Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a term that is relatively new to our lexicon. GMOs were approved for use in Canada only in 1995. In this article we will explore and answer the following questions:
What are GMOs?
Who grows them?
Where do they exist?
Why we should say No!
Genetically Modified is Defined as:
“The introduction of new traits to an organism by making changes directly to its genetic makeup, e.g. DNA, through intervention at the molecular level. It’s also called genetic engineering or GE. With genetic engineering, scientists can change the traits of plants and animals by inserting DNA pieces, whole genes, or long stretches of DNA segments from many different organisms. These sequences can also be taken from the same species or be newly made up. Scientists can also delete or swap DNA sequences in organisms or introduce genetic material to silence genes.
Unlike conventional breeding and hybridization, genetic engineering is a laboratory technology that enables the direct transfer of genes between organisms in different species or kingdoms that would not breed in nature, and the introduction of new sequences that do not even exist in nature.”
Seed Types Available to Farmers:
Organic: GMO-FREE seed cultivated without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or sprays and certified by a third party agency.
Non-organic: Seed cultivated in any other manner, with or without chemicals.
Heirloom and open-pollinated: Organic or non-organic seed that can be saved by the farmer for planting the following year. A Red Brandywine Tomato (Heirloom and open-pollinated) seed will produce a Red Brandywine Tomato.
Hybrid: Organic or non-organic seed which has been crossed to form another variety, either by nature or by breeders which have been selected for specific traits, in order to create a desired variety. Seeds can be saved and planted the following year, but the resulting plant will be unknown, as the seed could hold the genes for any of the ‘parent’ plants or be a completely new hybrid. Most commonly, hybrids are created by breeders for specific disease resistance or plant vitality.
GMO: Non-organic hybrid seed that, in a laboratory, has been infiltrated with specific genes. It is illegal to seed save, because of patents and royalties by the company that owns the intellectual property.
La Ferme de l’Aube: In 2016 we grew 98% Heirloom and Open-pollinated varieties in order to be able to save our seeds. As a trial for the purpose of determining vitality, we grew 5 organic only hybrids. Because our growing practices are veganic, these saved seeds are then considered veganic.
Types of GMO Crops:
Main GMO Crops Grown Worldwide: Corn, canola, cotton and soy.
Grown in: United States, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada.
Percentages: 99% of all GMO-GROWN acreage worldwide are the above four crops.
90% of all crops are grown in these five countries.
13% of worldwide arable land is used for GMO crops.
87% of arable agricultural land is GMO-FREE.
Other GMO Crops: Alfalfa
Sugar Beets (100% of sugar beet production in Canada is GMO.)
Squash and Eggplant (in limited supply)
Seeds are Genetically Modified to be:
HT or herbicide tolerant for corn, canola, soy and cotton. The most common herbicide used is Roundup Ready (glyphosphate).
BT bacillius thuringiensis treated (insect resistant) for corn and cotton. Insects targeted are the European Corn Borer and Corn Rootworm and Cotton Ballworm.
GMOs in the Food You Eat and in the Clothes You Wear in North America:
Processed Foods: It is possible that up to 70% of processed food containing corn, soy, canola and cottonseed (oil) is genetically modified.
Included are corn chips, corn flakes, soy milk, tofu, vegetable oils, etc…
There are currently no laws requiring food makers to label GMO ingredients in these products.
In the case of organic, or GMO-FREE VERIFIED, there are no genetically modified ingredients.
All non-organic animal products: Milk, eggs, meat and factory-farmed fish who are fed grains or alfalfa are eating genetically modified grains-100% guaranteed.
All organic products: Corn, canola, soy (like tofu, soy milk) and cottonseed are 0% GMO crops. But, organic farmers do use ‘organic’ cow manure and ‘organically-approved’ chicken poop from animals who are fed GMO grains. It must be noted that organic farmers are not breaking the cycle of genetically modified crops completely, even though the majority ardently oppose it.
Raw fruits and Vegetables: Papaya, squash, sugar beets(100%) and eggplant (a very small possibility) are the only produce in this category that are genetically modified.
Cotton Clothing: Those imported from India, Pakistan, or southeast Asia are most likely produced using GMO cottom.
La Ferme De l’Aube: We do not use any animal manures or animal products on our farm. We do make our own vegetable compost, some of it from the fruits and vegetables we buy from the grocery store. So, even our compost would have a small amount of GMO traced grains from the manure fed crops of the organic vegetables we buy off-season. It’s everywhere and prolific, so much more than any of us realize.
Why We Need to Say NO!…
As a veganic farmer who saves his own seeds, it is very important to me that said seeds are true to type.
