The book Ecospasm, by Robert Radin, my podcast guest this week, takes science from today’s knowledge base and plays it forward. He uses the science of GMO seeds, systemic pesticide use and explores possible consequences for our future food supply through fiction. If you missed the podcast on 3/6 you missed a rich discussion concerning unintended consequences.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blogs to understand the details of our big agriculture system and its use of GMO seed and the use of systemic pesticides. It seemed confusing to me. John and Ocean Robbins conducted a GMO summit in 2014. I thought the speakers, the research available astounding. The more I learn about soil and soil health, watch reports about health concerns, these articles still seem relevant. (You can access these articles right here on my blog page. The category list has GMO and you will find several articles, speakers, scientists, farmers etc. with valuable contributions.)
Ecospasm, a sci-fi environmental thriller, plays it forward, a science-based idea of what could happen based on the choices we make for product development. Maybe as the author suggests, we should try to play it forward. What are the consequences for future generations? Sustainability means we are using enough regenerative practices in farming to ensure our future generations have enough and can do the same and so on.
GMO’S: The Science and The Myths: Part 7
Today I would like to share reports and information coming from farmers. These are real-time farmers working the land and livestock, producing crops and meat the rest of buy and eat. What have they observed with the advent of genetically modified seed crops? Bt corn was the first to be introduced in our food supply of which a huge portion went to livestock feed.
In the GMO summit, I heard Howard Vlieger share his research and observations when GMO’s were first introduced to farmers around 1994. Howard serves on the board of directors for the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) and The Food Freedom Foundation.
Farmers began to notice when Bt corn in the feed was introduced to livestock, the livestock shunned the GMO feed over the non- GMO feed. Also, he states that in a non-scientific manner where livestock and wild animals were given the choice between the two feeds, they consistently walked away from GMO feed.
Howard along with Judy Carmen and colleagues conducted the first scientific study involving feeding GMO grain to some hogs and non-GMO grain to other hogs for their entire lifespan. Here’s what they found in GMO feed hogs:
- Their uteri were larger
- They weighed 25% more than non- GMO fed hogs
- Had severe stomach inflammation: in fact in young males, it was 4x as high.
- This study confirmed that GMO feed is related to digestive and inflammation problems
In the soil we see other problems with the use of GMO crops and pesticide spraying:
- They extract minerals, chelate them which decreases the amount left for plants uptake.
- Last year Iowa experienced a severe drought. Droughts decrease soil microbial activity and decrease soil aggregates which basically loosens the soil structure.
- The GMO fields, in the same area experiencing two days of heavy rains, suffered terrible erosion. The non-GMO farmed fields did not. They held up well with two days of intense rains.
Are the crops we grow healthier with the use of roundup ready seed and systemic pesticides sprayed on these crops? Mr. Vlieger states that contrary to what these chemical companies would have farmers believe, they are not. They are more susceptible to funguses and therefore the use of fungicides on crops has increased. These products have created a generation of superweeds and now Monsanto, Dow, for example, are looking for other more potent pesticides. They are seeking approval for application to the farms with superweeds. and they want it ASAP.
Also, the FDA keeps raising the allowable limit of glyphosate to meet Monsanto’s demand.
Finally, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic in 2010. Remember in a previous post I mentioned that glyphosate is not given by itself but with adjuvants to help drive it into the cell? Ampicillin is one of the adjuvants. Today it has been estimated that 880 million pounds of this antibiotic have been put on the ground. Wildlife, livestock, our pets, and humans are ingesting small amounts of the pesticide, with the adjuvants such as an antibiotic, now found to be present in our food and water supply. The photo to the right shows an aerial view of an extensive Iowa farming area.
Dr. Seneff in her interview during the summit series mentioned that butchers are finding the livers of cows so badly deformed they are not offering beef livers in our supermarkets. And their intestines are so thin they cannot use them to stuff sausages. Check out sausage ingredients. I did. I am seeing on the ingredients label: “in a natural lamb casing” Did you know that that very casing comes from NON- GMO fed sheep in New Zealand?
