Category Archives: The Environment

Yogic Farming – Say What?

“T’aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it”

– Ella Fitzgerald

Ella’s singing in my head as I write.  And I *get* this song; it popped into my head when I talked with Piero. It made sense, like when I fell in love for the first time and finally “got” every lyric about love ever written. In fact, love is the operative word when I spoke with the yogic farming creator of Kebio’s Santa Pasta. I asked him, “if you had one word to describe what you’re doing?”  Love is the answer.

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Piero  Senatore Musini says, “Love is the natural vibration of everything is living.”

I’ve heard a lot about different types of agriculture. Monoculture, industrial, organic, biodynamic.  I’ve read about farmers in India dramatically increasing their yields reverting to traditional methods.  When I asked Vandana Shiva about that in 2013, she said some folks believed it had much to do with uncompressing the soil.  Basically, the opposite of using heavy machines. There are myriad, wonderful ways to nourish and replenish the soil through ancient and organic methods.  Keep in mind, most industrial modern agricultural methods (from the 1950s  on) have succeeded mostly in depleting the soil and introducing biocides into the soil, air, food and water from glyphosate and now agent orange’s 2,4 D. There are so many viable alternatives.

My parents told me of a farm they just visited last week, where the farmers keep hives of predator insects.  Kind of like cultivating ladybugs to eat the aphids.  Natural pesticides…  Uncle Matt’s Organic orange growers in Florida also use such methods to fabulous effects. But, one thing I never heard about until I met Piero was “yogic farming.”

meditating in fields

Travels to the East have inspired pioneers in the West, as I have discovered in many early movers and shakers in the food movement. Piero had been to India and learned about Brahma Kumaris studies in Yogic Farming. So when Piero took over the management of his family farm in Italy in 2008, he promptly converted it to organic and has since implemented yogic farming.  Piero’s a tall, soft-spoken, calm and twinkly-eyed Italian who lives near one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval towns (Gubbio) near Assisi. Piero’s cara mamma set up an agricultural teaching center on the farm after being horrified when a local child informed her that milk was made at the store.

SAY india

What on Earth *is* yogic farming you must be asking??  At this point, I will let Piero explain, from an article he wrote for Dirt Magazine:

“YOGIC FARMING IN PRACTICE – Methodology

“The seeds or a sample of the seeds are placed in the house, ideally in the corner where meditation is practiced regularly. Thoughts of peace, love, strength and resilience for empowering and linking the seeds to the farmer are practiced every day for few days up to a month before sowing. From then on, regular meditations are conducted in the fields and remotely with specific practices designed to support each phase of the crop growth cycle: from seed germination, growth, and especially a lot of gratitude towards the time of harvest. In addition placing a meditation flag in each field helps in being reminded to sustain the meditative practice during the day.”

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When I was growing up, my dad always stressed how food was better, tastier, imbued with good vibrations when one meditated on the food while preparing it.  It’s about intention.

I grew up with the idea of parshad, or blessed food.  In Hindu and Sikh temples, after prayers, hot sweet parshad is handed out. For me, as a kid, that was always the best part! (I grew up in a sugar-restricted home). So I couldn’t get enough of the delicious sweets after invocations when I studied Bharat Natyum classical Indian dance as a child.  (I was a terrible dancer, sad to admit.) In the Indian tradition of saints and sadhus, food that has been prayed upon or blessed by holy men and women is special. How? Why?

This is something I’ve only just started to understand.  It hit me about a year ago.

I went to a Hindu temple with friends who wanted to pray with me after I had passed close to the veil.  We went into this small but colorful temple.  Conches were blown and bells were ringing.  It was a mesmerizing atavistic cacophony. The chanting was vibrating through the speakers viscerally calling one to the higher, the divine.  I slowly walked around the perimeter of the room where Gods were lovingly dressed in jewels and rich silks.

Praying in the Hindu temple, focusing kind and loving thoughts for people I love, using the gods as a focal point was a new experience.  After I circled the room, a bare-chested priest wearing a dhoti with marks on his forehead put into my hands a mango. This luscious fruit had been sitting on the tip of Lord Ganesh’s trunk.  When I ate it later, I was continually reminded how many prayers were sent its way, passing between and amongst fibres with love and hope.

