Thursday, September 17, 2009

Genetically Engineered Crops and Homesteading

Last evening, Robin and I attended a lecture by Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer who was taken to court by Monsanto for the contamination of his Canola crop by GE genes. He talked about the imminent danger of sustainable and organic agriculture by contamination with GE genes.

According to patent law, the patent holder -- in this case Monsanto -- owns everything with its genetically modified gene in it. This would include other species of plants, and animals, plus their products, that have been contaminated with the GE gene.

What surprised me was that GE Canola, can cross pollinate into other varieties of plants within the brassica family, such as mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, even into organically grown crops. In fact the cross contamination is so probable that European scientists deem that there can be no certified organic seed grown in North America that is not already contaminated with Genetically Altered genes.

The solution for organic farmers in North America seems to be a change in the tolerance level for GE seed, rather than the official designation of GE - free zones which could then be seed growing areas. I find this alarming.

Another surprising fact was the research that shows that the GE gene continues in the muscle tissue of animals that ingest the GE plants, grains or seeds. That milk from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is contaminated with the GE gene. That meat from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is also contaminated. That eggs from poultry fed GE grains is also contaminated. The logical extension is that if I eat eggs, milk, meat or vegetables contaminated with GE genes my own body also becomes contaminated with the GE genes.

But the danger is more imminent. In canola the GE gene is two fold -- a bacteria that is used as an antibiotic is the gene that is inserted into the plant's germ plasm, and the vector used is a cauliflower mosaic virus, a known mammalian toxin. Rural residents living on the prairies, who breath in the antibiotic laden pollen from GE Canola, have developed antibiotic resistant infections -- superbugs. The Canadian prairies are windy and pollen travels a great distance. Think of the implications.

While the media sells us the imminent, fictional dangers of the pandemic swine flu, they are silent to the real impending dangers of antibiotic resistant infections breeding in our plants due to GE. Wow, I had no idea that genetically engineered crops were so dangerous environmentally, socially and in terms of human health.

What about livestock health? Well, it appears that what isn't fit for human consumption is fed to our chickens, sheep, cattle and goats. The farmer isn't even told the extent of GE contamination that is in a bag of feed. No wonder BSE, Johnnes, and other autoimmune diseases are rampant in the livestock in North America.

At Joybilee Farm we feed a diet of whole wheat and whole oats, mixed, along with loose minerals, kelp meal and free choice grass and hay. To our knowledge there is no GE contamination in the food that is given to our livestock. But since no labeling of GE food is required in Canada, we can't really be sure.

Percy said that 80% of all food in the grocery store is GE food. If it contains milk ingredients (whey, milk, milk solids, lactic acid, lactose), canola, cotton (fiber, seed meal, seed oil)(MacDonald's french fries are fried in a combination of cottonseed oil and tallow), or corn products (starch, oil, meal, or syrup)(Most soft drinks,cookies, desserts, and candies contain corn syrup) then it is in all probability contaminated with GE genes. Growing all ones own food and ensuring, as far as possible, that the sources are nonGE may be the only way to avoid GE foods in Canada.

Even buying certified organic products are no longer a guarantee that you are avoiding GE foods. Organic has to do with the way a plant is grown and not the genetic information in the seed stocks used. Check out the tortilla chips that you make your nachos from. If it says "organically grown corn" instead of "certified organic corn" you are consuming GE corn when you eat them. In all probability there is no GEfree corn left in North America, including Mexico, where the indigenous diet is maize based.

Its a crime against the people of Canada, the US and Mexico, that Monsanto has been allowed to do this with the support of the courts. There is no law that protects the people of Canada from the dangers of GE food. Labeling is not even required. And farmers found to be growing a GE crop, (where the GE crop has contaminated their nonGE fields) have been forced to pay extortion fees to Monsanto, to avoid expensive court battles that could jeopardize their livelihoods. Monsanto is protected by patent law while their victims are forced to pay.

Further, plants have been genetically altered to produce drugs -- contraceptives, blood thinners, blood coagulants, and heart medications are all now being grown in the fields. Its cheaper to grow it than to produce it synthetically in the lab. Contamination of our vegetable crops by cross pollination is a real danger. Will that broccoli on the table cause a pregnant woman to miscarry or a recent surgery recipient to hemorrhage?

The most likely crops to be genetically engineered are maize, canola, soybeans, and cotton and milk (in the US). However, pineapples, papayas, kiwis, bananas, flax, and a GE wheat has been developed and is awaiting approval.

Should GE wheat be released into the environment it would be the end of all grass farming. GE wheat would contaminate not just wheat but oats, barley, spelt and even rice and wild grasses in North America. A very scary probability. I will be writing my MP to ask him to help pass legislation that will prohibit the growing of GE wheat in Canada.

Last week, GE flax was inadvertently found in a shipment of Canadian flax seed destined for the EU. GE flax has not been approved to be grown in Canada since 2001. How did the GE flax get into a shipment for export? Canada is the world's largest exporter of flax seed, with 70% of the Canadian crop destined for Europe. This has terrible financial repercussions to the flax industry. The shipment was rejected and Canadian flax has been banned from the EU. The price per bushel dropped $4 last week -- just as the harvest is being brought in.

Flax is self pollinating, 98% of the seed is fertilized before the flower opens, making cross pollination unlikely. But contamination can happen when the crop is combined, or at the place where the seed is stored. But it remains that the GE flax has not been approved for planting in Canada, so we wonder how it got there? A professor at the university of Saskatchewan, Alan McHughen, was working under contract to Monsanto to develop GE flax. He gave the seed, without authorization, to some students and asked them to have their parents plant the new variety of flax seed, without releasing the information that it was a GE crop. Although the seed was recalled, not all of it was returned. Once a GE seed is released into the environment it is impossible to contain it. Seed is a living entity.

Health Canada recently approved Monsanto's eight-trait GE 'SmartStax' corn without any health safety assessment. The danger is imminent to the environment, the future of seed safety, and our food sovereignty. It may already be too late.

2 comments:

  1. Great news for you on the GMO front! Federal Judge rules against Monsanto’s GM sugar beets, mentioning USDA failures. Read http://twitter.com/fredkzk/status/4320223934 or http://bit.ly/9KD6v

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  2. Thanks for the link. That's great news.

    ReplyDelete