GMO’s – Banning together: what to do about GM foods

Get Your Gen Mo Out of My Food Yo: Part VI – Banning together

By Kenda Swartz Pepper | Published: February 8, 2010

So how is it the general American population is allowing multinational chemical corporations to determine the quality (or lack thereof) level of our food whereas some countries are clearly taking a stand against Genetically Modified foods?  How is it that the general American population is allowing Agrochemical companies to wreak indescribable havoc on our earth, our bodies, our children’s bodies?  Some countries say they will first watch and see what happens to America’s children before they make a decision about whether they will or will not grow or import genetically modified crops/food.  They can clearly see that our children are part of a massive outcome study.  

Ban Lifters and Crashers

This is not an all-inclusive list.  I welcome any thoughts or additions in the comment section.

According to The Australian in late 2007 the states of New South Wales and Victoria lifted their bans while South Australia continues its ban (Well done South Australia). Tasmania has a ban in place until 2014 (Well done Tasmania!). The state of Queensland has had commercial GM crops since 1996 and has never had a GM ban.

From 2010 onward genetically modified canola can be grown in Western Australia according to the decision of Food Minister Terry Redman and against the wishes of many in WA.  Boooooooooooooooo. Mates.

Anti-GMO folks believe that this decision will be detrimental to the State and ignores the wishes of the majority of people and the 24 GM free shires, five of which are in the minister’s electorate, who would like to see WA remain GM free.

In 2005, Canada, specifically the government of Prince Edward Island (PEI) reviewed a proposal to ban the GMOs in the province. The ban was not passed.  As of January 2008, the use of genetically modified crops on PEI was expanding.  As of 2008, Canada ranked 5th in the world for the amount of acreage used for GM crops (about 18 million).  What were you thinking, eh?

Italy’s highest appeals court has just lifted a ban on the planting of GM corn – against the wishes of many including farmers.  Ciò è terribile l’Italia!

Litigation and Other Such Actions

Lawsuits continue to crop up.  Last year Monsanto filed suit against Germany for a ban the government placed against planting genetically modified corn.

There are numerous lawsuits and actions against Monsanto as well including 50 cancer lawsuits.

According to the African Centre for Biosafety

Three varieties of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce crops during the 2008-09 growing season, leaving up to 200,000 hectares (nearly 500,000 acres) of fields barren of cobs and crop losses across several provinces in South Africa.

According the GRAIN SA, the varieties are: MON 810, NK 603 and MON 810 x NK 603. These seeds were sold to commercial maize farmers and provided to resource poor farmers in South Africa.

While Monsanto compensated those farmers, the company also barred them from speaking about it.

Here in the U.S. – Missouri to be exact – a federal judge issued that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shouldn’t have permitted GM crops on a national wildlife refuge.

For a more comprehensive list of litigations, check out Law360.

Banning Together

Sources say that it’s difficult to know if a US city or county is GMO-free even if they’ve banned GMOs, because US patent laws protect anyone who is willing to plant GMO plants – since it is technically a patented technology they do not have to disclose.  Still, having a ban is certainly more likely to prevent offenders from taking unethical actions.  And if the ban is set into law, then those growing GMOs will have to deal with the legal consequences of their actions.  Eventually bans and required labeling (keeping in mind the U.S. does not yet have required labeling) will squeeze out the offenders.

Some positive change is on the horizon.  If you have any additional information about countries, counties, or cities that are placing bans on GMOs, please add those in the comment section.  A recent report from Treehugger shows some countries who are wising up.

From Ireland to Egypt, countries are banning GMO crops and foods. Ireland is an official GMO-free zone.  Egypt banned both the import and export of GMOs.  Chávez  in 2004 announced a total ban on genetically modified seeds in Venezuela.  But he’s a radical so that doesn’t count, right?

In the EU, there is just one permitted genetically modified crop – MON810 – corn.  Current EU law allows for individual countries to ban if they choose.  This ban is gaining momentumLuxembourg, Hungary, France, Austria, Germany and Greece have joined the ranks of governments speaking out against deranged (that’s my word not theirs) food.  See the full article at Eat. Drink. Better.

You may recall from Part II of this post that Germany and Egypt were listed among the 25 countries producing GM crops.  They have moved to the other side!  Congrats Germany and Egypt!