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A South Indian friend from Kerala explained how mothers take wedding jewelry to the temple and transmit the positive energy of prayers while wearing the jewelry.  Then when it is passed onto the bride, the prayers also go with the gold.

But back to the fields! There have been studies on yogic farming.  To read more, look up the article in Asian Agri-History, (Volume 19, Number 2 May-June 2015 pp 105-122).  They have found that meditating on the seeds and in the fields has helped the yield and the general well-being of the farmers and their families. The Indian Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh in September 2015 (Article in Indian Express 15 Sept 2015), that the government supports organic and yogic farming.

LOGO_YOGICFARM

Piero designed the logo above and puts it on his Santa Pasta grown from ancient grains (from Spelt and older wheats like Senatore Cappelli to Millet).  I made some Santa Pasta spelt linguine with broccoli for dinner 2 nights ago.  (Eternal grazie to Maria de la Purification Saez in Marti for the recipe). It was delicious.  We thought of the Kebio farm in Umbria and felt the love on our plates from the whole-grain pasta and the green brocoli with olio nuovo, new olive oil my typing hands helped pick from trees on his farm.

For Piero, organic cultivation was just a starting point.  His goal is to enhance biodiversity, the soil, and nutrition through the cultivation of ancient grains. In his practise of yogic farming, Piero said he goes into a state of mindful consciousness.  He tries to reach a deep part of the self that is love, happiness purity joy, the essence of the soul.  Swimming in that energy, he has loving feelings for nature.  He feels like an instrument, a lens, focusing down into the fields, into the seeds, into the plants and what will nourish and sustain us and the ecosystem.

Here is Piero meditating in his fields:

piero-yogic-farming

The idea of praying on food or objects wasn’t a first for me.  But I really lit up when I heard of yogic farming.  The idea of prayer in the fields, upon the seeds strikes me as simply… bello!

Something to share.

Something to meditate upon.

 

 

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.

pesticide-food-spray-safety

 

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!

 

 

GMOs summarized

Before we can change behaviours, we need to change thoughts.  In order to change thoughts and subsequently actions, we need to separate hard, uncomfortable truths from rosy lies.

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Dear readers of the Deeper Side Blog.

As I was finishing my first book “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas” in the summer of 2014, I started to write a very different book called “This Earth Is Ours”. (Yes – 2014 was a busy year!)  This title of “This Earth Is Ours” is based on a song by my song-writing, organic farming grandfather Rupert who said, “He who knowingly steps on an earthworm, is not a man”. Here he is in the 30s (or 40s?) at the Stephens’ Mountain Valley Farm in Glenora, Vancouver Island:

Mtn Valley Farm & Dad

When I think of all the pesticides and herbicides that go into growing GMOs, I cannot help but think of all the insects including myriad pollinators that are being decimated.  I would think that the word ‘ecocide’ applies. Sad little earthworm below – I think he wants to be in red rich earth, not on gravel:Worm unedited

I was compelled to summarize the real tangible problems with GMOs in the forth-coming book. Several experts read it and provided feedback. I skirted the elephant issue of whether it is ethical to make new species. I will just sum up that conundrum with Vandana Shiva’s quote, “You cannot insert a gene you took from a bacteria and call it life. You haven’t created life, instead you have polluted it.”  Below is a favourite 3 arm-holed “GMO” t-shirt which says, “GMO SHIRTS ARE EASY TO SPOT. GMO FOODS AREN’T”:

Diya GMO 3 hole shirt

If you still are confused about GMOs, or know people who think that GMOs currently grown are doing good for people or planet…. Or if you don’t know why everyone is seeking out non-GMO foods…. Or, if you believe in the promise of GMOs, but are still unaware of the sobering realities, I hope this extract from “This Earth Is Ours” will scatter some seeds that will sprout a new understanding.

