, Bt and Round-Up Ready maize has spread into non-GMO crops, and the story told in the international press.
Though Southeast Asia is on the other side of the world, I consider our own bio-giant Monsanto from innocent little Decatur, Illinois a major force behind the push to only farm genetically modified organisms and eliminate their smaller, more diverse competition. Even our neighbor to the north is being affected.
The organic wheat and canola fields of Saskatchewan are all experiencing the same thing.
People from Canada at the MOSES conference shared their experiences with GMOs at home. When you have the wind at your back and the courts on your side, you are in great shape if you are a GMO pollen grain. And I have not even touched upon GMO alfalfa. I met farmers who maintain nice organic stands without GMO seeds and they could not see why there was such a need to develop GMO versions of fruits, vegetables and grains.
In the European Union many countries are getting stricter on GMO activity. Bavarian honey farmers raised concerns that their honey could no longer pass purity standards because the bees were flying into Monsanto fields. Bees collect pollen and they do not discriminate which flower they land on. If they fly into GMO crops, it is just another flower to them, but their honey is no longer organic. Research is underway around the world that hints at a link between GMO DNA and nervous system disorders and even cancer.
Please do your own reading on the subject, since we are all in this together. Check out the following websites: www.nongmoproject.org or www.nationalorganiccoalition.org.
The Co-op will continue to educate Owners and shoppers about GMOs, source the best foods we can find, and ask our American food companies and the USDA for clear labeling of GMO ingredients in food.