Howard Vlieger is from Iowa and is a part of the Council for Healthy Food Systems.
Farmers have first-hand knowledge of these problems. I hope you will join me in supporting our local farmers’ efforts to create biologically and organically healthy farms and livestock. Check out your state’s farmers organizations and find out what they are doing to grow safe food. Remember farmers markets are great for our communities but some farmers who come to these markets do use roundup ready seed and spray pesticides. I ask questions if I do not see any organic signs by a vendors booth. I hope you will too.
Description:” Genetic engineering of plants goes awry, corrupts the food supply and invades the human genome, threatening the extinction of the human species, mother’s grieve over infants who are dying from mysterious illnesses, never- seen- before by medical science. An unusual love story. Famine and human Cannibalism appear imminent.”
His story begins: “Plants have stopped producing nutrients, the food supply is collapsing. A small group of scientists led by plant geneticist Dr. Bill Harrison race the clock to rejuvenate the world’s dying food chain.” Intrigued? I hope so …join us exploring a different twist to a serious possibility.
About the Author: Robert Radin: B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. M.S. and Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from The George Washington University. Ten years experience in U.S. Government research laboratories, including Naval Research Laboratory. Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biophysics and Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute.
Podcast Transcript:Transcript Robert Radin
Sharon McCamy is a friend of mine, a passionate organic grower and farmer’s market vendor in Virginia. She wrote this article for examiner.com. She articulates the issues I have also noticed with farmer’s markets. When I shopped at them I noticed only one or two vendors at most offered organic foods. When I questioned other vendors, I observed defensive and flippant answers about the use of pesticides, roundup ready seed. I stopped buying corn which as a New Englander is one of my favorite summertime treats. Farmers are planting roundup ready seed, then spray their fields with roundup. Do you want pesticide residues in your food? Sharons’s article is thoughtful and well researched. Enjoy. Judith
How Green is Your Farmer’s Market? by Sharon McCamy
“It’s almost time for the local farmers’ market to open and isn’t that wonderful? Well, yes. The popularity of rs’ markets has been on the increase in the last few years, and this trend isn’t showing any sign of slowing down.
Of course, we all know that farmers’ markets foods are the healthiest. Or are they?
Isn’t most food at a farmers’ market organic or non-GMO?
Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. And that should be a concern for all health-conscious consumers. Consumers who go to the local farmers’ market may assume that everything in the market is organic.
Local may mean fresh and it may mean quality, but it does not mean that food is raised without synthetic pesticides or without use of genetically modified ingredients. More often, it probably means that the food is raised with GMs and with synthetics.
A 50 pound bag of chicken feed is $16 at the feed store, whereas a 50 pound bag of non-GMO feed is $20 or more. And organic feed is often $30 plus. Poultry must have grain and cattle need supplementary hay in winter if a farmer doesn’t have adequate pasture (it takes 3 acres to support a cow and calf without additional food). Organic hay is almost impossible to find.
Many small operations cannot afford the cost or the time-investment to go organic or to go Non GMO.
So consumers who don’t want GMs or pesticides may go to the local market and see wonderfully fresh food—all the while getting to know their local farmer who will smile at them and tell them how the animal is humanely raised on fresh pasture, but who won’t say a word about the animal being fed genetically modified grain in order to produce the milk, butter or eggs.
This is a tough issue. Supporting local food has value for many consumers. But those same consumers, according to market trends, prefer food that is produced organically or without genetically modified content. And if needed resources were available organically at an equivalent cost, it’s likely most farmers would choose organic and non gm over “traditional” resources. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Farmers’ markets are everywhere, and they’re packed. In fact, they’ve seen dramatic growth in the last five years. Some are well-established, some are new efforts by entrepreneurs, and interestingly, many are located near local hospitals, initiated by those with a focus on health who want to see consumers making better food choices.
And farmers’ markets are frequently touted as the best source for healthy food, because the food is locally produced, with the thinking that consumers get the freshest food, and the healthiest food, from a farmer they know. Foodies who support the local food trend have given this trend the name “Locavore.”