To put you in the mood of nature and food, here is a photo I took at the restored prairie at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago:

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Extract from “This Earth Is Ours”, forthcoming March 4, 2015

Appendix

GMOs

I would like to thank Dr. John Fagan, Dr. Thierry Vrain, Ken Roseboro, Lucy Sharatt and Dag Falck for their valued input into this section.

When I was getting my honors bachelor’s degree in biology and my masters degree in biopsychology at the University of Chicago from 1991 to 1996, the field of biology was buzzing about genetic engineering. Biologists were promising to eliminate pesticide use and create superfoods with this new technology. They would solve world hunger through their cleverness and technology.

I thought it fascinating that under the guise of improving food, scientists were basically unleashing brand new species onto the planet. Many people, including my father, were dead opposed. Initially, I was trying to figure out why. Biologists and shills for the biotech industry made it all sound so rosy. Over the years, I’ve tried hard to understand the pros and cons of this technology. I’ve discovered that, despite the hype and initial promise, there are very few pros. Below, I discuss the major cons — six big problems with the use of genetically modified organisms in our food supply.

Organic farming is a way of incorporating the entire ecology, the ecosystem of a “farm,” promoting pollinators, enriching the soil and looking at the whole system. The premise behind GMOs is to grow unicrops, taking one factor, the gene, and altering the genome, without considering the whole. Biologists were attempting to fix something when nothing was broken to begin with. There is no shortage of food, but rather of distribution.

The first major problem is that GMOs cannot be grown side by side with organic crops. They are not only the furthest thing from natural (think fish DNA in a tomato) but, because they are living and capable of reproducing, they cannot be contained. Pollen from engineered crops is carried everywhere by the wind and by pollinators, including into organic fields, which are then contaminated with genetically engineered genes. My father Arran said in 1996 “there are no walls high enough to keep out GMOs.” You cannot have a field of organic crops right next to a field of GMO crops because the wind and pollinators will spread the GMO pollen to the non-GMO organic plants. Most people have heard about the huge number of lawsuits launched by the big biotech companies against farmers. According to one account, over the last 15 years an average of one lawsuit a week has been launched against a farmer for patent infringement. How can we patent nature?

Farmers affected by GMO crop contamination did not want the GMOs, did not grow them on purpose and didn’t even know of the contamination until they were sued. If someone sprayed toxic paint that disrupted my farm, the sprayer would have to desist and provide restitution. However, in this twisted world of big biotech business, it is the persecuted who lose out.

Secondly, GMOs use a lot of pesticides, which are incompatible with the organic system of agriculture. Most people are shocked to learn that GMOs have not decreased pesticide use despite biotech claims that they do so. In fact, 1.5 million tons of pesticides and herbicides were sprayed on US crops in the mid-1990s. The amount is increasing exponentially. A study by Charles Benbrook, PhD, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, found that pesticide use has increased by 404million pounds since GM crops were first planted in 1996.

The sad fact is that over 90 percent of North American GMO crops are designed to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (which is also patented as an antibiotic and kills the bacteria that are so important to soil fertility). In private correspondence with me, Dr. Thierry Vrain explained that glyphosate was originally patented as an industrial pipe cleaner. This chemical was discovered to kill bacteria, plants and fungi, and in 1974 it was purchased and patented into the widely used, best-selling herbicide which will not be named. At this time, explains Dr. Vrain, “it was assumed to be completely safe to humans because of its mode of action to kill plants.” But, as Dr. Vrain said in a recent lecture, “imagine a chemical contaminant that would destroy all vitamins in the food. Vitamins are all co-factors of enzyme proteins. Glyphosate does not affect vitamins at all, but it does deplete the food of minerals. Minerals in our food are also cofactors of enzyme proteins.” Glyphosate is now also patented as an antibiotic, which apparently doesn’t attack our “human cells,” but certainly attacks our gut bacteria via the shikimate pathway. We walk about with over 10 times more symbiotic bacterial cells than human cells. The first glyphosate-resistant crops were released in 1996 and, because these crops are sprayed, the resulting foods we consume contain “much higher residues,” says Dr. Vrain. Most GMOs are genetically modified to resist glyphosate or to express a pesticide, such as Bt corn. Genetic engineers from the world’s largest chemical companies have developed strategies in the laboratory to “stack” several traits in one seed so that a single crop will be herbicide resistant in addition to expressing a pesticide. This is extreme agriculture, as far removed from organic or traditional breeding methods as one could conceive.

