Tag Archives: Organic

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

 

Dr OZ and Pesticides

First LivingMaxell on Fox news http://livingmaxwell.com/fox-news-carol-alt-gmos

Now Dr Oz on Pesticides http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/what-food-industry-doesnt-want-you-know

1.5 million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on crops in 1999 – mostly GMOs.  In my opinion that’s 1.5 million pounds too many.  Sit down and hang onto your hat, cuz in 2011 we were at 90+ million pounds of pesticides per year. 90+ million pounds of pesticides in our soils, in our waters and in the air.  And that data is conservative.

And that number is growing because of the superweeds and superpests.  These GMOs were supposed to reduce chemical applications.  Instead they have increased.  Exponentially.  For those people who believe that pesticide use decreased with GMOs, it didn’t.  It hasn’t.  Dr. Oz showed that very well.  This is based on USDA data.  Now there currently is an application with the FDA to spray 2,4 D, the active ingredient of agent orange.

Over time, yields of GMOs are equalled or outperformed by Organic.

For those who believe that GMOs hold promises…. In theory.  To you I say: How about this approach –  How about we just ban toxins?  How about banning/labelling food with known carcinogens and neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors?

Let’s stop poisoning people and planet whilst we debate the morals and ethics of GMO technology.

For more information on pesticides please see http://farmwars.info/?p=11515

I’ve copied this graph on Glyphosate use and explanation from the Farm Wars website.  This is just one pesticide being sprayed on our crops…..

Contrary to claims made by the chemical industries, glyphosate use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010 according to data from the USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). States participating in the USDA surveys reported applying a whopping 91,200 tons (1 rail car holds approximately 100 tons) of glyphosate on corn, cotton and soy crops alone in 2010 (see graph). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup™, the herbicide used on Roundup Ready™ crops genetically engineered (GE) to withstand glyphosate. Glyphosate residues of up to 4.4 mg/kg have been detected in stems, leaves and beans of glyphosate-resistant soy, indicating metabolism of the herbicide. This means that the Roundup Ready™ plants are absorbing the herbicide and you cannot simply wash it off.

glyphosate graph 1

Compassion Into Action


Let’s turn our compassion for others into action. Let’s feed the hungry. Let’s do it by giving away delicious organic food. Food that’s as pure as can be. May this inspire others to open their hearts and wallets.

This is the basis for Compassion into Action that my dad Arran started a few years ago after being inspired by the Dalai Llama. All the talk of compassion fuelled him to do something about it. Let love be your rocket fuel as Robyn O’Brien says. Here’s a pictorial recap of this year’s Compassion Into Action.

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Let’s set the stage with some music: Corey from the Peak 102.7 was the Compassion Into Action dj for the day.

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Candice and John from the Greater Vancouver Food Bank:

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Let’s kick off with some Coffee from Ethical Bean! Fair trade certified.

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Maria with the Milks. Soy, Cow, Almond.
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Organic toaster waffles, courtesy of Nature’s Path.

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Cooper from Happy Planet pouring out organic juice. And Happy Vibes.DSC_0138

Volunteer with the food bank who were collecting donations.

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Arjan, Rimjhim, Jyoti, dad, et moi.

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Brent – pretend-eating a monster spoon of Chocolate chips a la Cookie Monster.DSC_0148

It was hoppingly busy!

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An organic hot and Cold Breakfast was served: From organic and fairly traded Ethical Bean Coffee to Happy Planet Organic Juices to Nature’s Path Organic Cereals and Waffles. You could come back for lunch, including Que Pasa Organic tortilla chips and salsa, Silver Hills Gluten free Grilled cheese and Save On Meats Vegetarian Chilli. Once your tummy was full, you could do your grocery shopping with a 25 dollar donation. Ons reusable bag could be filled up with organic goodness.
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Dad live on the radio with Corey from the Peak!

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Bowl of delicious Vegetarian Chilli anyone? Served with a smile from Save-On-Meats.

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Darren and Rex.

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Joes No Frills donated organic produce as did Save on Foods.