Sidebar:  Something Ridiculous to Share

A March 2008 article from Beef Magazine claims that the EU is paying for their decision to ban new GM crops.  The EU has had a de-facto ban on GMOs since the 1980’s. The EU refuses to import GMO cereals, and this is the cause of strife between the US and the EU.  In exchange for nonGMO feed, Europe has had to pay a premium for its feed to assure that what they get is ‘clean’.  The article continues on with:

But now countries like China are importing more cereals, and they don’t care if it’s got GMOs or not. This simple fact is making cereal producers less willing to follow the strict guidelines the EU requires and instead are going for simpler markets. That’s leaving EU livestock producers with fewer options and higher costs because Europe only produces about 25% of its feed protein needs.

Let me try to get this straight.  GMOs were invented to help solve the world’s hunger issues. More GMOs end up in feed that is supplied to animals (and that ultimately ends up on the dinner plates of wealthier – relatively speaking – people) instead of going directly to hungry people. The people eating the animals that ate the feed get sicker and sicker from 1) the realized outcome of general meat consumption (heart disease, diabetes, cancer and such) and 2) consuming animals that consumed toxins.  The people therefore need medicine. Meanwhile back at the ranch, animal consumption is gobbling up resources (water, fossil fuels, land, topsoil, health of the earth in addition to that of humans) while humans continue to consume the animals. Remembering of course that GMOs were invented to feed more humans. Who wins? Chemical companies. Pharmaceutical companies. Meat and Dairy industry. Not hungry people.

Oh, and there’s the minor issue that factory cattle, pig, (etc etc etc) farming is an industry that lends itself to illnesses by improper animal handling and breeding. By feeding animals food that they are not meant to ingest (cows are designed to eat grass, for example, not corn or soy or other animal parts), they then incur the need for antibiotics.  Otherwise the public has to deal with the fallout of E. Coli as a result of feed that is not meant for cows.

Oh, and there’s the other minor issue that industrialized animal farming is one of the main culprits in deforestation, reduction of land for plant crops, and is creating a situation that actually decreases the world’s chance of feeding the global population because there simply isn’t any way to produce enough animals to feed the world.

Hmmm…who will pay exactly? Everyone ingesting GMOs will pay…with their health, the decline of the environment…pay now or pay later.

End Sidebar – Back to Banning Together

Most recently ten state governments in India are declaring war on GM crops for a number of reasons including the realization that ultimately they are surrendering their freedom by becoming dependent on foreign seeds for their food. This is a really big deal considering that India has been a big supporter of GM crop research.

While Japan doesn’t have an official ban, they hold strict regulations that have made it difficult for corporations to invest in GM farming.  Japan does import some GM food from other countries.

In Bulgaria, there’s been a 5-year ban on GM crops; but because the original ban was only (supposedly) instated to appease the public and because there are some folks in the government who are bending, this ban could end in three months.  Does this mean Bulgaria no longer cares about appeasing their people?

I found a fabulous site GMO-free Regions.There is a lot of valuable information including a country-by-country overview and a map showing which countries have banned GMOs.

A recent report by Nielson Supermarket News said that GMO-free claims are the fastest growing among store brands.  Clearly this is because the consumer is speaking up.

Organic Food CAN Feed the World…At the Very Least it Can Feed You Quite Well

In a March 2008 article by The Ecologist,the writers outline ten reasons why organic foods can feed the World.  These include:

  • Reduction in energy use: Organic crops use 25% less energy than their chemical counterparts.  Some crops, like broccoli and leeks achieve even better results – upwards of 58% less energy.
  • Dramatic reductions in methane emissions from cows by feeding them what they are biologically hardwired to eat – grass.
  • Less water consumption through improved soil structure – even in times of drought.
  • Reduction of direct environmental, social and economic costs of food transport through local farming.
  • Zero need for toxic chemicals, because a healthy plant in healthy soil is more resistant to pests, weeds and disease. Organic plants have been proven to be higher in antioxidants through better quality soil (higher trace minerals) and no pesticides means the plants have stronger immune systems.  Yes.  Plants have immune systems.

Based on studies of GM crops in India, The Institute of Science in Society states that a decade of planting GM cotton, or any GM crop with Bt genes in it, could lead to total destruction of soil organisms, leaving dead soil unable to produce food.

