Boundaries and the GMO Conspiracy


The Road Less Taken

This is a fence in the woods. There is a stone wall, and sticks in the gap in the wall, that warn you not to stick your head through the electric fence. Doing so, especially without realizing the wires were there, would hurt. Most fences are visible but some might be hard to see. Livestock do best if they have a good visual marker along fence lines. Visual markers are important so that you can make informed decisions. Once you see the info you can decide for yourself if it is worth the pain to go down that path.
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There is a safe proven path which has been mapped out by settlers, nature and the livestock who came before. But sometimes I’ll open up a new path that might lead to better pastures. Until the new path is proven safe, e.g., the gate opened and clearly marked, I would suggest that “you,” as livestock, not stick your head through the fence. The sign, written with sticks in the potential path, make this clear so animals don’t accidentally get a shock. Well marked fences make good neighbors to mangle an old poem.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs/GMs) are mostly unproven to my level of satisfaction and that of many other people’s. They are a path that has not yet been proven by the test of time. Studies done by the manufactures are not good enough – they have an inherent conflict of interest in promoting their product to transfer your money from your pocket to their pocket. There are many opposing studies that suggest or confirm that there are problems caused by GMO foods. Until this all gets sorted out info on GMO foods will let us make informed decisions.

In addition to the health concerns GMOs encourage the use of herbicides (e.g., RoundUp Ready) and antibiotics (e.g., rBGH/rBST). Some GMOs contain insecticides (e.g., like Bt) that might not be safe to be eating – the Bti Mosquito Bits says not to consume them. Many consumers, like myself, prefer to avoid pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in our diet as much as feasible. Signs on product help us do this by avoiding RoundUp Ready crops, for example.

Another problem with things like the RoundUp Ready and Bt GMO crops is they are creating resistance out in nature to these herbicides and insecticides which result in more herbicides being used. The over use of Bt has resulted in insects becoming resistant to it – thus we lose an important tool Bti which is a natural, organic method of controlling certain pests. Too much of a good thing has turned bad. Part of that problem is monocropping which is a central tenant of GMOs and has all sorts of problems.

There are other non-health issues with GMOs. They have resulted in patents on natural life, DNA sequences, that nobody should own. Even the Supreme Court agrees 9-0. Patents in the GMO field have resulted in lawsuits against farmers that should never have seen the light of day in my esteemed opinion. Patents and ill gotten legislation have been used to squash research on the risks of GMOs. The big GMO companies have used their 8,000 pound gorilla tactics to crush the opposition through intimidation. They have used their enormous lobbying power to push through destructive legislation that blocks consumers from knowing what is in their food and even blocks scientists from doing research that might prove the dangers inherent in GMOs. If the GMO companies really believed their products were safe then they would be encouraging and cooperating with independent researchers to prove it.

Salt, nutrition, allergens and calorie counts must be shown by law. Mandatory for GMOs makes sense too. The GM companies argue that they shouldn’t have to declare their products:

Asgrow Seed Co. (a Monsanto subsidiary) President Norman Braksick was quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying: “If you [it] on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
Sonoran News & Organic Consumers Association

Well, yes, that is the point – GMOs are considered dangerous, much like pirates, by a large portion of the public. By the GMO companies’s same logic nobody should have to show the amount of salt, calories, protein, vitamins, ingredients, allergens or anything else in products. Yet, the government says not only is it mandatory to indicate these ingredients but it is a good idea demanded by consumers and that consumers have a right to know. GMO declarations are the same.

As of the latest data I can find, 61 countries mandate info on GMOs, yet not in the USA. Many places have even banned GMOs outright. A lot more research needs to be done to prove each is safe before they should be allowed in our food supply. At the very least the GMO crops should be marked so consumers can decide for themselves.

Fortunately, GMOs will soon be indicted without any government mandate. I tend to favor market place solutions so I’m pleased to see this:

Chipotle becomes first US restaurant chain to voluntarily declared GMOs. … On its “Ingredients Statement” website, Chipotle clearly outlines which of its food products contain GMOs, and also states that it is working aggressively to source completely non-GMO ingredients for all of its products as it moves forward.
Natural News

In other words, consumers are demanding to know what GMOs are in their food and retailers are responding. There is a competitive advantage to giving the buyers what they want. If you care about GMOs you’re more likely to buy from vendors who insist that their suppliers declare products.