A Takepart columnist wrote a article earlier this month about “local food” becoming the “new organic,” arguing that organic certification doesn’t count any more; that it’s more important to buy local. But a focus on “local” alone ignores many aspects of the food production chain, and doesn’t acknowledge the depth of the problems in our food production system—such as how incredibly hard GMs and pesticides are to avoid for the average farmer. Is that grass-fed beef given non-organic hay laced with pesticides in the winter? Is the pasture sludged every few years? (This is a common practice in many areas that results in fields and grasses laced with trace heavy metals.)
The average consumer at the farmers’ market does not know to ask these questions.
Farmers’ markets are indeed wonderful sources for local food. Unfortunately, too frequently consumers who are concerned about toxins and GMOs, who want certified organic and certified Non-GMO, are not given adequate choices at local markets.
A recent survey of farmers’ markets in the Washington DC metropolitan region showed that only one market requires certification for all its vendors. That’s Eastern Market, the oldest market in DC. Interestingly, it is considered the toughest market for any vendor to get into in the Mid-Atlantic region. At Eastern Market, all participating vendors are required to have certification to even be considered.
But for the majority of area local farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic area, and indeed throughout the US, especially those markets managed by municipalities, certification is not a criterion for participation.
An interview with a recently retired government official addressed how markets are managed by local governments. Her answer? They’re usually managed by Parks and Rec, and are considered to be a public service, not a profit- making entity. When asked about goal-setting, the retired city manager said that the primary goal was “to keep everyone happy.”
In recent years, as markets have become popular, space in high-volume markets are coveted, and often market managers who work for municipalities tend to focus on local farmers who “show” well , or who are well established in the locality at the market. If one vendor provides honey or jams, another vendor with the same—even if organically certified—may not be able to “get into” the market—because competition would be bad for the local vendor. This is in one aspect not bad—it shows support for local agriculture and provides continuity. But it limits options for local consumers.
Today’s consumers are increasingly health-conscious. Food products that are produced according to organic production standards, or without gmo’s, are valued—so much so that Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is getting into “affordable organics,” according to their announcement last week.
Organics and non-GM foods have seen double digit growth in the last decade. Certified organic foodis the major growth trend in the food industry. If this were not the case, Walmart would not be putting enormous focus into providing affordable foods that have organic certification.
Market season is here, and farmers’ markets are tremendous fun. But consumers need to be aware that their fresh eggs, milk, and butter may be full of GMOs and trace pesticides—even though the foods are from the local market.
What’s a consumer to do? Do a lot of research, ask good questions, and don’t be satisfied with generic answers. Know that 98% of all farm operations in the US use GM feed. Value those farmers who do get certifications, because they are providing evidence for consumers. And send the market managers a message that certified organic and non-gm foods are a valued and desired option.
Consumer demand can make the difference. After all, the main goal of the farmer’s market is to “make everyone happy.”
At some point we have to talk politics. I have included several sites in recent posts that have petitions ready to be sent to our lawmakers. At the TEDX Manhattan talks I
listened to the speech of Representative Chellie Pingree from Maine. She’s a farmer, an innkeeper, has a CSA and a politician serving her state for over 20 years. I found her talk to be inspiring on this critical subject that’s even broader than just policy. Look what the other species on this planet are showing us. Bees are dying mysteriously and pollinate a tremendous number of crops. The Monarch Butterfly’s population has drastically decreased. Where’s the food they need to sustain their long migration pattern? Milkweed sources in particular have declined as our wildlife habitat areas have declined and that decline is related to the use of introduced genetically modified seed into our food supply and pesticides on our crops.
What is the hottest trend in food today? People want sustainably grown food farms, organic, and want to know where our food is grown. Restaurants are showcasing these points on menus.The best tip though is that we can make a difference. Watch this video for facts, figures, and a bit on the farm bill ( I liked her honesty, it’s not perfect).
Lastly, she reminds me : “Are you standing up” for better quality food, better growing practices, truthful labels, the elimination of pesticides in our crops and on our crops? Contact your representative or senator today. What aspect of our food system are you concerned about? Start there.