  • Biodiversity is actually a good thing!
    Organic production systems are designed to respect the balance observed in our natural ecosystems. It is widely accepted that controlling or suppressing one element of wildlife, even if it is a pest, will have unpredictable impacts on the rest of the food chain. Instead, organic producers regard a healthy ecosystem as essential to a healthy farm, rather than a barrier to production.
  • Seeds adapt to the climate, so saving natural (nonGMO) seeds is important for plants to adapt as well. Seed-saving and the development of local varieties gives crops the potential to evolve in response to what could be rapidly changing climatic conditions. This will help agriculture keep pace with climate change in the field, rather than in the laboratory.
  • Job Creation. Unlike industrialized farming, organic farming is labor intensive and requires lots of talented humans to do the work.  According to a 2006 report by the University of Essex, organic farming in the UK provides 32 per cent more jobs per farm than comparable non-organic farms. Interestingly, the report also concluded that the higher employment observed could not be replicated in non-organic farming through initiatives such as local marketing. Instead, the majority (81%) of total employment on organic farms was created by the organic production system itself. The report estimates that 93,000 new jobs would be created if all farming in the UK were to convert to organic.

Caleeeforneeea steps up to the plate – Yessssss!

In 2008 a bill to protect California farmers against Monsanto lawsuits was enacted.

The Bill, AB 541, enacts protections against lawsuits brought against California farmers who have not been able to prevent the inevitable – the drift of GE pollen or seed onto their land and the subsequent contamination of their non-GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, particularly Monsanto. The bill also establishes a mandatory crop sampling protocol to prevent biotech companies that are investigating alleged violations from sampling crops without the explicit permission of farmers.

Santa Cruz County is a GMO-free Zone

I’m very pleased to announce that my county is a GMO-free zone.  Santa Cruz county outlawed genetically engineered plants in 2006.

GMO-free Monterey County

The other day I saw a bumper sticker GMO-free Monterey County.  I promptly returned home to find the website and was pleased to see that Monterey County is working toward becoming GMO-free.  I had an email conversation with the Campaign Director, Daniella Russo, and she mentioned their proposed ban is modeled after Santa Cruz County’s ban.  You can check out their petition.  They already have 1000 signatures and growing!  I support the advocates in making this goal a reality!

Mendocino County is a GMO-free Zone

I had the fortunate experience of connecting with Els Cooperrider, a Botanist, organic activist and owner of the first certified organic brewpub in the United States, Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant.  In 2004, Els spearheaded the GMO Free Mendocino County citizen’s initiative to ban the growing of GMOs in Mendocino County, California, thus making it the first GMO free zone in the Americas.  She also was a leader in the successful fight to stop the California Department of Transportation from spraying our roadsides with toxic herbicides.

I asked Els two questions and here are her answers:

Q:  What was the biggest challenge in creating the first GMO free zone?

A: The biggest challenge was educating the people of the county about GE. Most people didn’t have a clue. It was a matter of educating, NOT convincing them that GMOs were bad. People would have to conclude for themselves when they had the facts.

Q: What message of inspiration do you have for the regular consumer (who may have financial difficulties and may not as easily afford organic foods) in creating a healthy nonGMO food lifestyle?

A: I wrote an article on how to eat organic for $3 per day. All it requires is some cooking. Prepackaged and precooked food actually costs more than even the simple raw organic ingredients. People feel entitled, they don’t want to cook and then complain about how much it costs. I say, spend less time on the phone or in front of the TV and more time in the kitchen.

People like Els are making a real difference for self and others, and you can too. The final post will focus on some actions that we, the consumers, can take.

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3 responses to “GMO’s – Banning together: what to do about GM foods

  1. Pingback: Movie Review: The Future Of Food | Powered By Produce

  2. A non-profit consumer organization, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, was started 1 1/2 years ago ro promote natural, toxin-free food and to warn the Philippine nation about the dangers of GMOs. Starting with 9 people who formed the organization, we now have around 20 who have signed up as active members and 400 as advocates who are committed to avoid GMO-containing foods and support our work for GMO labeling and a stop to the commercialization of Bt corn in our country. Fortunately, the planting of this crop is not yet widespread. Some provinces in the Philippines have banned GMOs. We have to reclaim our rights as consumers! Consumers of the world, UNITE!

  3. Visit http://www.agraquest.com as a global leader in the agrochemical industry and a premier partner in the biological and low-chemical segments, AgraQuest’s Agrochemical Division focuses on discovering, developing, manufacturing and marketing highly effective food improvement products for agricultural and food safety markets.

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