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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Miracle of Seeds
GMO and other
Freak of Nature Foods
Courtesy of The Santa Barbara Independent

It all started with Seeds, the Source of Life, the first link in the Food Chain. Every seed is a dormant, living, breathing embryo, composed of living cells that require only water to sprout, and rich soil and the magic of photosynthesis to grow into plants. Just as in human conception, each individual seed is a miracle, containing all the software contained within the DNA of each cell in the organism to replicate the hardware of a new plant, and eventually infinite numbers of new seeds to replicate unlimited new plants.

For about 10,000 years, people all over the world have been tilling the soil, planting seeds, tending to the plants, weeding, watering, harvesting crops, and finally collecting seeds, so that they could grow vegetables, fruits, and grains again the following year. The development of Agriculture and Culinary Art was essential for any society or culture that ceased being nomadic and hoped to survive. Protein rich meat and milk from herbivores like cows and sheep and from omnivores like pigs and chickens, and their eggs, as well as seafood, supplemented the human diet. Although the farming tools grew in size, and styles changed through the Iron Age and over the eons, and eventually beasts of burden were employed, the basic cycle of tilling, sowing seed, tending, harvesting, and collecting seeds for the following year was the same year after year. The farmers, in many societies mainly women, learned early on that certain plants fared better or tasted better than others of the same species, and learned to favor these better plants when collecting seeds, in order to yield better crops the following year given changing environmental conditions, like pests, weather and drought. With this limited human intervention, plants adapted, and their genetic composition, their DNA, was naturally altered.

People ate locally, but not by intention. Transportation was too expensive and simply impractical. And there was no need to do otherwise. Seeds were free, a renewable resource, and grew in abundance year after year. In most areas the soil was rich, the water was adequate, the herbivores and omnivores were fruitful and multiplied, fertilizing the soil while grazing on perennials such as grass (no need to replant each year), and scraps from kitchens, and the seafood was plentiful and took care of itself. And there were lots of farmers. Nobody considered feeding herbivores grain because it was just too expensive. The reason it was expensive was the many steps in producing cereal grain like wheat (tilling, sowing, cultivating, reaping, sheaving, threshing, and winnowing-blowing away the chaff, husks) and finally milling the grain into flour. Before mechanization, farmers would never dream of feeding grain to herbivores that have historically fed on grass or hay (dried grass), and have fared quite well.

And so the cycle of Agriculture was inexorably interwoven into every society, and man’s relationship to Mother Earth as Provider didn’t change much for 10,000 years. Despite occasional famines in various parts of the world, for the most part all was well. We are not aware of the type of hunger crises in scope or degree similar to what we are experiencing in many parts of the world today. Of course, population was far less, but the social, cultural, and physical relationship between People and the Farm was much closer, and Biodiversity insured (unlike the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 19th Century, which was due to Monoculture) that if one crop failed, there were more often than not others to fall back on to feed the masses.

So all was going fairly well for 10,000 years until about 100 years ago, when during the 20th century the whole plan went helter-skelter and out of control. The most remarkable and tragic change was that farmers around the world were convinced to stop gathering seeds, and instead to buy them from newly formed seed companies that offered hybrid varieties (bred by the seed companies for better yields and characteristics) as well as traditional open-pollinated seeds. This practice of buying rather than collecting seed started in the US (way before the advent of GMO seeds) in the 19 teens after World War I. In India and around the world this transition to buying rather than gathering seed happened much later, but by now it has taken place in most parts of the world.

The Seed Corporations and those who would profit by having the farmers stop gathering seeds conspired with the bureaucrats from the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and the politicians who gained support from these corporations. They coerced, pressured and cajoled the farmers to convince them that the “modern” ways of farming were changing, and that with all the labor intensity of Agriculture, it was no longer necessary for “modern” farmers to collect seeds, that it would be better for them to purchase their seed and thereby get more consistent, robust outcomes. They brought the farmers together in Farm Associations and Grange Halls, bought them drinks and free dinners, and applied pressure also through community, civic, and church organizations so that they would learn the new “modern” plan and comply. They also indoctrinated the youth in these US farming communities to the new “modern” methods of farming through the 4H (stands for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) Club, a youth organization founded in the early 1900’s and administered by the USDA. Most adults, male and female, in farming communities were at one time members, where they learned the latest practices espoused by the Government, as well as had lots of valuable experiences related to the farm.

The coercion of farmers to stop collecting seeds has been repeated around the world in nation after nation on every continent. Corruption amongst businessmen and politicians in other parts of the world is known to be even more prevalent, or at least less masked, than it is in the US. Everybody’s “on the take” and lots of people are getting rich, (but usually not the small farmer). And the farmers that comply are made to feel that they’re morally, legally, and ethically right to go along with the Government’s program

But other than the purchasing of seeds from big seed companies, the early limited use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the initial use of internal combustion trucks, tractors, combines and farm equipment, farming of our food crops was still essentially organic, and nothing much had changed in US Agriculture until the end of World War II.

