GM(N)O THANKS

Energy Medicine

I had never been to a homeopath before.

The idea of a medicine that works beyond my physical body, on my spirit has always appealed to me, and is certainly something I’ve attempted to do on my own through meditation and prayer.  But after 5 years of just not getting better under the conventional health care system, or eating perfectly…- I’ve become aware that there is more to my health than what xrays, or stool samples can tell me.  When I walked into my new homeopath’s room  last week it started me on a new journey- one involving me, but also involving the way I perceive a fair number of things.

I’ve been reading about what some might call “energy medicine” .  I’ve been learning that in energy medicine you can work not only on healing existing illnesses but also towards helping yourself recognize illness as it develops, so you can prevent illness from happening.  In easier terms- be pro-active.  And I’ve been thinking: the conventional food system and conventional health care system are not very different.  In the conventional health care system we wait until we have the cancer to treat it.  Many of us do not cut our stress, or overworking until the doctor tells us to, until the cancer shows up, and we have proof- there is the tumour, you can see it, can’t you feel it?  And then we ask ourselves the question- how long have we felt it?

We have the ability to sense illnesses long before they arrive and intensify. This intuition is certainaly not a practice central to conventional doctors and nurses- but it seems to me that it should be- and it seems to me that conventional food system is quite similar.  We eat things that have been grown disregarding humans, animals, soils, cultures, and more!  Foods travel miles and miles, ending up in the hands of stock brokers and the economy, and also, somehow, in our bellies.

What about our spirits in all this?  Are we supposed to be nourished, sustained, and healed by food that is grown in such chaos?  Are we supposed to wait until “planet earth” cancer shows up on the tests before we react?

I don’t know about you, but I sense what is happening with our planet beyond the things that have been “diagnosed”.  There are much larger things happening to us, our bodies, and our surrounding ecosystems that perhaps still are unannounced. That said, a lot of information is out there, problem is, it’s drowning in the dollars of multi-million dollar corporations, and the gambling of the stock market.  

Do we admit that our planet is being over-run by thieves; will we change things before this entire planet has cancer?

Spirituality and GMOs

One rather large and very spiritual argument is the one about GMO foods- for human consumption, for nature, and for “God”. The movement in opposition to GMOs is growing- including farmers, churches, students, health care providers, scientists, and more.

This growing number of people are avoiding the ingestion and growing of GMO foods. I am one of them, and perhaps this post will inform you as to why.

If you don’t know about GMOs I’d suggest doing your own reading as it is well worth your time, but I’ll try to give a summary.  Genetic Modification is a special set of technologies that alter the genetic makeup of organisms such as animals, plants, proteins, or bacteria.  Genetic Modification combines genes from different organisms (known as recombinant DNA technology), and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered,” or “transgenic.”  For the first time in history, humans are delving into something that nature has never done and would never do on it’s own,  something that the average go could not do in his basement: combining DNA from different kingdoms.

I have often talked to people who think that hybrid means GMO- if you’ve ever thought that, erase that from your mind!  Hybridization is a process in which plant breeders cross breed compatible types of plants (ie. 2 species of carrots) in an effort to create a plant with the best features of both parents. Hybrid is an important thing to remember when talking about seed-saving, but that’ll be another blog post…

So GMOs do something that nature doesn’t do (and that I think, nature doesn’t like).  And to add insult to injury, of course these technologies just happen to be patented, owned, and distrubted by wealthy corporations such as Monsanto – you know, those guys who created Agent Orange?… the highly toxic herbicide used to wipe out Vietnam’s food crops and kill hundreds of thousands of people during the Vietnam war…?  A bad start to their touted “life-improving” work in agriculture, I reckon.

Anyways, essentially there are two kinds of GM plants: ones that eat poison, and ones that produce poison.  In the case of Bt Corn, one that produces poison, the genes of a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are inserted into the plant genes of the corn.  Bt is a naturally occuring pesticide that has proved to be very useful in controlling a certain type of pest- and through inserting it right into the DNA, it has aided in controlling these pests without pesticides.

Perhaps it sounds harmless, but Jeffrey Smith,  a leading anti-GMO activist seems to have quite a lot of data as to why it is just the opposite. This week I went to hear all about it during his talk at the U of G on “The Documented Health Risks of GMOs”.

