Yesterday, while gathering signatures for the GE FREE BC Petition, I met a working scientist with 3 biology degrees including a PhD, who only bought organic local food and was carrying his precious sleeping baby in a baby bjorn. Guess what? He was reluctant to sign the petition. He knows the data about fertilizers creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the data about glyphosate toxins in fetal blood, the poisoning of water by atrazine, the death of bees by GMOs since the seeds are coated in neonictinoid pesticides. He knows that and accepts that but was still unwilling to sign. The GMOs we accept and grow right now in N. America – not the theory of them, not the hope of them, not the promise of them – are terribly catastrophically wrong for our planet, bees, health and society. This scientist holding his baby said that he was holding out for the possibility that GE technology was in theory helpful (for Africans, Asians, for a remote possibility that they would solve future problems). Again, we said that GMOS that are grown right now were not solving anything especially given that over the long-run organic yields are higher that GMOs! He hummed and hawed.
But Victory! After a 10 minute debate – we convinced him to sign. It was the hardest-earned signature from yesterday!
I wanted to formally address Amy’s reply from yesterday. Not only Amy brought this up but several others too – Amy is a political scientist. She asked important questions that were also asked by thinkers and scholars, University Professors who are using their powerful logic and splendid gifts of deduction to understand GMOs (as they are currently grown in N.America for N. Americans). I asked Dag Falk, Organic programs manager at Nature’s Path if he would respond to questions several of you asked me following the film screening about Organic. He has spent his entire life advocating for organic methods. He answers Amy’s questions point by point.
do you know for sure that certified organic does not include GMO? What about GMOs in grain that found its way into the food chain — feed that is given to cows/pigs/chickens?
What we know for sure is that Organic does not contain any GMO that was knowingly allowed to enter the product either through growing or handling. Unfortunately we live in a polluted world where these pollutants in the last 17 years have started to include GMOs. Imagine whale fat containing DDT which was banned in most developed countries decades ago? So there is no safe place, there is no way to build a wall tall enough, As Arran Stephens said many years ago, “there is no wall tall enough to keep out GMO”. We are all very sad that this is the case, and after we grieve for this most terrible and unforgivable fact, we need to shake our heads and take a hard look around and ask ourselves, what is the best protection I can give myself and my family from GMOs? And the answer is that certified organic food, and food with credible standards and oversight like the Non GMO Project, are the best ways to do that. Is it perfect? — no, but it’s the best there is, and let me tell you exactly how much better it is than conventional non organic food, or food where no effort has gone into protecting it. Organic food production has strict rules about not using prohibited materials like pesticides, herbicides GMOs etc. ect. Buffers are required towards any neighboring crop that uses any of these. Harvesting equipment, silos, trucks etc used to handle crops must be either used exclusively for organic, or it must be cleaned and documented according to a very high standard.
Can contamination still happen? Yes it can, and there is pesticides in millions of public wells in America, groundwater is polluted many places, rainwater contains industrial particles that fall out in rain. It just simply cannot be avoided 100%, even if we really really want to. But what organic does do is two things: A) it does not add any more to the pollution, because its forbidden to use any of the materials that pollute like pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s etc. B) the contamination of organic products is miniscule compared to conventional crops. Consider potatoes, sprayed routinely 12 times between planting and harvest, consider GMO corn or soy that is “stacked” and contain both BT toxin (a pesticide) in each cell of the plant including the corn and soy we eat, and Round Up Ready®, which means that every cell of the plant including what we eat is impervious to the pesticide Round Up ® or Glyphosate. And it’s not just a little bit, it’s 100% present in entire fields- as a matter of fact it’s in 100% of over 80% of all cotton, corn, soy, canola and sugarbeet that is grown in North America.
If you’re not paying attention, it’s a foregone conclusion that each and every meal you eat contains large portions of 100% GMO ingredients. The EU, and the Non GMO Project agrees on a threshold of 0.9% GMO contamination. Anything above that is not allowed. Organic foods don’t have the threshold, but attain a similar level through all the practices mentioned above. It’s actually pretty good that we can limit our exposure by 99.1% just by choosing organic.
But I agree, it’s a crime and a terribly sad world to live in where there is no way to escape even this. That’s why (besides eating organic) that I’m doing everything I can to set this straight,.
On a practical point, organic standards prohibit feeding animals anything that is GMO, so the only thing that could get into an animal feed would be unwanted contamination at the low levels mentioned.
How can organic farmers be sure the food scraps they feed their chickens and the like are GMO free?
Organic standards do not allow food scraps or anything else to be fed to certified organic animals unless it can be demonstrated and documented that the feed is not GMO. So for instance a bakery could not have their waste used by an organic farmer as feed if the bakery used non certified organic corn soy or Canola oil at all.
How about GMO contaminated soil (from household composing) in which otherwise perfectly organic tomatoes would be grown in peoples backyards?
Organic standards do not allow composting of GMO substrates, and neither should any backyard gardener who is concerned about organic and non GMO.
It’s difficult to fight back, and to do everything to protect ourselves from GMO and pesticide pollution, but it is possible to make a huge difference, and one of the easiest ways is to support organic agriculture, the only system with a strict standard, an annual third party inspection, and a serious fine for fraud (people are in jail right now for breaking the organic rules). Also this is a repeatable system than anyone can learn, and it leaves the soil more fertile after use than before.
Sometimes it’s tempting to complain about that which we love the most, because we are so disappointed that it’s not perfect. Think of how much we often expect of our spouses, or children. They already are the most beautiful creatures to us, but when they slip up (in our eyes) even a little bit, we can’t help but notice, and heaven forbid we sometimes open our mouth and say something…. (don’t try this at home…)
It’s precisely because we love them, and we want them to be perfect to help us feel like we are protected by them also, that we hold them to such a high standard. A stranger walking down the street, we don’t have very high standards for at all.
Let’s curb our tongues with our loved ones when we get disappointed or scared when we feel that they fall an ¼ inch below our standard, and lets curb our tongues when we want to cry that even organic isn’t able to protect us 100.0%. We all know what the right thing to do is; support your loved ones, share your love for them, with them, and they will become more of what you love. Support organic, it will do more to save the world than any other single thing you could possibly do. And love an organic farmer!