In recent years, with overuse of pesticides and herbicides (across 395 million acres of GMO production), superweeds and superpests have proliferated to such an alarming extent that, in 2014, the US and Canada permitted resistance to 2,4-D to be genetically engineered into seeds. 2,4-D is a highly toxic component of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange, used as a biowarfare agent during the Vietnam War. According to US Department of Agriculture estimates, the use of 2,4-D could triple by 2020. GMOs have exacerbated the problems of pesticide use, not diminished them.

The third major problem with GMOs is that safety testing is inadequate to protect the health of those who might eat them. The GMO crops grown today were all approved for commercial production without any independent or long-term animal, human or environmental toxicity studies. In Canada and the US, GMO versions of crops are considered to be “substantially equivalent to conventional crops.” If this is true, then why is herbicide-resistant GMO Bt corn registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide? And, if they are considered equivalent, why are they patented? By its very definition, a patent is awarded when something is “substantially” different. Every short-term study used to “prove” their safety to regulators has been done by the very same companies selling the GMO seeds and chemicals. Every scientific study that questions or sheds doubt upon the safety of GMOs is immediately subjected to discrediting by scientists who have direct or indirect financial ties to the biotech industry. There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

Related to this third issue is North America’s failure to question biotech’s data and ban GMOs, while other countries have called the same data into question and rejected GMOs. As John Fagan, PhD, writes, “shockingly, no country has done its own research to date. All buy in to the biotech companies’ own data.” In North America, legislators have not questioned the data nor done independent studies on GMOs. As a consequence, we are being force-fed GMOs, without knowledge or consent, based upon studies done by the very companies that are profiting from patenting this technology, selling the seeds and countless tons of pesticides and herbicides. Consistently, over 90 percent of North Americans polled want GMOs labeled. However, lawmakers are not listening. Sixty-four countries around the world either have mandatory labeling of GMOs or ban them altogether.

When I was in my twenties and living in Europe, I was invited to the UK houses of parliament in the 1990s for backroom debates on GMOs. I wasn’t at all impressed with the biotech research they presented. At the time, I had a particularly keen eye for data, having conducted laboratory research myself. Fortunately for the Europeans, they were not impressed with pro-GMO research either. They limited GMO crop trials and instituted mandatory labelling of GMOs. To date in Europe, Spain is the only country where GMO seeds are used to any significant extent, and at least six EU countries forbid any cultivation of GMOs. Other countries have taken a strong stand against GMOs, even when in the midst of a national emergency. Following the Haitian earthquake, a large biotech company provided “aid” in the form of seeds, and instead of planting them, the Haitian people wisely burned those seeds, saying they were “poison.”

Recently, influential countries have taken a critical position regarding GMOs. Russia has banned them, and high-level military officers in the Chinese army have pointed to imported GMO grains as a threat to national security, saying they weaken the local agricultural production capacity. In 2014, China rejected corn exports from the US worth more than $1 billion due to the presence of a GM corn variety that has not been approved in China. With the rest of the world already alerted to the failing GMO crop experiment, only now are North Americans becoming aware of this issue and taking action to implement labeling laws. Today, Canada and the United States are the only two developed nations that do not give their citizens transparency regarding what they are eating, but with the newly enlivened attention to the GMO issue, this blind spot will soon be eliminated.

The fourth major problem is that people are under the misguided impression that GMOs increase yields and consequently are “feeding the world.” In fact, of the major commercially grown GMO crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar, cotton), there have been no intentional genetic modifications for increased yields. In other words, no yield-increasing traits have been inserted through genetic engineering.