I arrived a few minutes late while Mr. Smith was deep into the story of what is known as the Pusztai affair.  (for in depth info check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81rp%C3%A1d_Pusztai).

The background information on Árpád Pusztai is that he is a Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist who spent 36 years at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a world expert on plant lectins,and has authored 270 papers and three books on the subject. In 1998 Pusztai publicly announced that the results of his research showed feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats had negative effects on their stomach lining and immune system.  He announced that Europe should not not allow Monsanto to use the public as guinea pigs, and that he would never choose to eat GMOs.  Within a few hours he received a call from the UK Prime Minister’s office, and within a day he was fired, gagged, his annual contract not renewed, and his research withdrawn without following protocol.

At a conference a week or so before the gag order on Pusztai was lifted,  Monsanto’s consultant Arthur Anderson described how he had created a plan, targetting the ideal future of Monsanto executives for the next 15 years which was that 100 percent of all commercial seeds in the world would be genetically engineered and patented.

Another speaker at the same conference predicted that by 2004, 95 percent would be genetically patented.

(my jaw dropped when I heard that…)

It probably would’ve been true if the following didn’t happen.

The gag order was lifted on Pusztai.  Within a month over 700 articles were written in the UK alone on the dangers of GMOs, the inadequate testing of GMOs for human consumption, exposing truths about Monsanto, and more.  Ten weeks later the so-called “tipping point” was achieved.  Unilever, followed by Nestle, followed by all the leading food companies in Europe said no more GMOS in their European lines, (not their North American lines) all because of the public outcry.  This is the main reason why the extension of GMOS has been limited to 9 crops and so far, one animal: soy, cotton, canola, corn, hawaaii papaya, tobacco, sugar beet, and a small amount of alfalfa, and squash.  The animal is the zebra fish which was approved since not used for human consumption but rather as a pet. 4 of these GM crops are grown in Canada: sugar beet, canola, soy, and corn- but many more are consumed, and a large number are on the waiting list to be approved for growing such as GM Salmon, and GM alfalfa- both of which could threaten the non-gmo populations of their kind to extinction.

And most don’t know how widely those 9 foods have penetrated our food system, our grocery stores, our homes, and our bodies. Genetically Modified Organisms are present in many of the things we eat- not just soy milk and corn chips-  but everything from food additives, meat, eggs, dairy, honey, sweet corn, crackers, table salt, sugar, vinegar, bread,  and more than 60 percent of all processed foods have GMOs in them in some way or another, unless certified organic.  In many countries around the world labelling is mandatory for all GMO products, but not in North America.

Jeffrey Smith asked all of those present to raise their hands and indicate how often we avoid GMOs at the beginning of his talk.  The room was full of a few students, quite a few (mennonite) farmers, and other community members.  Only a few raised their hands indicating they avoid gmos 80-100% of the time.  By the end of the talk, that changed, and all but one in the room lifted their hands when asked again “what percent of the time will you avoid GMOs”.   Call it evangelism, or perhaps- a no-brainer.   Mr. Smith showed every study that has been done on GMOs for the health of the soil, plant, animal, and human- corroding mouse stomachs, suicide stats of Indian farmers, GMO’s found passed mother to child in fetal blood, stats on the bowel disorders of north americans (like me!), info on how nutrients are chelated (bound) in the soil to never be released, and other studies- all of which I would love to share but would make this post pages and pages long.  (If interested I can send you the audio file of the talk!)

What I found most interesting, however, was his talk of the “tipping point”.  

Jeffrey Smith said, “Imagine you are the marketing manager of the leading food company of Canada.  Let’s say you see a drop in market share of any product, and you can identify the cause as the growing resistance to GMOs (just as Unilever once did in Europe)- that becomes a food industry sell signal.  There are no consumer benefits of GMOS.”  Animals, when given a choice, choose non-GMO feeds.  He said that all we need to do is convince 5 % of the population to stay away from GMOs 100 percent of the time.  He said it could be easy because 5 % are already concerned about their food choices, that for once this could actually be about preaching to the choir.

So if you are in the choir, keep singing the praises of real food, attempt to cut out GMOs altogether, and at the potluck, when someone asks why you’re not eating the corn chips, be prepared to talk a bit about GMOs. 