Watch this video, become an informed consumer who casts a vote with every food dollar we spend.
Inspiring, concise, truthful facts and it’s political.
Enjoy your day. We can make a difference.
Andrew Gunther is another passionate speaker about the problems in our food system and what can we do to fix it.
1. Our current agricultural system is broken. It truly did not start out that way but he reminds me how drastic these changes are and that they have occurred in a frighteningly short period of time.
2. We made and make systems that are livestock are not designed to live in.
3. The volume of manure from these animals is killing our land. Poo piles from intense livestock crowded areas creates a huge increase in nitrogen and phosphorous which leads to dead land. This is happening at an alarming rate all over the world.
In particular, North Carolina is running out of land due to huge poo piles from farmed raised pigs. They are running our of room to collect and spread the manure from intense pig farming occurring in that state.
“The nearly 812,000 hogs on factory farms in Bladen County, North Carolina produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Chicago and Atlanta metro areas combined.” ( http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/hog-waste-is-dragging-north-carolina-through-the-manure/)
4. We create and use 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics for humans. Did you know we create and use another 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics on our livestock? Is it any wonder we are resistant to antibiotics and have seriously limited their effectiveness especially obvious when treating serious diseases? Couple this with the use of roundup ready seeds with antibiotic attached and then roundup spread on our fields that contain antibiotics. Millions of pounds are being applied to our fields, ingested in our food, given to our livestock contaminating food, water and air.
I went to TEDxManhattan talks, at a local viewing site recently. It was fantastic. Andrew Gunther is one of several outstanding, passionate speakers I heard.
Sobering, insightful and inspirational. Tell me what you think. Thanks.
GMO: Non GMO’s: 10 online resources to keep up to date on legislation and what is happening to our food system.
In doing the research for these past several blogs on GMO’s: the Science and the Myths I came across several organizations that are dedicated to the cause of changing the way we think about our connection to food, how is it grown, what chemicals are used and the amount that seeps into our food, animal and farm safety and the health consequences for all species. I chose 10 for today’s blog but there are many more grass roots efforts. Many courageous folks are in our school systems whether parents, school board members or teachers who are growing gardens, changing menus and contributing to educating our children about what good wholesome food really is. In one of Jamie Oliver’s webcasts he demonstrated that some of our children who depend on fast food have no idea what fresh vegetables taste or look like.
We are making a difference but it is up to us to make that difference. Again I urge you to sign petitions, let our lawmakers know we have the right to know what is in our food, really.
- The Non-GMO project: www.nongmoproject.org: gmo news, enter in a product and see if it is non GMO
- The Center for Food Safety: www.centerforfoodsafety.org: good resource for current information on food safety; petitions to sign; informative and relevant newsletters, fact sheets etc.
- Cornucopia Institute: Cornucopia.org: advocate for ecologically produced, small family farms and agriculture;
- GMO Inside: htt://gmoinside.org: We have the right to know what’s in our food; helpful information; action petitions; news
- Check out your state’s mission on these topics. I currently reside in New York and have included some of the legislature up for vote. GMO Free New York: gmofreeny.net: their mission is to inspire and empower New Yorkers to help us get Assembly bill A. 3525 ( Rosenthal) and Senate Bill S.3835 (LaValle) which mandates the labeling of genetically engineered foods offered for retail sale in New York – passed by 2014.
- Vindana Shiva: navdanya.org: activist in the fight to grow food from farmer owned seeds not corporate owned seeds and making a huge difference in India.
- Ocean Robbins: the Food Revolution network: foodrevolution.org
- Organic Consumers Association: organicconsumers.org: great articles
- Simple Bites: http://www.simplebites.net/10-tips-for-sustainable-eating/ practical helpful knowledge that reinforces the fact that we vote with our food dollars.
- The Institute for Responsible Technology: responsibilitytechnology.org founded by Jeffrey Smith, one of the anchors for the GMO Summit along with John Robbins and Ocean Robbins.
The momentum is building. We are making a difference. I hope you will sign petitions and lend a hand to promote the changes we seek.