Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are GMOs the Answer?

Demand Organic. That’s the latest campaign of the Rodale Institute, founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale. If you look around your book shelf you may find you have a Rodale book or two – they are prolific in their promotion of organic gardening and healthy living. Or maybe you’ve read Organic Gardening, the best magazine out there for those of us trying grow things the way nature intended if nature intended to be corralled in a garden.

My oldest son recently wrote a paper in defense of GMO farming practices. I, of course, was pretty horrified. But after talking about it, he admitted he was only going on the stuff he’d read in class. I offered more information and he told me that was interesting but the paper was due tomorrow. Hmm. When I read his paper he made some very valid points about how difficult it is to feed the world’s growing population. He felt that genetically modified foods were the only solution. They aren’t. In fact, besides being potentially hazardous to our health (there are no long term studies to prove otherwise), they increase our dependency on individual companies and set us up for world-wide famine in the case of a crop failure.

If, for instance, we convince 100 farmers in a desperate region in Africa to plant a particular gem of a GM seed and then that seed turns out to be a health hazard, what then? Or, if those farmers plant that GM seed and are then obligated to use the same company’s pesticides and fertilizers to protect the seed and stimulate its growth, they strip the land of what little nutrients were present in their soil to begin with and create a dependent relationship with that seed company. Farmers can’t save the patented seeds produced by the crop they grow, and even if they did they are dependent on buying even more fertilizers and pesticides to make their soil capable of growing anything. Sure those seeds produce a massive harvest, but over time all those chemicals create some awfully screwed up, sterile soil. It may be a short term fix, but it won’t last over the long haul. Plus all those fertilizers and pesticides run off in to the water supply or are carried off in the air supply and they will slowly poison not just the planet, but us. That’s just one scenario. I’m certain I’m only scratching the surface of the potential dangers of depending on GMO food to solve the hunger crisis.

The Rodale Institute has been carrying out the longest-running US Study comparing organic and conventional farming techniques and has helped to train soil building farmers all over the world. Their methods work and they won’t kill us in their effort to feed us. I trip over my own words too much in my efforts to explain all this and I don’t completely understand all the methods of organic farming, so I’d love it if you would check out Rodale’s website so you can get a first rate explanation. I don’t have the answers; I’m just trying to raise awareness. Rodale has done the work and they’ve been doing organic since way before all of us wannabes got started, so they are your best source.

Besides learning about how organic farming methods can teach the world to feed themselves, you can learn lots about how to grow your own organic food and demand organic products in your own community.

Here are five things you can do to help promote organics:
1. Buy organic and local whenever possible.
2. Give an organic gift.
3. Don’t buy GMO food.
4. Ask your local markets to carry more organics.
5. Speak up to your friends (and your family) and explain why you prefer organic and local products.
6. Learn more so you can speak intelligently. Visit

OK, that was six things. I always have too much to say. Here’s my last request – Don’t accept the status quo. My son’s textbook and classroom teacher told him that GMO food is the answer to our future food crisis. But it’s not the only answer. When people say, organics are fine for rich people, but they will never work for the general population, call them on this because it’s bullcrap (sorry, it just makes me angry). Our ancestors survived and thrived on organic farming methods. It wasn’t until someone showed up with a Star-Belly On machine that we Sneetches decided we needed to change the way we were growing food. Just because something is new and glossy doesn’t make it better. Doing the hard work of caring for our land, rather than just spraying something on it, may make us tired, but haven’t we learned by now that the easy way is not always the best way?

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