Soy and Corn: Even though insects, like bees, can carry the pollen from one field to the next, there is little problem with a soy contamination, in particular, because the soy flower is a perfect seed. However, in corn, pollen can travel by wind of up to one km! So if a neighbor is growing GMO-CORN and that pollen disburses on my field, then my ability to save true seed is greatly jeopardized. Even worse, I won’t know until the plant produces ears one year later!
Wheat, Tomatoes, Potatoes and Flax: Currently, there are companies experimenting with genetically modified versions. I grow these GMO-FREE crops and save the seed. Should these seeds be marketed, my crops would be in danger of contamination.
The Big Three: Monsanto (now Bayer-Monsanto), Syngenta (now Chemchina-Syngenta) and Dupont (now Dow Chemical-Dupont) all brokered mergers in 2016. These mega companies, whose philosophy is profit first, everything else second, create these genetically modified seeds. Yes, I oppose huge companies or anyone patenting seed. Seeds form the basis of all life and unless we go back to a gatherer lifestyle, seeds used to grow the food we eat are second worldwide in importance after water!
Herbicide treated and pesticide treated seed create super bugs and super weeds: In the past I have used organic insecticidal soap to try and kill the aphid population. It worked to some degree, but was not 100% effective. The aphids who resisted, expanded and became immune to subsequent spraying. The same is true of BT corn and cotton. Eventually the insecticide will not be 100% effective and a new formulation will need to be man-created and then another and so on.
The same is true of herbicide (Roundup Ready) treated seed.. There are already main corn, soy and cotton growing areas where resistance to glyphosphate weeds exist. Monsanto has created a dicamba resistant genetically modified resistant seed, which is a stronger herbicide than glyphosphate. And when that is not 100% effective, which it will be, they will create another.
Toxicity to Humans: The data on whether or not GM foods are toxic to humans is inconclusive, simply because these foods have not been around long enough to make this determination. GMO industries continue to make unsubstantiated claims that the pesticides and herbicides and the GM crops themselves contain ‘no risk.’ And because their motivation is profit first, just like those who told us cigarette smoking was fine for our health, I choose not to believe them.
Companies spend millions to block GMO-Labeling laws. In 2012, in California, Proposition 37 was tabled with a view to labeling foods as genetically modified. Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer, Coca-cola, Pepsico, General mills, Kellogg’s, Dow, Cargill, BASF and more of the like donated 25 million dollars in opposition. Blitzing ad campaigns in California precipitated the defeat of the bill 53-47. If genetically modified foods are so amazing and the inevitable future of our food, then why not promote them? Why not write on the package of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes or Coca-Cola Classic, ‘proudly made with Genetically Modified ingredients?’ Why not let us decide? I suggest to you that there is a very compelling and obvious reason.
Ferme de L’Aube: We do not use herbicides or any insect sprays. We hand weed, when necessary, and let nature do the work in managing insects. Nature will always find a way to strike a balance, but if we spray or use chemicals, even if the claim is that the chemical is only moderately toxic to insects, reptiles and small mammals, it means that some are being killed and not able to partner with us. If there is an insect that is causing wide damage, we do hand pick them off, but more likely another insect, amphibian or bird will come in and nourish themselves or their babies.
Final Reflections from a Veganic Farmer:
The more man intervenes and manipulates, the more problems will arise. We have created antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans and, as a result, have been obliged to create stronger antibiotics to fight these bacteria. This has led to antibiotics in our water supply, a huge problem in terms of the health and well being of all life on this planet.
Now we are creating super weeds and super bugs in our food supply, again relying more and more on man to create what will end up being a short term solution with wide ranging negative effects. Even though this technology exists and attempts by the bio-engineering companies to create other GM-Seeds continues, the growth of the industry has stagnated. People are waking up and are unsure about whether or not GMOs are good for us. For sure it is not good for nature or the environment, because any amount of herbicide and insecticide is too much for the non-human world.
The good news is that we do have a choice, both individually and collectively, despite the fact that our North American governments are pro big-business. We can choose to buy only organic products. We can eat a large percentage of our diet as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and grains, milled corn being the exception. All of these foods are NON-GMO, whether they are organic or not.
And as always, the best choice is to be vegan.
Being vegan means we: Take the extra time to research all of our buying choices.
Look for products that are the least exploitative.
Consume only what we need.
Can be close to 100% GMO-FREE.
If you have any available balcony, garden or small plot space, grow your own! Use veganic methods, buy NON-GMO open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. In doing so, you are completely breaking your dependence on those that wish to control nature. There has been an ANTI-GMO campaign since the beginning days of genetic modification development. Our outspoken advocacy is making a difference. Like all things, one by one, we can change the world.
For an informative read, please click the link. Many of the facts noted here were obtained from said article.
Annie’s Vegan View
May all beings be happy and free.