Category Archives: Mobilize and March

GE Free Victoria passed. Unanimous.

Eloquence is the poetry of prose.

– William C Bryant

First of all, I was inspired by a quote from Robyn O’Brien. The gestalt was “Keep speaking, even when you’re trembling.”  I was trembling.

This post has been more widely shared than most of my recent posts on the Deeper Side.  A comment on Facebook just came up that made me realize that I need to expand this post with more background information to help more readers understand. So if you are familiar about the subject, please skip the rest of this paragraph.  For some background on the terminology: GE = Genetic Engineering = GMOS.  Not talking about an extension of traditional plant breeding. I’m talking about Canadian food crops that have been modified to withstand herbicides (like glyphosate) or express a pesticide (like BT). Many GMOS have both traits. Talking about food crops that are not modified for higher yield or better nutrition. No governments have done their own safety studies. GMOs contaminate non GMOs. And Canadian law favours the patent holders of the GE seeds over the farmers who have had their crops contaminated. For some background, I recommend the 2013 documentary ‘GMO OMG’. Another great resource is GMO Myths and Truths you can find online.

Now for the specifics of the Motion put forth by Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday,  There is a bunch of Wheras’s.  If you want you can look up the motion or write back at me and I’ll include them all. Generally given the lack of long-term studies both for human safety and on ecology, and following the precautionary principle the “ask ” was that the City of Victoria go on record to oppose this new technology until the requisite studies are done.  Specifically to quote from the motion:

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria hereby opposes the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plants and trees in the City of Victoria.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to implement a regime of mandatory labelling of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for sale in BC and Canada.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to impose a moratorium on bringing further GMOs to market for sale until a regime of independent and transparent scientific assessment and GMO management is introduced.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Victoria shall forward copies of this resolution to the Premier, Prime Minister, all local MLAs and MPs, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).”

Let me give you a play by play account of how tonight’s Victoria Council Session went.

I came into a mostly empty council chambers as a virtuoso pianist was serenading the room from about 6 – 6:30.  Robert Holliston.  Beautiful playing.  Set the tone? I was not expecting that – it was kind of surreal.  Actually, it was almost mystical.


I met Tony for the first time.  Love his sign and his smile. 
Then Mayor Helps and councillors came in.  I need to give props, snaps, shout-outs to Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremey Loveday for their commitment to this important cause.

Mayor Lisa Helps (in what looked like a locally-made smoking lily dress oh ye followers of the Style-Diet) called the session precisely at 6:30 and after a few words, I was the first speaker for GE Free Victoria.  Read from my notes.  Held by my trembling hands.  Heard my voice quake and shake. But hung in there.  You can probably guess what I talked about.


Second up was Jim Jordan, a seeker of social and environmental justice.  A soft-spoken man, an organized thinker and most importantly: a do-er.  The steady driving force behind tonight.  Jim spoke about seeds and how the machines and chemicals of war were repurposed to agriculture. Jim provided the council with a speech and presentation by Dr Thierry Vrain, former GMO scientist and current organic farmer.  Dr Vrain summarized recently findings about the biocide/herbicide glyphosate.

Third up was Arzeena Hamir, an agrologist and organic farmer of Amara Farm up in Courtney.  An excellent speaker (a fabulous soul too), she focused on how Richmond benefitted from a GE Free Resolution.

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Next was Tony Beck, a PhD from London and a UN Advisor on food security and gender issues.  Eloquent, beyond knowledgeable.  I wish I had taken notes!  What I recall was how municipalities need to take the charge and how 50% of seeds lies with only a handful of companies.

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Afterwards, Rob Pearce, virtuoso drummer and therapist spoke clearly about the dubious and unethical practises of certain biotech patent holders.  Like me he is more of a musician than a public speaker.  But he was wonderful, informative. He went out of his comfort zone.  Respect.