The above article says we have one national restaurant chain that is insisting on the info. Whole Foods is another in retail. One more and we’ll have a conspiracy… Oh, wait, it gets better, there already is a conspiracy by retailers to insist vendors declare their products about GMOs as per this article:

Proponents of GMO transparency are finding unlikely allies in the companies that mandatory marking would most impact. Nearly two-thirds of retailers (64.1%) and 71.1% of manufacturers polled for SN’s 10th annual survey of Center Store performance advocate measures that would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be marked as such. The findings come as Whole Foods Market works toward full GMO transparency; Target, Giant Eagle and more than 50 other chains
Supermarket News

All good news. You can affect change. Let retailers know you care and vote with your dollars.

This is not to say that research, even GM research, is evil. Genetic engineering has the potential for great good. The companies with the vested interest should not be squashing research into their products and they should have no control over the research determining safety. Even the Supreme Court agrees, unanimously, that nobody should own patents on DNA or on nature. Research in this area is very dangerous. It needs to be done more cautiously, with much more confirmation of safety, before it is allowed in our food and it must be indicated so we can see where the safe path veers into the unknown.

When leaving comments on this particular post use your real name or I may delete your comment. For the two people from the USDA office†† who used false names when leaving FUD comments on the related article about this topic: No, our pigs are not GMOed. We use good old fashion, tried and true traditional selective breeding as has been done for the past 6,000 years by farmers and for hundreds of millions of years by Mother Nature. Evolution works.

Outdoors: 65°F/44°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/63°F

Daily Spark: There’s an old Yankee saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Traditional selective breeding is not Genetic Engineering, GM or GMOs, contrary to the propaganda of some GMO proponents. If these people can’t tell the difference then they need to get out of their labs, cubicles and ivory towers.

††Web logs and crumbs are highly informative.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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31 Responses to Boundaries and the GMO Conspiracy

  1. estes says:

    Walter, that’s a perfect analogy. The a new path is being forged, but it needs cautious exploration, not just to be opened up in a free for all, unless you want to lose a few animals.

  2. Terry Jensen says:

    u make some very good points and I think the public is starting to wakeup and demand to know what is in their food and where is it coming from. I am lucky as we raise most of our own food so we can limit the risks but there are some problems. Almost all corn now is GMO and from what I have been told so is wheat…these are some pretty main ingredients in our diets. There was a PBS special about corn and it would shock u how much corn is in ur diet…if u can find it then it is well worth watching…just alittle scary.

    • Daniel says:

      There is no GMO wheat currently on the market anywhere in the world. There is research being done into GMO wheat for several different insect/fungal resistances in the UK, none that I am aware of in North America though.

  3. Andrew Deobald says:

    Hey Walter, I left a comment on your related post that didn’t get posted up. I really hope you didn’t think I was from the USDA trying to scare anyone, or start a shouting match. I really do appreciate what you are doing with your farm, and every time I read a post you put up it gives me more ideas on what I’d like to do with my “eventual” piece of land.

    I had passed a reference to the supreme court of America’s decision to strike down DNA patents but hadn’t gotten around to looking any further into it, so hurrah!

    I try very hard to see things from the perspective you have, and share with millions of people. You do a great job in making sensible, well thought out points that and I respect that hugely. Too often, on both sides of any discussion, you find people using emotional attacks and appeals instead of reasonable arguments.

    I guess my biggest hurdle is that I trust people. As far as I understand it everything has to go through rigorous health and safety testing to be approved for sale, and I get that there are lots of people who want more, and that’s ok. I’m just not one of them.

    I guess I just feel the gate is labeled clearly enough for me.

    • So the simple solution is to label so that people have the ability to make decisions and know where the paths are. Same as with labeling sodium content, etc.

      Don’t worry, I hadn’t thought your comment was from the USDA – those two were clearly identified by their IP addresses. Yours does not resolve to the USDA offices. Your comment did end up in the spam folder – there has been a recent uptick in the spam volume. Perhaps due to the discussion of GMOs since it coincided but more likely just random spammer activity. It ebbs and flows.

  4. Janna says:

    All this swapping of genes is bad because it is not well tested. They just do it and create all sorts of unexpected results. Good movie here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEVcLpMr4iU

  5. Brian says:

    There is an app Buycott (http://www.buycott.com/) for the iphone that lets you scan bar codes and find out who made the product so you can boycott companies like monsanto.

  6. SM says:

    I found these interesting database about gm foods.

    http://www.gmoinfo.ie/index.php?option=com_search&Itemid=99999999&searchword=

    which lists foods, what research is being done on them and if they are being commercially raised as gm foods. For example for barley it says “There is no commercial cultivation of gm barley at present.” and for peanuts it gives nothing being produced and for apples nothing and for canola a whole lot and for corn a whole lot. Nothing on swine so no gmo pigs. Weat some. Really informative.