A fifth major problem is that of the ethical question of patenting “life,” coupled with the problem of whether gene-splicing technology is inherently safe. I’m going to avoid this discussion for this book. It is such a vast and technical discussion and can be easily researched for those who are interested. What is more concerning on a practical level is that most of the millions of acres of GMOs grown are made by only a small handful of extremely large chemical and seed corporations. These huge multinationals own the GMO seeds, the patents, the technology and the herbicides and pesticides that have to be grown concurrently with the GMOs. These corporations are able to buy and sway public opinion, directly or indirectly fund much of the science driving GMO research and actively lobby the government. In addition, the amount of subsidies given to “conventional” food production is staggering in size compared to organics, where farmers have to pay to be certified. It boils down to a few companies patenting life and nature . . . and it’s all for profit. GMOs were allowed because of the promises of “feeding the world,” reducing pesticide/herbicide use, increasing yield and making “superfoods,” none of which have come to pass.

This brings us to the last major problem with GMOs: they didn’t do what they set out to do. GMOs haven’t alleviated world hunger, they haven’t decreased toxic herbicide and pesticide use, they haven’t improved crop yield and they haven’t produced super-nutritious foods. Owning patents on life is not the same as providing food for the hungry. The problem of hunger is not a question of quantity but of distribution. As United Nations studies consistently report, small scale, sustainable farming is capable of solving the ‘food shortage’ and promoting biodiversity at the same time. In the long run, GMOs are out-performed by organics, especially for smaller farms and during drought conditions.

Let us collectively take the knowledge we have gained over the millennia of crop-breeding. Let’s wisely incorporate modern technologies, like marker-assisted selection, that protect the integrity of nature. By keeping seed biodiversity and trusting in Nature, we can heal the Earth, feed the hungry and breed wonderful new varieties of foods, at the pace of the seasons.

I’ll sign off with xo’s and another photo I took at the restored prairie at the Morton Arboretum:DSC_0346

 

Chocolate Treat

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”

 – Chief Seattle, 1854 

Spring delights and surprises me at every turn.  I am awoken by birdsong, I hear the whirring buzz of hummingbirds, I see the bright fresh green of the new shoots.  We watch the blueberry blossoms, hoping for a plump sweet berry with every flower.  It was almost a year ago that I started to blog about the garden.  Since then, so many things have captivated me.  It’s been slow, the process of finding the plants, learning which ones to encourage, and which to eliminate.

For months, we have been scrutinizing the poster of Garry Oak Ecosystem plants and have coveted a chocolate lily.  Uncommonly rare, propagating one would take years – and luck.  Last weekend, I bought a seedling from Agnes, an expert in native plants.  She said it could be a couple of years until it flowered.  It might be more, according to my neighbour David.  It looks pretty puny even for a seedling and far from ‘adolescence”, let alone flowering (can you describe a wanna-be flower as adolescent?)  In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, here’s a visual:DSC_0752

Hence, I resigned myself to keep up the hunt at plant sales.  We had given up on this flower for this 2014 Spring.  However, yesterday, walking about the front yard, to my wandering eyes did appear…

chocolate lily

Chocolate Lily

This beautiful specimen was sitting unexpected in the front driveway between our property and that of our neighbor (whose mother gave him a chocolate lily bulb a few years. back).  Today, feeling so lucky for and grateful to my neighbors on both sides who don’t use pesticides and encourage native species, I changed lenses on my Nikon and rushed out  to capture the lily before it was trampled or munched on by a deer.  Then I buzzed about the garden (with the pollinators) and took pictures of some established and new native plant species we’re trying to encourage to proliferate.  I just had to share these pictures with you.  This is my first Spring post, reviving with the Earth’s energy, the Sun’s blessing, and Spring’s promise come true

trilliums sword ferns buddha

Trilliums behind the Buddha trilliumTrilliums up close, note the pink hue on the right.  The flowers turn pink then brown and then the petals completely shrivel and fall.  Probably as hard to grow and propagate as the chocolate lily, these graceful woodland plants have their seeds dispersed by ants, a process known as myrmecochory.

nodding onion bud detail Nodding onion, last year’s gift from our garden’s Godmother, Nancy Turner, Professor of Ethnobotany.  It not only lasted, but is hearty and has 4 buds.  They will emerge pink and will smell like… onion.maidenhair nice light Maidenhair ferns.  Like the other ferns in our garden, the fiddle heads come up so innocently.  Watching them emerge determinedly a inch every day brings happy confirmation that winter is indeed behind us and the sunny summer will saunter over in her own good time.