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Dr Joan Russow, erstwhile leader of the Green Party delved into the history of the international struggle against this questionable technology.  Even since I first met Joan, I have been totally bowled away by her energy and focus.  Gratitude for her voice.

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Frances Litman, sparkling, a great speaker and 2012 CRD EcoStar Community Leadership Award Winner on behalf of Creatively United For The Planet, read two statements.  One from the conscious dietician Rachel Dickens and another from Dionne Laslo-Baker from DeeBee’s organic tea pops.

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It didn’t stop there.  No folks.  Three more speakers followed.

First of the trinity was Michael Coon who has been railing against GMOs in Hawaii (ground zero for GMOs).  He’s a powerful speaker and focused his talk on the findings of Steven Druker in the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.”  Wonderful and terrible at the same time. But the eloquence….

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Next was Professor Emeritus Edwin Daniel.  In his 9th decade, he was clear as a bell. And he hit home that there is no independent, long-term studies showing the safety of GMOs.

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To round out was sharp Dr Judy Gaylord.  She was commanding, delivered one truth after the other.  Such impressiveness.

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I was honoured to be there, to be a part of it.  I wanted to take a group photo but we all dispersed at different times.  None of us understood when the motion would be voted on and all thought it would be weeks, not minutes. So I left.  On the way out I got a quick pic with Arzeena and Tony. (Thanks to the dude in uniform at the door for snapping)

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The light outside was good so I finagled a selfie for fun (uncle Godfrey first pointed out this excellent sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald a couple years ago.)  I like to think of John A holding up the sign!

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I left feeling light, thinking that we’d hear something maybe in a week or two or at the next council session.

BUT THEN, Francis texted me!  It passed.  Unanimously.  Jim called to confirm the news!

This is why Im writing this post now.  In jubilation and exaltation!  Need to share with you all.  Ye who are curious.  Ye who want to know what a council meeting in Victoria looks like.  Ye who may want to bring a motion to your own City Council!

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A little history was made.  In a small provincial capital.  But an important one.  My home since 2009.  This GE Free Resolution is a first for Victoria – and a first for me too.  (Did you know that this was the first time I spoke at at council session?!)

I guess that thinking globally but acting locally has made some kind change.  Today.

Courage is contagious.  Infect others.

Tomorrow.  (Now it’s late: Goodnight dear ones)

 

Politics

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”

– Mahamta Gandhi

 

When I was young, I didn’t think politics was that important.  What mattered to me was learning about *important* things in life: my research into behaviour and development, art, friends, singing…  Yeah, there were some boring folks in government were doing the horribly tedious “government stuff” or “bureaucracy.”  Lawyers and politicians….  Maybe they made it all seem so mind-numbing because they were trying to dissuade others from getting involved?

Well… I am not young anymore.  But neither am I old.

After I came back from thirteen years in Europe, I had an awakening.  What started out as a passion to know more about why and how our food in N. America contains GMOs without our knowledge or permission turned into something else.  I have fortunately – or unfortunately –  developed a sliver of understanding about how the political process works.

In a nutshell, it’s kind of a twister game called follow the money.

How many billions of dollars of subsidies and recorded campaign contributions and speaking fees have influenced policy? Last week, Obama signed the DARK act into law (Deny Americans the Right to Know aka the Roberts-Stabenow Bill of ‘un-labelling’).  For those of you unaware, this bill undoes the hard-won state battles, fought with blood, sweat and tears to label GMOs.  So much for the 4 simple words “produced with genetic engineering” which thousands of products started carrying to conform to Vermont’s law.  Thanks to the DARK act, Vermont’s law is now overturned.  And NOW there will be this strange QR code/funny symbol that only those with a smart phone will be able to interpret.  This DARK bill is about continuing to hide what is in our food.  To continue to confuse the consumer about what is healthy for people and planet.