  7. Interesting site and great movie.

    It is important to remember that there are alternatives to GMO seeds. While most of the corn, soy and such coming from Big Ag is GMO it does not have to be that way. I hear claims like “All the corn is GMO” or “All the soy is GMO” but that really isn’t true. For every GMO seed there are non-GMO varieties available.

    Furthermore, don’t let the pro-GMO forces confuse you with their claims that hybrid and GMO are the same – they aren’t. Hybrids are produced by breeding two different lines of the same species and happen naturally in nature. On the other hand, GMOs are created by directly inserting the genetic material of one species, like bacteria or spiders, into another species, like corn or goats. GMOs are unnatural and have not been tested sufficiently in method nor safety.

    Also don’t buy into the claims of the pro-GMO crowd that mankind has been doing GMOing with selective breeding. Selective breeding is a natural process, used by Mother Nature, that is to say evolution, to select the fittest individuals to be the breeders to produce the next generation. GMOing is an unnatural, modern, laboratory technique used to create new genomes by combining things that would never breed together in nature or to create resistance to herbicides that poison our planet.

    Heirloom varieties are safe. Hybrids crosses are safe. Both are natural.

  8. John Tucker says:

    Playing the devil’s advocate for a few paragraphs

    I see a downside of enforced labelling of GMO food.

    Unless a vendor can be 100% certain that their product does not contain any GMOs then the label will have to say “May contain GMOs”. In effect, this will mean that every vendor will have to be able to prove that their product does not contain any trace of a GMO at any point of the process if they want to have that GMO free label. This could kill the small food processors who can’t afford to go out and trace down every possible source of GMO contamination. Say good-bye to farmers’ markets.

    Can you, Walter, say with 100% certainty that everything that you’ve brought in from an external source is 100% GMO free? How do you know for example that the hay you bring in for winter feed and bedding doesn’t have a GM’d ancestor or two? If you can’t prove with 100% certainty that there is no possibility that these external sources have GMO contamination then your labels have to say ‘May contain GMOs’.

    I do think that knowing what is in my food is a great idea, I also think that knowing where my meat comes from is a great idea. NAIS was the legislative result of the second idea and as you’ve said, the implementation of that sucks. I’ll withhold judgement on legislated labelling until I see the implementation.

    • Actually, your “devil’s Advocate” position is based on false information. It is very easy to and already required to trace back the sources of products used in processed foods. This is already a requirement of doing food processing under HACCP/PR. Don’t try and confuse the issue with false “devil’s Advocate” arguments. Stick to the real problems.

  9. Daniel says:

    As someone who uses GMO I feel the need to weigh in with my personal experiences. I always wonder exactly how much experience/research/testing would satisfy people in the quest to prove/disprove GMOs. Roundup-ready technology has been around for about 20 years or so, long enough that the original patent has expired. I don’t know how many years of testing took place before it came to market. If 20 years of real-world experience isn’t enough, how much is?

    I’ve heard all the horror stories of what GMO does to people and animals, but so far I haven’t witnessed any of it first hand. Our animals haven’t gone sterile, they haven’t died agonizing deaths to disease. If anything, rates of gain have increased in the past 20 years.

    On our farm we don’t use more chemicals…dousing, flooding or saturating the fields as I’ve often heard reported. Our chemical use has dropped dramatically since we started using GMO crops. In the past, the chemicals required on our 400 acre farm would have filled the back of 2 or 3 pickup trucks. This year, they would have all fit on one pickup with room to spare. At the end of the day, chemicals cost money, lots of money…the fewer we use, the lower our costs.

    Yes there has been a development of Glyphosate resistance, but that can hardly be blamed on GMO. That is down to poor management decisions made by farmers. Resistance is nothing new, weeds and insects have developed resistance to many different chemicals in the past, that’s why more than one mode of action MUST be used at all times. The pitfalls of using only one form of weed-killing is obviously a lesson that too many farmers still need to learn.

    By way of disclaimer…I haven’t been paid or coerced by Monsanto, USDA, FDA or anyone else in the pro-GMO lobby. These are my first-hand experiences, what I’ve seen and witnessed working with the products.

    • If you feel GMOs are good then you should be proud of using them and have no objection to labeling. Consumers want to know so they can decide for themselves what they consume. It’s that simple.

      As to the resistance issue, it is the fault of GMO producers and users that this is happening.

