Tag Archives: Monsanto

March Against Monsanto: May 25

March Against MonsantoIf you haven’t heard, a global initiative is underway. People all over the world who care about what they eat and the future of the earth will March Against Monsanto on Saturday, May 25, to demonstrate their concern about the global food supply.

Marches are planned on six continents, in 49  countries, totaling events in over 370 cities. In the U.S., events will occur simultaneously at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time in 47 states.

I’m marching in Michigan to take a stand against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which can threaten people’s health and longevity, as well as biodiversity.

To learn more about initiative, read the mission statement and press release.

Interested in marching? Find a city near you.

Keepers of the Seed

You’ve probably heard a lot about Monsanto and its drive to continue producing  GMOs and pesticides. But what is its impact on a person’s livelihood? It can go as far as suicide.

The Perennial Plate recently went to India and interviewed environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva on the reality of these issues. Watch this video called “Two Options” to learn more about Dr. Shiva, a farmer named Bija Devi, their network of seed keepers,  and their fight to preserve heirloom seeds in India.

Deserve to Know It’s GMO: March Against Monsanto on World Food Day

Sure, it may be six months away but it’s time to plant the seed (no pun intended) so you can organize or attend an event in your area.

MillionsAgainstMonsanto.org is organizing a march against Monsanto on World Food Day this year, October 16, 2011. Their goal is to reach 2,300 supporters in 435 local chapters for a nationwide day of action, turning out 1,000,000 people against Monsanto in support of our right to know, and choose, what’s in our food.

Monsanto produces genetically modified (GMO) seeds, which many people believe are harmful to our health, and possibly the source of numerous diseases and food allergies. (Read about their stance on the topic on their website.)

The Organic Consumers Association has provided a list of local chapters so you can find out how to get involved where you live. To find out more about the march, check out this YouTube video produced by the Organic Consumers Association.

And if you can’t make the march, how about signing a petition requesting that “all food packaging should clearly identify all non-organic ingredients containing soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa or GM growth hormones with a label or shelf sign that says ‘May Contain GMOs’ and identify all meat, dairy, and eggs that come from CAFOs [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] with a label or shelf sign that says ‘CAFO.'”

Demanding mandatory GMO labeling worked in the European Union. Let’s make it happen in the United States!

GMO Alfalfa: A Lose-Lose Situation

A hot topic in the news you may have heard about recently is the deregulation of Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready alfalfa, which shows the Obama Administration’s lack of support for small farmers and food system reform.

What this means is that genetically modified organism (GMO) alfalfa has the ability to contaminate both conventional and organic alfalfa fields. For conventional growers, contamination prevents them from exporting because many markets outside the U.S. won’t accept GMO crops. For organic farmers–especially dairy and beef–contamination of alfalfa can make it difficult to find GMO-free feed, which is a requirement under organic rules.

While USDA Secretary Vilsack had suggested a “co-existence plan” requiring geographic buffers between fields planted with GMO alfalfa and conventional or organic fields, the compromise was reportedly overruled by the White House.

I subscribe to emails from Michael Pollan, which is where I first heard the news about the GMO alfalfa. Pollan claims, “In my view, Round-Up Ready alfalfa is a bad solution to a non-existent problem. Alfalfa is a perennial grass that doesn’t suffer from serious weed problems. In fact, ninety-three percent of alfalfa fields receive no herbicide at all. Which I suppose is fortunate for any farmers who plant GMO alfalfa, since Round-Up itself is well on its way to obsolescence, as weeds resistant to the herbicide proliferate around the country; I’m told that farmers in Iowa are already having to resort to hand-weeding to control weeds that no longer respond. So why is the Administration willing to risk damage to both organic and conventional agriculture to promote such an unnecessary product? Ask President Obama.”

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), said, “We’re disappointed with the USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice. The USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”

The CFS sent an open letter to Secretary Vilsack, calling on the USDA to base its decision on sound science and the interests of farmers, and to avoid rushing the process to meet the marketing timelines or sales targets of Monsanto, Forage Genetics, or other entities.

Biotech Beets Uprooted–For Now

Here’s some news from The Huffington Post: “A federal judge has revoked the government’s approval of genetically altered sugar beets until regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food.”

Really? Somebody’s getting the message in the federal government?

The ruling means sugar beet growers won’t be able to use the modified seeds after harvesting the biotechnology beets already planted on more than 1 million acres spanning 10 states from Michigan to Oregon. And further plantings won’t be allowed until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) submits an environmental impact statement, which could take two or three years.

Monsanto developed the beets to resist its popular weed killer, Roundup. Farmers have embraced the technology as a way to lower their costs on labor, fuel and equipment but the Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club have been trying to uproot the biotech beets since filing a 2008 lawsuit.

“Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety’s executive director, hailed Friday’s decision as a major victory in the fight against genetically engineered crops and chided the Agriculture Department for approving the genetically engineered seeds without a full environmental review,” reports The Huffington Post. “Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto,” Kimbrell said in a statement.

Genetically altered sugar beets provide about one-half of the U.S. sugar supply and some farmers have warned there aren’t enough conventional seeds and herbicide to fill the void. The scientific seeds account for about 95 percent of the current sugar beet crop in the U.S.

“The value of sugar beet crops is critically important to rural communities and their economies,” the Sugar Industry Biotech Council said Saturday.

Organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups contend genetically altered crops such as the sugar beets could share their genes with conventionally grown food, such as chard and table beets.

Europe Authorizes GMO Corn

Last week The New York Times reported that the European Commission (the executive arm of the European Union) “approved six genetically modified corn varieties for import to the bloc, another sign of its desire to speed decision-making on the controversial technology.” That means Europe can now import approved corn varieties from countries like the United States, Brazil, and Argentina.

The approvals are for both food and animal feed produced by biotech companies such as Dupont, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, and Monsanto.

Previously, the EU had a zero-tolerance policy toward imports with unapproved, genetically modified material. But, according to the Times, “the commission granted the approvals unilaterally after E.U. farm ministers failed to reach a decision on the applications in June.” EU governments have been deadlocked on the issue.

“The commission has said it will propose a small tolerance margin for unapproved material in imports later this year, but until then the only solution is for the Union to approve varieties individually for import,” reports the Times.

Looks like Big Ag has won another game. When is the tide going to shift?

Back to Basics with Heirloom Tomatoes

Last weekend, while strolling around the Holland Farmers’ Market before the Saturday morning Chef Series, I visited Gordon Stannis and his daughters, who were selling heirloom tomatoes. In fact, their business is called Heirlooms.

Heirlooms are plants that were used before modern agriculture came along with GMOs (genetically modified organism), of which the majority are owned by Monsanto. (Isn’t that a monopoly?)

For purists, seed saving is the way to go. In fact, the Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. 

Besides, how else can you buy Sweet Pea Currant tomatoes?

Even though my garden is pretty full already, I couldn’t resist adding one more tomato plant to my row. I bought a Sweet Pea Currant and look forward to the non-GMO flavor these tomatoes add to my salads this summer!

Monsanto’s Roundup Catastrophe

Where Weedkiller Won't Work (map via The New York Times)

Watch for higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs, and more pollution of land and water, says The New York Times, since American farmers’ “near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.”

Also known as glyphosate, Roundup has led to the spread of Roundup-resistant weeds across the country. As shown in the map above, at least 10 species of these weeds have infested farmland in 22 states since 2000.

It’s just like our antibiotic story: Organisms naturally evolve to defeat what originally kills them. But that’s not the only problem. Roundup is made by Monsanto, which also produces seeds for Roundup Ready crops–genetically engineered plants that are tolerant to glyphosate. Such crops allow farmers to spray their fields to kill the weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. And, Roundup Ready crops are patented. In fact, Monsanto has a lot of control over what we eat in this country, and throughout the world. If you eat soy beans, it’s likely they’re a Monsanto Roundup Ready crop.

Roundup was introduced in the late 1990s and was well received because it kills a wide range of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact. Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States. 

However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds. Roundup-resistant weeds like horseweed and giant ragweed are forcing farmers to go back to more expensive techniques that they had long ago abandoned. Unfortunately, that means using more herbicides to tackle the Roundup-resistant weeds.

Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington was quoted in The Times saying, “The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture when they’ve always promised, and we need to be going in, the opposite direction.”

Looks like we’re in a pickle.

[See what Michael Pollan says in a debate about the topic posted on the “Room for Debate” page of The New York Times.

Thanks a Lot, Monsanto

More disturbing news again in the world of GMO (genetically modified) corn: A study by the International Journal of Biological Sciences reveals that agricultural giant Monsanto’s GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats. Way to go.

To read the whole article, check out The Huffington Post.

Monsanto: Seeking Control of the World’s Food

I happened upon this documentary, “The World According to Monsanto”, on the Sundance channel today.  It’s a must-see if you care about what you eat.

Here’s the synopsis from Sundance: French journalist and filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin examines the dark and troubling influence of American chemical and biotech giant Monsanto. Her incendiary film documents a corporate legacy of greed, death, poverty and illness –from the creation (and subsequent cover-up) of Agent Orange and the spread of PCBs to Bovine Growth Hormone and patents on genetically modified seeds. In parallel with her charges, Robin also charts Monsanto’s political influence and its unsettling relationship with the Food and Drug Administration.

If you can’t see the documentary on Sundance, watch it on Google Videos.