Although I am wildly angry at this injustice, I continue to harbour hope.  There is so much positive change happening right now.  And everything shows that our clean food movement is gaining ground.  Despite billions of dollars, bought scientists and bought politicians trying to convince us otherwise, sales of Non-GMO and organics are going up.  Farmers markets, urban farms, acres converted to organic and non-GMO are all going up.  Foodies are mushrooming.  We ‘producers’ (not ‘consumers’), through our collective actions (ie: every food purchase), are fundamentally driving the change we want to see.

As the world gets smaller through myriad connections, the polarity of enlightenment shines even brighter in its truth.  I know that with enough political pressure and speaking up and out, we are changing things.  Change comes through struggle for justice. And via the dissemination of truth pollen.

Although ignorance is bliss, once the sleeper is awakened, she cannot go back to sleep. She cannot un-know.  I salute Ye who have been engaged for so long in real politics, fighting for justice and positive change each step of the way. Thank you for waking me up. Here I am trying pay it forward.

So, if you’re new to the deeper side…

TAG! You’re it!

Prophetess of the soil

“In this handful of soil is your future.”

  • Thus spake Vandana Shiva, 14 July 2016, Indian Summer Festival

In this troubled time of brutality, inequality, political corruption and injustice, I’ve been swallowing the bitter pill of disillusionment as GMO labelling was undone today in the US Congress.  Another blow to democracy where over 90 percent of Americans want to know what’s in their food.

The silver lining is that my spirits were bolstered by being in the presence of the great Vandana Shiva: eco-prophetess, woman warrior, seed saviour.

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She overflowed the church tonight, sitting in an armchair decked out in a gorgeous sari.  She effortlessly hurled one pearl of wisdom after the other.  She was like Kali-Saraswati-Durga Devi. Her pronouncements were interrupted several times with ovations.  It’s intense stuff.  Life and death, suicides, oppression, the history of the industrial agricultural movement with its violent roots in the machines of war… Here is a sample of one-liners I scribbled down on the back of my e ticket (folded into quadrants.  I hope I got these right):

  • “We are pro-Earth, not anti-GM”
  • “The real problem is the war against the Earth.  You take care of the Earth, the rest just happens”
  • “The seed is a self-organised auto-poetic system. Not a machine”
  • “It’s anti-science to not know how nature works”

I could go on and on but I think lists are boring.  Better for someone to take these one-liners and make convenient facebook memes….?

Afterwards, powerhouse Elizabeth May joined Dr Shiva in conversation and my fave line from her was “Foodie is a radical concept that people want to eat food that actually tastes good.”  May also urges us to stand up for the Peace River, against Site C Dam (which is primarily to enable fracking) and support the last-stand family farmers who refuse to leave their homes in the best farmland in BC.  The Peace River protests are all about food security.  Let’s join them.

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Dr Shiva’s premise is that we are at a fork in the road: on one hand is total obliteration, a warlike worshipping of killing (bugs, pests, “weeds”) under the guise of progress/science.  On the other hand is peace and prosperity.  Once we replenish the soil and respect the integrity of the seed and all that nature has to teach us, we will be able to solve many social problems from water supply to displacement of peoples.  Her case is compelling.  She’s written more than 20 books on these subjects.  Nine honorary degrees…

Although we have so much fighting against nature and the sustainable food movement – the huge lobby dollars, the subsidies, the bought scientists, the paid-for trolls and smear-ers… despite everything they throw at us to convince of their flawed paradigm… we aren’t buying it. Organics is growing. Yugely.

Smile. Go ahead. Yes, you see through the elaborate deceptions.  And your eyes are open and the future is pregnant with possibilty.

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Now, since it’s getting late, I’ll end with a positive quote by Dr Shiva.

“We can seed another future because we can live with peace with all the creatures on the Earth.”

Amen.

 

Time to Act

The time is now.

Remember my post “Update Schupdate” where I was cautiously happy about Vermont’s upcoming GMO labelling victory?