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Nature’s Path donated Love Crunch cereals, Evirokidz cereals, Bars and granolas too. Que Pasa donated their scrumptious whole grain tortilla chips.

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Arjan with Corey from 102.7 the Peak,DSC_0159

Marketplace!DSC_0167

Eatmore donated organic Sprouts – with a 25 dollar donation you could fill up a reusable bag of organic groceries.DSC_0176

Tanya and John. Tanya held several bake sales in her office to raise funds for the food bank. She presented it to John of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in an envelope. Brava! The Food Bank relies solely on donations to feed 28,000 people per week. No donation is too small.DSC_0191

Anthony from BCIT. Along with Breakfast News and the Weather Channel they were one of several Media covering the event.DSC_0196

Jyoti and Jason cooking up a storm:

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Thomas modelling an organic Pumpkin. Nice pumpkin.DSC_0206

Arjan, Rimjim, John making delicious Silver Hill bread Gluten Free Grilled Cheese.
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Silver Hills Organic Breads (also Gluten Free) was there with smiles!DSC_0232

These were amazeballs vegan and Gluten Free from Two Daughters Bakeshop http://twodaughtersbakeshop.com/DSC_0145

Organic Pears from Witzke’s Farms:

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Happy Shopper! Organic veggies galore.DSC_0175

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More Happy Shoppers – with such an array of fresh organic veggies, bread, chips, juice, and cereal who wouldn’t be happy? DSC_0177

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Positivity is infectious. Get in line, Get infected!

Grower Pete

Grower Pete along with his son, grows lettuce in greenhouses.  http://www.growerpetes.com/ Grower Pete’s grandparents  have grown vegetables in green houses since 1927.  Not so unusual you might say….  Certified organic,  Yep seen that before…..   Hang on!  Are those roots attached?

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Living Butter Lettuce and Watercress – Wow!  I had never thought of that before.  Have you?

Big Dream Farm Fund

Dream Big.

Nathalie Chambers is an infectiously positive person.  She is the only person I know of who has raised 2.7 million dollars in order to save her family farm and then turned around and gifted that farm to the  community via a Land trust.  What a bright, shining example of glorious possibilities.  Thanks to Nathalie, this land will belong to the community.  Forever.  Food security is a pressing problem.  Here is how Nathalie described it to me “Imagine the world as an apple, take 3/4 of that away for the oceans.  We’re left now with 1/4 of that apple.  That’s land.  Now take the thin little peel on this remaining quarter slice of apple.  This piece of peel is how much land we have for agriculture”.

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Nathalie Chambers at Madrona Farm. She farms sustainably with her husband Dave. Most concerned about preserving and enhancing biodiversity, Dave has engineered a light plough a couple inches shorter than standard so that it doesn’t disturb the local bees who hibernate in the ground over winter. Nathalie has studied the trees on her farm and has found out that they enhance biodiversity since that’s where the pollinators thrive.

When we lived in England, we joined the National Trust.  This is a beautiful system by which the people collectively buy and protect historical sites, land and wildlife.  People give as much as they can afford.  It’s a delightfully democratic system with integrity.  The British have much to protect.  I think that Canada, given our sheer size, has way more.

Inspired by the UK Trust, Nathalie has a similar vision for Canada – and the World!- called the Big Dream Farm Fund. http://chefsurvivalchallenge.com/the_big_dream_farm_fund.html  Last night she unveiled her new National Vision tonight at the Vista 18 restaurant at the Chateaux Victoria.  So many people would love to farm but can’t afford to buy the land.  If the community can unite to protect and own the land, then farming can be accessible to those who want to.  Nathalie and her husband Dave are a fine example demonstrating that it’s possible to make a living farming sustainably.

What if every Canadian contributed just 10 dollars to preserving farmland – our glorious patrimony?   Owning our farmland collectively, protecting it from land-grabbing speculators and big biotech companies who want to poison the soils and water with GMO Biofuel production (which is unsustainable, taking far more energy to produce that what it yields) or GMO food production which is highly unsustainable and scary in it’s misled monocrop vision.  Monsanto claims to be feeding the world.  What they don’t tell you is that 70% of GMOs are not intended for human consumption!  Feeding the world, as they say over and over again – Bah Humbug.  They’ve said it so many times that people believe them.  Believe me -the Emperor is naked.

