A week or so ago I took part in one of the 38 cross-Canada protests against the introduction of Genetically Modified Alfalfa into Canada. I don't usually go out to rallies because I am crowd-phobic. This crowd of about 90 people was friendly, didn't have a lot of loud chanting (or boring speeches), and didn't put me into a panic attack. I had a lot of good conversations. Genetic modification of crops is a topic I've been reading on for over twelve ears ... the general "what it's all about" and implications for Canadian and international agriculture, and - most importantly - for the people who farm. The notes below are just some thoughts ... and you'll notice I've not gotten into health issues. Not because I don't have concerns or because I think the GMO'd products are safe! It's just that that side of things is too big for me. For me, just from the concerns to food and land sovereignty, concerns about corporatization of food and agriculture, and patenting of life .... well, I think all the agri-chemical companies are evil. Yes, I've said it: evil. And this will get trolls making comments, for sure. Oh well. Here's the text I actually printed out and wore as a sign. Wow, a rally and a big sign. Not my usual behaviour.
Some thoughts on genetically modified alfalfa, and beyond
Roundup Ready alfalfa seed is seed that has been altered so that, when glyphosate herbicide is sprayed on a field to kill weeds, growing alfalfa plants won't die from the glyphosate. It is a Monsanto product; Monsanto is one of the 5 largest agri-chemical companies, worldwide.
Destruction of organics markets / job loss: Genetically modified alfalfa will spread the modification to (will contaminate) non-genetically modified crops, either through pollen that drifts onto receptive alfalfa plants in other fields or when GM seeds get into another field and grow out. There's potential for Canadian domestic and (especially) export alfalfa markets to disappear. Farmers - organic farmers in particular - will lose money; workers will lose jobs. This has already happened with canola and with flax.
That's just the visible tip of the deeply poisoned cyst that is genetic modification of seeds.
Patents and costs: All GM seeds are patented and cost more than non-GM seeds. Farmers have to sign agreements to buy the seeds. These say basically that the farmers will not save seeds from the resulting crop, and they won't have GM crops on their property unless they've paid for them. There are penalty clauses. Agri-chemical actually take plants from farmers' fields to test them for the GM trait, and sue the farmers if the GM trait has crossed into a next crop. Keep in mind that pollen and seed contamination happens between GM and non-GM crops. The agri-chemical companies accept "settlement" money, or waste a farmer's time and money in court.
Financially costly herbicide use cycle established: To grow to optimal yield these GM seeds have to be planted and grown on a schedule of herbicide use that kills basically everything in a field but the GM plant. So farmers have to pay for herbicides as well as seeds. The herbicides are made by the same companies that own the GM seeds. These companies make far more of their money from chemical sales than from seed sales.
Glyphosate responsible for herbicide resistant weeds: Over the last 10/15/20 years, weeds resistant to glyphosate have been surviving and maturing to set seed. Their offspring have grown out more resistant weed plants - dubbed "superweeds" by media and science. Now, glyphosate as a general herbicide is less effective on one application (kills fewer weeds) and more applications are needed or combination herbicides are needed. (This is analogous to overuse of antibiotic drugs and resistant forms of diseases becoming the norm: stronger drugs needed).
Glyphosate kills soil life: Glyphosate herbicide damages soil micro-organisms. Right down at the plant root / soil interface (the rhizosphere) the glyphosate is changing all sorts of chemical/physiological happenings. Damaged soil doesn't "get better" if you just leave it fallow the next year; glyphosate is persistent in the soil. Glyphosate also kills earthworms, those amazing critters that aerate the soil and digest organic material so nutrient is available for plants.
Farmers' skills are ignored. Farmers traditionally learn both the practical and science of growing our food. They know how to care for their land, develop seed suited to their area and that grows out well. It should remain their RIGHT to save the best seed from these best plants that they breed.
IS CANADA FOOD SECURE? IS CANADA FOOD SOVEREIGN?
Is Canada food secure if it cannot feed itself without poisons embedded in its seeds?
Is Canada food sovereign if giant chemical companies own its seeds?
written by an uncompromising organic home gardener, London, Ont. April 9, 2013