garry oak seedling growing on moss Garry Oak sapling emerging on the mossy rock.evergreen huckleberry Evergreen huckleberry.  Look forward to tasting the berries for the first time.arbutus seedling growth New growth on the arbutus we planted end of last summer.  Also known as Madrona.  We thought it was a goner, sadly noting the sorry looking leaves.  But about a month ago, we spotted a bud, gave thanks and whispered a prayer.  ant on strawberry This is a woodland strawberry flower.  I caught the ant on it and wondered if they pollinate the strawberries – in addition to bees?  I learned that the ants are important disperses of trilliums.  Several wasp species pollinate and some flies too!  DSC_0748 Blueberry expectation! (note the fence of split cedar- an new and important deer repellent for the backyard berries) deer fernsDeer ferns framed with the penny farthing’s big wheel.  Maybe someone can enlighten me… Is the penny or the farthing bigger?

garry oak seedling next to broom stub

To the left of this garry oak sapling is the stub of a scotch broom.  This species is highly invasive and I’m so glad that an oak is taking the place of an invasive and not the other way around.  I’m hoping that’s the trick to a thriving native plant garden: take out the invasives, encourage the natives and the pollinators will come.  They will then nest in their original habitat and help restore this unique and fragile ecosystem.  Oui?  DSC_0705Peaceful Buddha amidst the sword ferns.

It’s coming up to 9 pm and it’s still light.  The greens and yellows play tricks in this almost twilight.  The greens seem more yellow than green and it’s soon dark.  I know I will wake up at dawn to birdsong and then hope I’ll go right back to sleep, content that the garden is being pollinated, loved and cherished as a home to countless creatures. Buona notte!

Breaking Relative Silence

It has been an interesting couple of months for me personally.  I am filled with enormous gratitude for life, my faculties and the love, courage, and greatness I witness every day.  The many wonderful people who have supported me with beautiful words and encouragement I thank you.  There is so much I have wanted to share recently.  From “I Am Steve Marsh” to the Terrible TPP to some inspiring people and events (including my mom Ratana who was recently awarded the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada).  Although I have been posting some Style-Diet Shots, I am otherwise breaking silence.

Through social media (as the mainstream media is still rubbing its eyes, wondering if it should wake up), US state after state and several counties are presenting both labelling bills and GE or GMO Free resolutions.  Clearly, this is one of the biggest issues of our times.   Canada and the US are the only developed countries who do not legislate some kind of labelling of GMOs.  So today I write with a happy heart that we can do something (activism and clicktivism) right here and now today in Canada.  Our collective clicks will become a force for change.  Our voices a sea of myriad droplets rushing in 100 foot waves (Dustin Barca can surf ’em) . So much good has come lately.  Food Babe and Robyn O’Brien and Moms Across America, our Hawaiian siblings and so many others have successfully managed to eke great changes to N. American food recently.  We still have a huge mountain to climb.  But the journey of a thousand miles begins with one single footstep.  Robyn O’Brien talks about the moral compass.  Let’s keep True North.  Let’s hold the corporations to their better angels.

For those who are still confused about whether GMOs are good or bad, I will explain why you should be wary and cautious about GMOs and employ the precautionary principle, apart from the facts that:

1. GMOs have contributed to a massive increase in toxic pesticides and herbicides.

2. GMOs have contributed to the creation of superweeds.

3. GMOs are now being considered by the USDA to be sprayed with 2,4 D also known as Agent Orange.  Since Round-Up (Glyphosate) isn’t working any more, the big chemical companies are resorting to even more toxic applications of the GMO technology.  It appears that the USDA is leaning towards approval despite common sense screaming against it.

4. GMOs have been approved by the government, based on short-term studies done by the same companies selling them.  Every independent, long-term study has shown cause for alarm.

5. Despite the hype about Bio-enhanced foods, most – 90% of GMOs are designed to withstand the herbicide glyphosate also known as Round-Up.