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Chefs running an obstacle course at the 2009 Chef Survival Challenge at Madrona Farm. The Challenge both builds community and raises funds for farmland conservation.

By committing to preserve farmland for sustainable agriculture, we can enhance our biodiversity, keep our water and soils pure and help supply the ever-increasing demand for organic foods (Organic means GMO free.  Organic has never allowed GMOs).  Nathalie has two upcoming events in September called the “Chef Survival Challenge” which brings together local chefs and local farms.  Well-known chefs race and swim and do all sorts of difficult and goofy obstacles before getting to pick their veggies and cook them into a 3 star dish which is judged.  The winning chef becomes the year’s Golden Broccoli winner.   Applause please.  Funds raised from this fabulous community affair go right into the Big Dream Farm Fund.   Raucous cheering!

I will post more about this.  Til then I’ll leave you with a farmer’s anthem written by my Grandpa Rupert in the 1950s.  I can’t talk much about farming without thinking of my gentle, song-writing Grandpa Rupert, an organic berry farmer at Goldstream Berry Paradise.  He loved the Earth and said, “Always leave the soil better than you found it”

My Speech at the March Against Monsanto Victoria

“The Right to Know what’s in our food is going to define our generation”

– Me (Today)

For the first time today, I gave a speech at a Protest Rally.   I spoke to a crowd covering the lawn in front of Victoria’s Parliament Buildings.  The energy was insane and I kept getting interrupted with applause.  Having been so moved since hearing Dr Vandana Shiva talk, it was motivating and inspiring to march with others, demanding our rights to know what’s in our food.  Several people afterwards asked me if I could email my speech to them.  I figured maybe it would be better to post it so anybody can find it.  I’ve also been asked about where to sign  petitions.  I am going to find that out put that information out too.  Meantime, here is my talk.

“I speak to you as a friend and as a mother who is sick to her stomach with this GMO madness. My Grandparents and great- grandparents farmed here on Vancouver Island. Grandpa Rupert said “Always leave the Soil better than you found it”.

I am here today because I met Dr Vandana Shiva, winner of the Alternative Nobel prize and heard her talk here at UVIC. I was so upset that evening, I couldn’t sleep. I was inspired and inflamed. I was so perturbed and disturbed about the current state of affairs, I wanted to get up and shout, tell people about it. We have a right to know what’s in our food. There is not enough evidence that GMOs are healthy for us. The ever-growing evidence is that GMOs are poisoning us and destroying our planet.

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First of all, GMOs stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. These are plants and animals not found in nature, created in laboratories. Once they are released into nature you can’t recall them, like opening the lid of Pandora’s Box, My Dad Arran said in 1990s, “There is no wall high enough to keep out GMOs”. There are two main types of GMOs. One type has insecticide toxin spliced into their genes. The other type is spliced with a pesticide resistance gene. So when you plant it in a field and saturate that field with pesticides and herbicides, Everything in that field dies (in theory). Everything, except for the Genetically modified plant.

We first heard about GMO foods in the 1990s with the Franken tomato with fish genes.  From then until now independent study after independent study has shown serious health and environmental and social consequences.

Animal studies show that GMOs cause : cancers, ulcers, acute signs of early aging, reproductive and growth problems.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg. GMO toxins are in our bodies. They even cross the placenta. In a 2011 study from the Scientific Journal Reproductive Toxicology, 93% of fetal blood tested contained GMO toxins. This is dangerous and as a Mother, I find this terrifying.

What is worse is that more than eighty percent of all food sold in Canadian supermarkets contains these GMOs. Eighty percent! And nobody knows about it because they are not labelled!

64 countries require GMO labeling or outright ban GMOs. 64 countries including such “Progressive Nations like China and Russia – require GMOs to be labelled. Why not US?