  10. Nance says:

    oh dang . . . there is so much to learn, to research, to comprehend. To anticipate. I am aging and I am not sure I can keep up with all the technology and genetics and hybridizing . . . I am getting too old for this. : ) well yes, then. I’ll have to keep reading Sugar Mtn Farm — you and yours will keep me in the loop. Thanks so much.

  11. Phoebe says:

    Walter, I follow your stuff regularly and purchase your pork. You have a great product.

    Now onto the topic at hand. GMO’s. It’s my understanding that even in the organic industry (100% organic is supposed to be free of GMO’s) there is contamination (how much I can not say). But since organic is a procedural industry and there is NO requirement for genetic testing of seed crops (or food crops) it is not a safe assumption to buy organic and think it’s clean.

    There is also state legislation in several states to label GMO’s. I must admit, I am not terribly impressed with a lot of the wording in these bills. Many of them read similar to the organic policy with loop holes for this that or the other thing. In the state of Vermont the labeling is strictly on conventional processed grocery items (or so it was last I read). It didn’t cover anything outside of the processed food grocery isles (not even vegetables — as there is already a code in place that can be used instead of the organic code or conventional code — key word, “can”). So it didn’t cover meat, fish, feed, restaurants or anything that is certified organic. It also doesn’t have a “may contain GMO ingredients.”

    There is debate about the increase of food costs and the burden on conventional farmers as well. That will play out as it will but it is more information that is critical to the GMO debate.

    On a more personal note, I have a child that reacts temperamentally and with health “issues” when any soy in any quantities is consumed. And although I can’t prove it he also seems to react to conventionally fed meats and has since he started eating food. He’s 3. It has left us on a very interesting road. Raising our own animals, finding feed options that are soy free for our livestock and then digging deeper to find feed options that are actually testing and GMO free (for our livestock). As of my most recent research, there’s only one company that tests their feed for GMO’s. They are Non-GMO Project Verified for some of their feeds and working to get more of their feeds verified. They are doing this so that the end user (the farmer) can get their stock Non-GMO Project Verified. Currently you can use their feed and get your laying hens Verified. Pretty cool. There’s market place solution at work.

    • The last read through I did on the GMO labeling bill in Vermont it looked very good. The bill specifies that GMO products (be they plants or animals) must be labeled as such. That covers fish like the new salmon that is GMOed, any other GMOed animals (I’m not familiar with any), GMOed fruits like that apple that was in the news (not sure it is in production), GMO veggies, etc.

      The Vermont bill also specifies that any combined products (e.g., salsa, soup, etc) have to label what GMO products they contain. It is relatively simple for processors who are combining products (e.g., making pizza, soup, salsa, etc) to know and label their processed foods regarding GMOs because they must get the ingredients lists from their suppliers. This is a basic requirement of food safety plans and was already implemented years ago. This is no different than the existing situation with labeling calories, salt, allergens and other ingredients.

      I don’t remember how the bill deals with restaurants but it looks like a good bill that hits the mark. So much so that bully boy Monstersanto is threatening Vermont if if the bill is implemented.

      As to the soy in livestock feed, it does not have to be there and one does not have to buy it. We raise our pigs, other livestock and ourselves without it. I’m a big fan of raising your own so you know exactly what goes into them – that is why and how we started with livestock decades ago. Our laying hens, something you mention, are pretty easy to verify since they eat pasture in the warm months and meat in the winter. We have not fed our hens layer pellets or other commercial poultry feeds for years. It’s too expensive and not high enough quality. Besides, our hens’s primary job on our farm is to control pests. They do a much better job of that if they’re out foraging rather than tucking in at a trough for an all you can eat banquet. Over feeding animals is a great way to cut down their grazing. If you feel you must feed supplements then I suggest doing the candy in the evening so they graze all day first.

      The Non-GMO Project Verified is something I had not heard of before until I saw the movie mentioned above. Anyone who wants to know more about the whole GMO issue should watch that video. It’s about two hours long and free on YouTube. Do your research and make your choices. That’s what labeling is all about.

      At the very least we should have the law that we can label so that producers are protected from lawsuits by Monstersanto and their ilk. Bernie Sanders tried to get this into the Farm Bill but it got dissed by the deep pockets in Congress.

  12. Janet says:

    Cool post. Love the analogy. You have nailed it so on the head. People who defend gmos and claim that they are not anything new or different than selective breeding are totally and completely out of touch with reality. I dare say that they have vested interests greed in fact that warps their minds to defend gms like that with outright lies. Facts are facts and the herbicides and pesticides are not needed lots of studies show that the gmo crops are not producingany more food than organic and that over the long term the organic is producing more. It is a real sadness that some farmers have been fooled into the whole gmo pesticide herbicide cycle. They are trapped and can’t get out. Keep up the good works!