Well, Senators Roberts and Stabenow have come up with Monsanto’s, Dow Chemicals’ and the GMA’s sweet-dream GMO labelling bill at the 11 hour.  First of all, it will invalidate all individual state GMO labelling including Vermont which was so hard won.  Second it will take 2 years to come up with some kind of agreement.  Third it will use QR codes or 1800 numbers for consumers to find out if there are GMOs in their food.  Really?  I mean, really? It is just ridiculous.

Might as well call this “The Non-Labelling Bill.”  Or the Dark Act version: Deathstar.

There are already a whole host of large multinational companies who have changed their American packaging (with no extra cost) for July 1st.  It was easy.  Remember that over 90% of N. Americans want labelling.  Like the other 64 countries in the world…

If you are American and care about your food, please contact your state senator which might be the best thing to do.  They will listen to their irate and concerned constituents.  Otherwise  please sign a petition like the one below, share galore, email your friends….

https://action.organicconsumers.org/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18302&track=moFRN&tag=FRN

The time to act is now.

Action always beats intention.

 

Update shmupdate

 

“Without a struggle there can be no progress”

– Frederick Douglass

I am slightly bashful to admit that I’ve been consumed by the US primaries for the first time in my life. I never thought I would care so much. But as much as I’ve tried to ignore politics – perhaps because I spent so many years living abroad – I sincerely thought it didn’t really affect me.  But I admit it now.

It does.

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I have been nitpicking through the media with a fine-tooth comb to separate the real stories from the corporate spin engines. And today, I just remembered that, in my distraction, I didn’t share some big announcements that came in the wake of this year’s Natural Products Expo.

Basically – drumroll – Big food:  Kelloggs, ConAgra, General Mills, Mars, Hershey, Campbell and Del Monte announced that they will label GMOs nationwide in time for Vermont’s GMO labelling law which kicks in July 2016!!!  Imagine that?!!  Well, it’s not such a stretch since they all already label or reformulate their GMOs in 64 countries.  But finally, they’ve agreed to transparency for their customers in the land of the free and home of the brave.

To remind you all, Big food and Biotech sued the state of Vermont to overturn Vermont’s  GMO labelling law. And lost. They have spent millions upon millions  irrationally fighting grass-roots initiatives to keep American consumers in the dark (CA, WA, CO etc). They lobby congresspeople and senators to the tune of millions of corporate bucks a year. These guys are behind the recently defeated DARK act cloture. So these labelling announcements are BIG news, BIG turnarounds. Finally! This tide is turning, the creaking, leaking ol ship is changing course about the horizon of GMO labelling.

Diya GMO 3 hole shirt

Albeit – there is no guarantee they will follow though. And, although the announcements are not really due to a change of heart, I’m embracing the forth-coming transparency. Some folks have written that they will wait til Big Food follows through and actually labels before declaring victory for the consumer….

Yes, it still is too early to say whether or not the companies who have agreed to label GMOs will renege if they can get the Senate to pass a modified version of the DARK act. The DARK Act = Deny Americans the Right to Know thanks to Senator Roberts and bought politicians protecting corporations over citizen’s rights. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act, alas, is far from dead. Moreover, Vilsack, the US secretary of Agriculture, is still trying to push through the ridiculous idea of QR codes instead of #4simplewords.

Sad to report that my Canadian brothers and sisters are temporarily doomed to the dark, although there are stirrings afoot. More and more people are waking up to the toxic biocide aspect of GMOs, which is a key buried story of this unproven, untested technology.

Let’s just take a tiny second to grin.

(Can you?  Even a bittersweet one-sided wry little upturned lip will do.)

Yes, we still have to push for transparency, fight for the bees and monarchs. We must ban glyphosate, ban neonicotonoids and other biocides, ban these toxic GMOs, stop the TPP, Site C and countless other injustices to people and planet. Work and struggle are ahead indeed. However, things are moving. I just heard about Costco lending money to farmers to spur forward organic production. What fantastic news.