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My family has been at the forefront to label GMOs in North America. We are Canadians, living here in Victoria and Vancouver but so far, the fight to label has been in the US. GMOs are a problem affecting everybody, everywhere. You coming out today is a sign that Canada too is waking up.

Let me tell you about a grandmother called Pamm Larry in California. Pamm presented a proposition to label GMOs called prop 37. My family heard about this contributed 660, 000 to help her spread the word. Other companies and individuals joined us and we raised 3-4 million dollars for prop 37, the right to know. Californians wanted GMO labelling and the proposition was going to pass with a landslide. But guess what happened in the last 6 weeks of that grass roots campaign? Monsanto, Dow, Coca cola, Syngenta, Post, DuPont, Bayer, Pespico, Cascadian Farms, Kelloggs, Kashi and others donated almost 50 million dollars to defeat labelling. Those big companies and big companies posing as little companies do not want consumers to know what we are eating. They outspent the grassroots pro-labelling initiative by 10 to 1 after waging a dirty, fearful, and deceitful campaign. But guess what? they didn’t win the vote by tenfold. The final vote came down to 48.5% for labelling GMOs and 51.5% against. It wasn’t a win for Consumer Rights this time BUT it was a victory in that 6,000,000 people voted FOR labelling. That represents a ten-fold increase in awareness of this dangerous and unsustainable technology.

We are awakening and we are the droplets of water in the tides that are turning. Just this past week in Connecticut, the house approved a pro-labelling bill that went to the senate who also voted to approve it 35 to 1: Democrats and Republicans together. Concerned Citizens in Washington State and Vermont have bills on the table as we speak.

Let me tell you something neat. Scientists have come up with a way of measuring life in fields. They take this box contraption which has cameras and sensors in it and lay it in a field. It counts every time a bug or creature crawls or slithers or buzzes through it. In an organic field, there will be hundreds of insects going through there in 24 hours. Now take the same box and put it in a GMO field and guess what happens? In one 24 hour period, in that GMO field, there will only maybe one or possibly 2 insects passing that box. The animals and insects know to stay away from GMOS – or have been killed -but we don’t. ?

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I thought the Canadian government was supposed to protect us citizens.  Don’t we have the right to know what we are eating?  We must teach ourselves where to shop, how to shop, and what to buy. Tell your schools and your work places about GMOs. Make you voice heard, ask your local elected representative for help. In a world where voting with your money can be an act of protest, buy from your local farms food you trust. If you want to be totally and utterly defiant, plant seeds, grow your own food.

It’s confusing out there in the supermarket. We are being misled and confused and deliberately so. What should you eat? What should you trust? What should you avoid? Here are some shopping rules:

Avoid “Natural” if that’s it’s only claim. By itself, “Natural” means nothing nowadays. Natural means it can have pesticides and herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, and GMOs.  It probably does.  There are no rules or laws regulating the term ‘Natural”.

Foods bearing the Canada Organic Seal can be trusted.  Organic is a legal definition and a traceable system with the force of law behind it.

There is a new label called Non-GMO project verified. It is third-party certified at a threshold of 9/10 of a percent contamination. If you see it on packaging, that means the food has been tested and has no GMOs. It is a step in the right direction. However, it is not all that great. Harmful and unsustainable pesticides and Herbicides are still allowed, just not the ones in GMO production. This label is being used as Greenwashing by some companies. It certainly is not as good as organic.  Organic certification has never allowed GMOs.  Never.

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When in doubt, if in doubt, buy certified organic. Organic automatically means that it’s GMO FREE PLUS it’s grown sustainably. Organic is quantum leaps better than all the other labels combined. Certified organic is the Gold Standard: No harmful pesticides, no harmful herbicides. Buying organic is safe for you and is the only way we can keep our waters and lands and soil pure.

Think of that GMO field – barren of bees and insects, silent except for farmers in biohazard suits spraying toxic chemicals on the crops. Now see an organic one. See a world where the bees are buzzing and the soil is naturally replenished. See the world where food is democratic, where the seeds are free and grow again and again and again. When you buy Organic, you support this.

