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Posts Tagged ‘GMOs’

Biblical parables have their mustards, Johnny Appleseed spread his trail over the country, and Jack planted magical ones to find a beanstalk the next morning. New organizations are always planting the “seeds” of change, assuming they can raise the “seed” money to do so. And at every turn I see a new product resembling bird food tossed into the latest granola or health-nut salad, guaranteeing some sort of reunion with my roots.Kingsolver BookAllow me to give thanks to Barbara Kingsolver and others for departing from metaphor for a moment, and elaborating on the real thing. The SEED.In her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver explains how “vegetables acquire histories when they are saved as seeds for many generations, carefully maintained and passed by hand from one gardener to another.” Such vegetables, known as heirlooms, are “open-pollinated,” or save and reproduce specimens that show the best characteristics of their generation. The seeds of old plant varieties and land races also evolve naturally, adapting to their local environment, and develop a history, in the same region as their oldest wild ancestors. Such plants are valuable not only for their stories, but for their global diversity, and their ability to perpetually adapt to and resist the pests and predators of their region. These plants can continue to grow and survive for generations.In contrast to native races and heirlooms, hybrids are a forced cross between different varieties of the same plant, and while still products of the plants’ natural reproductive organs, they are only predictable (and therefore desirable) for one season.Just one step farther from nature, Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are the result of “direct manipulation of genes in the laboratory.” Genetic modification allows the crossing of completely different species, and usually involves injecting the seed with a “terminator gene,” to ensure that the GM crop will kill itself off after one season. This way, farmers must annually purchase seeds from one of the six major, GM companies that now control 98% of global seed sales, not to mention their concurrent need for those same companies’ chemical pesticides.GMO Tomato (smaller)When purchasing the produce of heirloom, hybrid, or GM seeds, we are allowing into our home either the natural offspring of evolution, a product of forced incest, or essentially the baby of a sort of bestiality. Of course, a parental profile is not usually written on the package. As GM products have label-lessly taken over the market, the diversity of our consumption has drastically decreased, and promoted the extinction of thousands of seed varieties. While GM seeds can always be recreated in the lab, heirloom and native species, once lost, are lost forever. Humans now consume food from about eight plant species, when once we ate from near 80,000. And already, according to Kingsolver, “U.S. consumers get to taste less than one percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago.”HeirloomsFortunately, the best plan for saving the disappearing plant varieties that used to make up our diet is to eat them! And clearly, not just so we can use our grandmothers’ recipes. Plants that have naturally evolved and learned to adapt to a native location do not require the chemical herbicides and pesticides needed by hybrids and GMO crops; heirloom and native produce contains more nutrients than the two crops, corn and soy, that form the basis of most hybrids and GMOs; and cultivating a diverse number of species substantially protects us from the risk of crop failure. As Kingsolver put it, “History has regularly proven it unwise for a population to depend on just a few varieties for the majority of its sustenance. The Irish once depended on a single potato….We now depend on a few corn and soybean strains for the majority of calories eaten by U.S. citizens. Our addiction to just two crops has made us the fattest people who’ve ever lived, dining just a few pathogens away from famine.”More Info About Seeds:Vandana Shiva , Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food SupplyJack Harlan, Crops and ManInstitute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Farmers’ Guide to GMOsAg BioTech Infonet, Genetic Engineering Applications: Impacts & ImplicationsMore Seeds!The Seed Savers’ ExchangeOrganic Consumers’ Seed SourcesThe Organic Seeds AllianceNative Seeds/SEARCH: Native American CropsNorth American Fruit ExplorersSlow Food USA, Ark of Taste

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