  13. Grant Ingle says:

    Good post with thoughtful comments. I found the following well-documented report particularly informative in that it thoroughly debunks the dubious assertions made by GMO proponents:

    http://www.earthopensource.org/index.php/executive-summary

    • Interesting document. Summary from their web page:

      Executive Summary

      Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

      Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops
      Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops
      Are strictly regulated for safety
      Increase crop yields
      Reduce pesticide use
      Benefit farmers and make their lives easier
      Bring economic benefits
      Benefit the environment
      Can help solve problems caused by climate change
      Reduce energy use
      Will help feed the world.
      However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true. On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

      Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops
      Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
      Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
      Do not increase yield potential
      Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
      Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
      Have mixed economic effects
      Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
      Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
      Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
      Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.
      Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.

      EarthOpenSource

      Go read the document for details.

  14. bruce king says:

    rgbh/rbst aren’t antibiotics; they are produced by bacteria that have been modified, but the hormone itself is the output of the bacteria and isn’t itself genetically modified.

    They are a hormone, and I’m generally against the addition of hormones to our food chain. I agree that people should be able to see how their food is produced, and with what.

    • Use of rBST/rBGH result in more illness in the cows and more use of antibiotics to treat the illnesses. Thus the use of rBST is a flag for avoiding milk that is likely to be from cows with higher antibiotic residue levels and possibly antibiotic resistant bacteria. For more about this, google.

      • Followup: The good news is Walmart, of all companies, banned the use of rBST/rBGH in their milk due to consumer pressure resulting in the collapse of the rBST/rBGH market. Bravo for consumer pressure, and Walmart. This is an example of the free market working as it should, of people voting with their pocket books and why labeling of GMOs is so important. Knowledge is power.

  15. Melissa says:

    GMO’s are a hot topic. I encounter those that know nothing about them and those that are anti-GMO’s.

    In my family’s own diet, we have reduced the amount of wheat we eat and while corn has not been a big portion I’m looking to buy old varieties of seed. ( Sand HIll Preservation). In the mean time I have been trying new grains , via Bob’s Red Mill, and have changed from popped corn to popped sorghum.

    Avoiding GMO’s seems to be difficult as they are cheaper to buy, so it seems, but in the long run may not be so cheap. I am still conflicted.THe commercial grains ( corn and SBM) historically was very cheap vs. the need for food with with superior nutrition. I am slowly changing what we eat as I said, but it also means changing the livestock that we have to those that can better utilize grasses/legumes and other vegetable matter instead of “imported” commercial grain onto the farm. In a brief search I am also finding “improved” varieties of say alfalfa.

    How do I know if they are GMO?

  16. Melissa says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that this discussion fit the two extremes that I have encountered so far; rather that this discussion was rather refreshing in providing facts.

    Walter– I couldn’t find the old forestry threads, so perhaps you won’t mind if I asked here. We are converted old woods ( 50 yr old growth) to few trees and more grasses and legumes and such. BUt I”m at a loss as to which seed will suit an area that is still wooded with lots of leave duff. I”m afraid to go to extention because I’m concerned about the informatin I will get.

    • There are quite a few articles that talk about how we’ve cleared the woods in the old fields back to the stone wall boundaries and then planted. We cut the stumps low to the ground and left them in so they will rot back into the soil which saves their nutrients and preserves the soil layers. We then storm & frost seeded and we fenced the perimeter. Livestock didn’t go in for another year so the forages would get a chance to get going. See:
      Field Clearing – Grapple Skidder
      Tree Hugger
      Fence Line Clearing
      Frost Seeding
      Vermont Planting Weather
      Turnip Patch Turned Out
      Kale
      The extension service recommendations on grasses for dairy in any area are pretty good starting points. I avoid some grasses that can produce toxins under stress such as Sorghums and Fescue. Then boost with legumes such as clovers, alfalfa, vetch, etc. Chicory and other palatable forages are a good addition. If you’re in cooler climates like use the brassicas like kale are very good additions. I like a diverse mix. Next observe over a few years what thrives, what the animals like and do well on. If your grazing cycles allow it the plants will reseed themselves.

  17. Melissa says:

    THank you for the links– I had missed a couple of the articles.

  18. Max says:

    Hate to say it but a lot of the Supreme Court Judges worked for Monsanto at one time…

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