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Demand GMOs to be labelled. If China and Russia and 62 other countries have done it, we can do it too. Nestle just recently caved into consumers in South Africa who demanded that its baby food be GMO free. Why did Nestle do this? Because a concerned group of citizens demanded it. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Like in S. Africa, we can do the same thing here in Canada. We must do the same thing! We are the voice! We have the right to know what’s in our food! What do we want: Labelling When do we want it: Yesterday

Dr Vandana Shiva said, “The growing of our food should be an act of love.”

And as Grandpa Rupert said “Always leave the soil better than you found it.”

Thank you.”

Bangladesh – Fast Fashion Blues

I see a world where fairness supersedes profits.

Suffering is in my heart as I read about the senseless deaths in Bangladesh.

Now, it may seem so far from where we all are

It’s something we can’t reject That suffering, I can’t neglect …

– George Harrison  from the protest song “Bangladesh”, 1970

I am biting back many bitter and angry words right now about the Bangladesh Building Collapse. The G-rated version boils down to: If workers were cared for and their concerns about a crumbling building were addressed, this would not have happened.  If people weren’t so interested in buying cheaply made clothes this might not have happened.  I lament for those souls sacrificed at the altar of greed.  I marvel at the woman who gave birth in the rubble.  I wish for a better future for them and us all.  I wish to turn that pain into productive thoughts and actions.

We have begun to embrace Fair-Trade coffee and chocolate.  Now how about Fair-Trade clothes?  Where workers are given the right to work in clean, safe buildings that are regularly subjected to safety and fire drills?  Why is fast food unacceptable but fast fashion is extolled?  Why should a fancy coffee cost more than a tee-shirt?

What step forward can we take to unwind this conundrum?  What changes in the right direction can we make?  There are the band-aid solutions and then there are the steps to make towards real change.  For the band-aid solutions: give aid, hold perpetrators accountable for lax and insufficient standards.

For the long-term, I would like to bring up again the Stephens Sisters’ shopping Diet (the SSSD). If you love to shop, this will not limit your shopping enjoyment, but greatly enhance it.  The SSSD: Whatever you buy, it must be one or more of the following categories: Local, Organic, Sustainable, Second Hand, or Fair-Trade.  If you can’t find local, then buy from a country with a stellar social and environmental record.  Buy Quality so that you don’t have to shop as much  to replace your stuff as often.

The more categories you check, the better.  Instead of looking only at the price tag, see beyond to the hidden costs (people and the Earth) and pay the fair price.  When you look at prices at the supermarket or clothing store and automatically reach for the cheapest, stop and ask yourself:  Is it really the cheapest?  Who and what am I supporting with my purchase?  Do the companies I support give back?  Can I spend a little more and support a company that is doing the right thing by people and our planet?

Stop and look at your clothes.   Where did you buy them?  When did you buy them?  In what country were they made?

Today I am wearing Canadian-made black, bootcut, mid rise Second Yoga jeans http://www.secondclothing.com/, a locally made shirt from Shop Coccoon http://www.shopcocoon.com/ in Cambie St village 3 years old (took out the itchy tag so can’t provide the brand), socks from recycled wool (from Leka http://lekadesign.com/ in Victoria), boots i bought when I lived in Florence over 9 years ago (they are scruffy but I love them like an old friend), a hand-me-down Sweater from my mom, and a Coat I bought in Italy 8 years ago.  My bag is vintage LV from the late 1990s.  I wear it every day.  It looks almost-new because it’s designed to last.  When a strap breaks I get it fixed.  Shopping the SS Diet can be enormously fun and rewarding.  I challenge you to try the diet for your next clothing purchase.   Share pictures and stories here and on social media.

You work hard for your money.  When you exchange that money for goods, make your dollar, pound, peso, euro…  speak for you.  If you don’t have time to write to organize protests,  encourage with your dollars, boycott with your money.   Focus on the positive, support fair fashion and fair trade. Try to ignore advertising (it’s hard I know) which tells you to buy what you don’t need.  Instead, search out the truth in yourself.

You are not alone.  I am there with you.  Let’s draw strength from each other and create a more righteous world –  one fairly-made garment at a time!