Also, please, write as many letters to your MPs about GMO labeling as you can, and sign all the petitions you can to stop GM Alfalfa and other transgenic crops from being allowed in Canada.

That was part 1.

Enviropig


My adventures in GMO-land didn’t end there.  Later in the week, I decided to attend a talk called “Is the Transgenic Enviropig ™ Biotech an Organic Strategy” by Dr. Cecil Forsberg, the inventor of Enviropig himself.

Enviropig is one of many genetically modified animals that are waiting to be approved for the marketplace. The idea with Enviropig is that for confinement hog operations it could eliminate a need for adding a phosphorus based supplement, reducing the amount of phosphorus waste from hogs, and reducing the costs of the supplement.  The pigs are modified to produce the enzyme phytase which gives them the capability to digest plant phosphorus more efficiently than regular pigs.

Before the talk I took a quick homeopathic remedy for anxiety, and said a little prayer.

Imagine a mad stuttering scientist from a sci-fi film, or Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake- that was Dr. Forsberg.

In complete opposition to the “documented health risks of GMOs” talk I had been to earlier in the week he started his talk saying, “There are no documented health risks of GMOs”.

He also said, “I am a firm believer in an organic strategy”, showing a slide of healthy looking organic crops, and noting that the major problem with organics is the need for more labour than in conventional farming.  He then looked at the students in the room and commented how most kids want to leave the farm, and that this is something technology can address.  

He’s right, we have a shortage of farmers- but I happen to think that technologies that allows us to amalgamate all the rural farms of Canada would be last on my list as a solution.  

During his presentation he talked of the existing GMO crops and animals, and their benefits for farmers and society.  It was all very similar stuff to what you might find if you google Monsanto and check out their website.   He touted the genius-ness of injecting poisons into crops so that we no longer have to spray them, and the coolness of the florescent zebra fish sold in pet stores to kids.  He also went on a short rant of why we should trust the CFIA and the FDA saying, “I have seen how regulators function within health canada, and within the FDA, I would say they do a damn good job, and that they keep a person’s feet to the fire.”

Of course, he didn’t comment on any of the studies showing the contrary, the fact that neither the FDA or CFIA require any studies on what happens to GMOs once they enter the human body, or about the fact that the FDA has board members who “used to” work for Monsanto. Check out: Grist

I’m not sure how he arrived at this conclusion, but his final slide read like this:
Organic agriculture + transgenics = efficient organic agriculture.

I had to laugh.

Anyone who knows anything about Organic Agriculture knows that it stands to work against the private ownership and environmental destruction of the planet. The Rodale Institute has an excellent article called the “Ten Good Reaons why Genetic Engineering is not compatible with Organic Agriculture” Check out: Rodale Institute

At the end of the talk I had to ask, “Have you eaten the enviro-pig?; and will any humans be required to eat it before it is released into the market [for millions to consume]?”

Dr. Forsberg said no, that he is not allowed to eat it; and then admitted that the test for “approval for consumption” might be a bit lacking.

Before this week I knew a little about GMOs, such as that I can’t plant my organic corn beside a field of GMO corn without the GMO’s contaminating my corn (and that I could get sued if I saved, planted, or sold that contaminated seed).  Also, I knew that GMO canola has been found growing in the wild, overtaking wild relatives (Check out: Canola).  I had heard some pretty crazy stories of farmers being sued by Monsanto ( Check out: Percy Schmeiser). From a seed-savers point of view I have been feeling quite furious for a while about all this stuff- and feel empowered to know just a little bit more.

I am not a scientist, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let the scientists speak for me, my family, nature, God, or for future generations.  I am also not going to let scientists tell me that my food is not a spiritual issue, or that my bowels are defunct because of chance.  I am going to continue to try to understand the science behind all this, eat real food, and continue on the path to becoming a GMO-free farmer.

When Monsanto gave Haitian farmers a bunch of free GMO seeds, they burned it. (see: Haitian farmers)

Amen to that.  gmNo thanks, not now, not ever.

Happy January all

ps. I don’t have a fact-checker- if you think I have any of my facts wrong, or have more credible sources for some of the articles I’ve posted, please let me know.  These are big issues and I don’t intend to tackle them alone.

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