Most North Americans do not know whether they are consuming GMOs since the chemical giants and others like the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association have lobbied against consumer’s right to know, spending millions upon millions to suppress this basic necessity.  Imagine how many hungry people they could have fed instead?  They continue along this tragic path of concealment despite allowing customers elsewhere around the globe this right (about 5 billion see previous post https://thedeepersideblog.com/2013/12/09/gmos-by-nation).  These people in 64+ nations are buying the very same products reformulated without GMOs and or labelled.

There are two things not commonly known about GMOs that I learned from former GMO scientist Dr. Thierry Vrain (youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQkQXyiynYs).  The first is that, when scientists insert foreign genes (usually to resist the antibiotic Round-Up), the process is imprecise and nobody knows where in the DNA of the modified organism this toxic gene ends up.  The second thing is scientists don’t know how many copies are being inserted.  Messing with the DNA of an organism is problematic since biologists continually discover just how intensely, mind-blowingly complicated DNA is.  Even this past December an article in Science turned the original one protein-one gene DNA theory on its head:

http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code/

Nearly every study not conducted by the handful of chemical companies controlling this technology shows serious health and toxic effects on animals and ecosystems.  As famous environmentalist and geneticist (also an alumnus of my alma mater The University of Chicago) David Suzuki has famously said, “Any politician or scientist who tells you these products are safe is either very stupid or lying.”

So what can you do here in Canada?

Today you can effect change with a two pronged approach!

The first is an online petition.  With one click below, you can support the new Federal Labelling Bill M480 “Right to Know” put forth by Murray Rankin, an MP and Lawyer championing people and the environment.  It is wonderful to have an elected official listening to the people, for the people.  Like in the US, we in Canada want GMOs labelled.  And this is no small minority.  Well over 90% of Canadians and Americans consistently polled want GMOs labelled.  We of the over 90% feel it’s a right, given that fat and sugar and even the contents of our mattresses are labelled.  Even those who believe GMOs are good (or can be) still want to know what they are feeding themselves and their families.

Murray Rankin first introduced this bill in Ottawa this past December 2013.  Please take a minute to sign and share and send as widely as you can.

http://petition.ndp.ca/the-food-you-eat

Secondly, if you are convinced like many multitudes, that GMOs have no merit except for fairy tales and real red flag warnings, then you can support a recent campaign to Stop the GM apple.  This apple doesn’t brown when cut.  And remember, the scientists themselves don’t know what processes are being disrupted in the insertion of foreign genes in the process of making this un-necessary apple.  What you can do is speak up against the GM Apple.  Remind your stores where you shop that the apple is using dangerous technology.  Tell them you wont buy it.  Explain how the process of creating GMOs is imprecise and disrupts the DNA of the Apple. Plus once released into our countryside, it will contaminate our other apples.  Quote David Suzuki and Dr Vrain.  Inform them about Dr. Vrain’s Ted Talk and his cross Canada tour to enlighten the public.
GE FREE APPLE INFOGRAPHIC 1 GE FREE APPLE INFOGRAPHIC 2 GE FREE APPLE INFOGRAPHIC 3

I’ve been reading about Abraham Lincoln who led America at the time of the civil war.  He refused to let the slave states secede at a time a weaker man might have let the US just split into two or allow slavery to perpetuate into the new territories.  Whilst reading, I can’t stop marvelling that people used biology, logic and religion to justify slavery. When such injustice is perpetrated, we are morally obligated to speak out and up.  With right comes might and a sense of noble purpose.  Please ask me if you want more petitions to sign and I’ll dig them up.

Well, Gentle Readers (feeling Victorian after immersing in some Romantic music yesterday), please forgive my ramblings, mistakes, and typos.  I hope to be back again as soon as possible.  In the meantime, thank you for reading.  Thank you for your comments.  Thank you for your commitment to the Earth and each other.  A presto…

GMOs by Nation

Dear Canada and the USA

We *will* join the other ~5 billion people in the world  who know if their food contains GMOs.  This includes nations that outright ban GMOs to those who require Labelling.  Here is the full list  by nation below.  Canada and the USA are the only developed nations in the world that don’t require labelling.  Powerful lobby groups are preventing us from knowing what’s in our food.  This explains why despite 90% N. Americans (across all political stripes) wanting to know if it’s GMO, it has yet to happen.  But it’s going to – We are going to make enough noise and demand out of this mass experiment!