Now if you still haven’t broken out in a smile, check out the Garry Oak Seedling growing out of the remains of an invasive Scotch Broom stump:

garry oak seedling next to broom stub

To summarize, needed change is happening in this important food movement. Away from the dark and towards the LIGHT.  We are turning like Sunflowers.

The truth is our collective light.  The medium is the internet.  I thank independent news, rabble rousers, and social media. I say a great big Grazie to my tireless, driven facebook friends.  Thank you all for sharing inconvenient news we need to hear and have to know. I’m grateful, oh so grateful for you, for this technology. Without it, we would be beholden to corporate media.

Maybe they didn’t realize that in burying our voices, they were inadvertently sowing seeds. Which have been germinating….

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth

‘The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.’

– Pablo Neruda

I am reading “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.”  ​The author Steven M. Druker is a public interest attorney who successfully sued the FDA and forced them to release their files on GMOs. The book is about his findings.  Jane Goodall says Druker deserves a Nobel prize.  I must say that I agree with her.

It is a dense read, like a brick of rye bread.  Can only chew so much at a time. And the swallowing is painful, like swallowing down a tear-induced lump in your throat. I have recently finished Chapter 3 and it is a stunning chapter. I never knew that Tryptophan was being produced from genetically engineered (GE) bacteria as early as 1984. That would make the Tryptophan supplements the first GE/GMO food.

How come I never heard about that?

Druker explains.

Documents exist showing that the FDA certainly knew that GE bacteria strains were producing Tryptophan food supplements at least as early as 1990. Shockingly, the FDA claimed in 1994 that the first biotech food product was an enzyme for cheese production, ignoring the earlier-produced GE Tryptophan all together.

altered genes twisted truth cover

According to Steven Druker: because GE bacteria strains making toxic Tryptophan were the indisputable origin of a terrible novel disease called EMS, the FDA downplayed the role of genetic engineering. They wanted to cover up the fact that unintended, novel proteins were produced from the GE bacteria. (This is something that scientists predicted might happen.) The media, FDA and biotech proponents obfuscated the provenance being from the GE bacteria, claiming that a purification error at the factory had caused the disease. They didn’t want the public to know the real risks of genetic engineering. Contrary to the evidence, they said and still continue to say that GMOs are without risk, that they are GRAS (generally regarded as safe).

I’m both very curious and also terrified to keep reading this book. It confirms the worst in the best possible way. Namely, the fundamental problems with GMOs, the lack of long-term safety studies coupled with the authoritative assurances from ‘esteemed scientists’ that GMOs are safe. All the many dissenting scientific voices have been ignored or called “pseudoscientists” or ‘quacks.’  A compelling read, a thorough study. A crucial book. I underline several lines a page.

What has a lot of people, myself included, riled up about GMOs is the fact that most of them are designed to withstand and or express biocides (herbicides, pesticides…). These biocides include toxins such as glyphosate that the WHO has recently designated as a ‘probable carcinogen.’  Exponential biocide use is an important concern, especially as Canada and the US have now permitted the active ingredient in agent-orange (2, 4, D) to be sprayed on GMO crops?!  This is ecocide to our precious planet and also a very fine reason to be against GMOs as currently grown.

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As worrying as these biocide developments are for the health of our loved ones, this book is actually going backwards – or inwards – a step.  This book, so far as Chapter 3, is focused on the fundamental: the inherent risks of genetic engineering.  For example, the unintended, novel proteins produced as by-products through the process of invading the cell and gene-splicing.  Moreover, the book explains that regulators, despite the compelling evidence, are ignoring and covering up the existence of these new molecules and their correspondingly potentially fatal effects.  This book talks about and interviews many scientists who have expressed serious concerns over this technology.  And many of these scientists have been dismissed, ignored and discredited to push a powerful political agenda.