70% of the world lives in countries that have protected themselves with some kind of legislation either restricting GMOs or labelling them.  Given the hype, I assumed it was just Europe, Russia, China and a few others.  When I examined the issue, closely for first time, I was pleased to discover not only European Countries (4 dozen) are protecting themselves, but EURASIAN Countries (18), Latin American Countries (7), African Countries (11) and Australia and New Zealand.  Here are the results below.  Total world population who legislate GMOs : about 5 billion.

I was pleased to discover upon closer inspection that the list has grown recently from Mexico (who has banned GMO corn), to Bhutan (first nation to go organic) to Hawaii’s Big Island as of this last week.

Aloha to Hawaii’s Big Island!  May your population of 185,000 inspire 317 million Americans to do away with this failing and dangerous technology all together!

EUROPE
Russia              143,455,000
Germany                80,640,000
UK                64,231,000
France                63,820,000
Italy                59,798,000
Spain                46,958,000
Ukraine                45,461,000
Poland                38,548,000
Romania                19,858,000
Netherlands                16,795,000
Belgium                11,162,000
Greece                10,758,000
Portugal                10,609,000
Czech Republic                10,519,000
Hungary                 9,894,000
Sweden                 9,595,000
Belarus                 9,460,000
Austria                 8,477,000
Switzerland                 8,075,000
Bulgaria                 7,261,000
Serbia                 7,203,000
Denmark                 5,612,000
Finland                 5,436,000
Slovakia                 5,413,000
Norway                 5,077,000
Iceland                 4,662,000
Croatia                 4,258,000
Bosnia and Herzegovina                 3,847,000
Lithuania                 2,956,000
Slovenia                 2,062,000
Latvia                 2,011,000
Kosovo                 1,826,000
Estonia                 1,283,000
Luxembourg                   542,000
Malta                   419,000
Iceland                   324,000
Jersey (UK)                   100,000
Isle of Man (UK)                    87,000
Andorra                    75,000
Guernsey (UK)                    63,000
Faroe Islands                    48,000
Liechtenstein                    37,000
Monaco                    36,000
San Marino                    32,000
Gibraltar                    30,000
Aland Islands                    29,000
Svalbard and Jan Mayen (Norway)                     3,000
Vatican City                       800
EURASIA
India         1,257,476,000
Bhutan                 728,000
China         1,357,379,000
Cyprus                 888,000
Indonesia           248,731,000
Japan           127,350,000
Jordan              6,157,000
Kazakhstan            17,030,000
Malaysia            30,476,000
Saudi Arabia            30,476,000
Singapore              5,437,000
South Korea            50,394,000
Sri Lanka            20,462,000
Taiwan            23,344,000
Thailand            67,357,000
Turkey            76,081,000
Vietnam            89,702,000
LATIN AMERICA
Bolivia            10,517,000
Brazil          195,632,000
Ecuador            15,779,000
Peru            30,476,000
Mexico          118,419,000
Costa Rica             4,667,000
El Salvador             6,635,000
AFRICA
Burkina Faso           17,323,000
Cameroon           20,930,000
Ethiopia           86,614,000
Kenya           43,291,000
Mali           16,678,000
Mauritius            1,273,000
Senegal           13,567,000
South Africa           52,982,000
Togo            6,675,000
Tunisia           10,889,000
Zambia           14,129,000
OCEANIA
Australia           23,105,000
New Zealand             4,462,000
Plus Hawaii’s Big Island               185,000
 TOTAL     4,967,704,800
   
 WORLD POPULATION     7,120,000,000
 % of the WORLD WHO HAS RIGHT TO KNOW           70%
 

 * SOURCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_population

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Eurasian_countries_by_population

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African_countries_by_population

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_American_countries_by_population

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Oceanian_countries_by_population

* USED THIS MAP AS A STARTING POINT, FROM CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/ge-map/#