When I open up and start to read ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth”, I feel like I’m a biology student again at The University of Chicago, devouring a textbook. There is something so satisfying about finding out the real story behind something you’ve pondered for years.  But at the same time, the book is concurrently so distressing that I can only read it in the morning when I’m fresh and able to digest doses of the injustice during the daytime. A couple of times I read it at night before going to bed. That was an ahem – awful –  idea because I got so agitated I couldn’t sleep…

Nonetheless, I see a day when truth prevails.  Like with tobacco. Smoking was perhaps easier to fight because of second-hand passive ‘smokers’ getting sick. And even up until the day smoking was widely banned from public places, the scientists working for big tobacco still claimed it was safe.  It’s an uphill road. But at the same time:

The truth will bore a bright, shining light through the dark fog of manufactured confusion.

One cannot unlearn the truth.

Truth, even if ugly, is beautiful in its absolute.

Truth is turning this tide.

We will keep informing our loved ones, sharing hard facts with soft hearts.

And change will happen.

It is happening!

 

 

feedtheworld.info

“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.”
– David Brower, environmentalist

A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization named glyphosate a ‘probable carcinogen”. In fact, it was originally classified as such in the 1980s (but mysteriously that was overturned). The makers of glyphosate claim that it is safe for humans since it doesn’t kill human cells. But it does kill our symbiotic gut bacteria and we humanoids have 10 bacteria cells for each human cell. Various studies have shown glyphosate to be in our bodies, in our breast milk, in our placentas and even the blood of our unborn babies. This begs the question:

“Do I have glyphosate in my body too?”

If so, how can I find out?

Henry Rowlands and Ed Brown have just launched an amazing initiative –http://feedtheworld.info/ – to bring the glyphosate conversation into the homes of America.  This is the first of its kind, an attempt for the people of America to send in urine, breast milk and home tap water samples to see how exposed they are to glyphosate.

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For more information on how to get tested and to see a hard-hitting short film, please check out http://feedtheworld.info/

Most of us here in North America only have a vague idea about how ‘conventional’ food is grown. Some people do realize that perhaps their food is sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. But don’t really think about it. Who wants to focus on the negative? Most people think that the government wouldn’t allow anything ‘really bad’ to be in and on our food. In some countries, people are given the power to choose. For example, in France, there’s a law that food sprayed with toxins needs to be labelled “produit traite”.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

In North America we are facing the opposite situation.  Unless you either grow your own food, or know your local farmer – or unless your food is “certified organic”, there is no guarantee that you aren’t being subjected to a vast variety of known toxins. In 2014, the government allowed 2,4-D (the active ingredient in the notorious herbicide agent orange) to be sprayed on crops in North America. Since the 1990s, glyphosate (commonly known as Round Up) has been sprayed to the tune of millions of pounds a year. Glyphosate was first used as an industrial cleaner since it binds to heavy metals. Then it was used as weed killer, killing plants and bacteria via the shikimate pathway. It is sprayed on lawns, on playgrounds and even in national parks. Most recently in 2010, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic.

Resistance to glyphosate has been spliced into most of the GMOs grown in North America. And up until recently, most people have considered it safe. This ‘safe’ designation has permitted ‘conventional’ farmers to put even more of this toxin on our crops, where it ends up contaminating the soil, air and water. It kills habitat for wildlife such as milkweed necessary for the monarch butterflies. It kills bacteria in the soil. It disrupts earthworms. Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in the world. Resistance to glyphosate is genetically spliced into corn, soy, canola, cotton and sugar. That means ‘conventional’ farmers can indiscriminately spray glyphosate on fields to destroy weeds. For more information on glypohsate and to order your test kit, please check out http://feedtheworld.info/

I look forward to testing myself – will keep you posted.

Information can lead to Knowledge.

Knowledge is power.

Power will lead the change.

Let’s empower ourselves and make the world a safer, healthier, more beautiful place!