So they would not miss any profits, rather than dismantle the factories of the Military-Industrial Complex, the owners of the explosive munitions plants (nitrogen-based explosives) converted them to manufacture nitrogen-based fertilizers. And the chemical weapons and nerve gas factories (though by international convention, none were used by the US in World War II, much was produced) were converted to manufacture herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides. By doing this, the owners of these factories wouldn’t miss a beat, and they could profit from Agribusiness with their newly formed Agrochemical plants. But now they had to create a market for these new Agrochemical products.

Again, the farmers were invited to participate in meetings and drinks and dinner by the Farm Associations in Grange Halls and restaurants and they were coerced, cajoled and intimidated by bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen to go along with the new “modern” farming practices chemical program, and lots of people got rich, (but again, usually not the small.farmer).

Courtesy of Google Images

They were adapting Agriculture to become more automated, the Factory Farm, and there came the disconnect. Rather than working with Nature to yield our food, our farmers were led to believe that with chemicals, they could fertilize their way out of depleting the soil with monoculture cash crops like cotton and  tobacco, and with chemicals they could kill the crop eating bugs and fungi, and also kill the weeds. With chemicals and “modern science” they could dominate Nature. The War mentality lived on. And with the leadership and blessings of the Department of Agriculture, the largest farms were favored, Agriculture became Agribusiness, and thousands of small farmers couldn’t compete and were forced to sell out. In an effort to fight this trend and to support the small family farmer, the annual benefit concert, Farm Aid, was organized in the US starting in 1985, and is still going on today.

Courtesy of Google Images

But the biggest change from the last 10,000 years of relatively successful Agriculture was the invention in the ‘70s, the successful patenting in the ‘80s (in the US), and the commercialization in the ‘90s of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), also known as GM (genetically modified), GE genetically engineered, “biotech”, or “transgenic” crops. (All these terms are essentially describing the same thing.) Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, Bayer and DuPont, among some others, were huge chemical companies and were already supplying chemicals for Agriculture. Monsanto, the producer of deadly carcinogenic PCB’s and the deadly herbicide, Agent Orange, bought up many of the Seed Companies worldwide, and began to dominate the Seed Industry. So besides their Agrochemical business to supply Agribusiness, they could also supply the Seeds. 

Their R&D (Research and Development) departments began to experiment. If they could develop hybrid varieties that could resist the herbicides and be the only living plant in the field left standing, they could sell their herbicide chemicals along with their special GMO seeds, and they could persuade the farmers on their use by eliminating the need to hire laborers for pulling weeds. And if they could develop crops that would produce their own pesticides, there would be major savings for the farmers in that as well. On the automated Factory Farm, “modern science” could do the trick with chemicals and machinery alone. They also promised all sorts of other advantages for the farmers like better yields.

 In order to accomplish the mutation of these crops they had to experiment with altering the genes in the DNA, the double helix blueprint of life in all living cells, made up of RNA, shorter chains of genes, and the accompanying proteins. So they took genes from other plants, or insects, or bacteria, they attached these genes to particles of metal and with the use of gene guns fired them into the DNA of these crops. (Another method used to create GMO’s was to create a tumor in the plant to change its DNA.) Unbelievably enough and I’m sure that the scientists working on this project were just as surprised, it worked! Monsanto mutated first Soybeans and then Corn that would survive the herbicide, Glyphosate, already a popular weed killer produced by Monsanto, they called Round-up, calling it “biodegradable” and “safe,” that would kill any weed or plant left standing other than the GMO. Dow mutated Cotton and other crops that would produce a Bt toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis Bacteria) and the accompanying protein that would paralyze and explode the bellies of insects that dared to bite into it

Now the executives of these corporations must have been jumping for joy, and they got their large in-house legal departments on the case. What if they could patent these GMO seeds, which they had been able to mutate by inserting new genes into the DNA, as Intellectual Property, just as inventions could be patented? Then they could own not just the Seed Companies, but the Seeds themselves, and they would be able to profit by the Royalties from that ownership, and not only from the sale of the Seeds and the Chemicals. Can you imagine the executives’ delight when the US Patent Office agreed to issue those initial patents in the 1980s (most likely having submitted to huge pressure of bureaucrats, politicians, and businessmen)?

Now they had one last hurdle. They had to get the approval of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they could commercialize and profit from their “inventions”. It is well known that the FDA works hand-in-hand with business, and that there is a revolving door of administrators who came from business (and the opposite of that) and somehow (again much pressure must of been exerted to get this outcome) in the mid-90s the FDA approved the commercialization of first GMO Soybeans and then GMO Corn. And so began the biotech industry in US Agriculture.

The most remarkable thing about the FDA’s approval of GMOs is that they made this determination of Safety, with virtually no independent testing, certainly not any long term testing even on animals. They used the doctrine of Substantial Equivalence. Here’s a very good explanation directly from Monsanto’s website. “Substantial equivalence means that a GM crop has similar components and nutritional characteristics as its conventional (non-GM) counterpart. Specifically that the range of concentrations for components and nutritional characteristics of the GM crop falls within the typical range for the non-GM counterpart. Substantial equivalence is accepted and utilized by most regulatory agencies worldwide.” Even Codex Alimentarius, the UN’s FDA, has approved GMOs on this basis.

In other words, despite the US Patent Office being persuaded otherwise as evidenced in their issuing of Intellectual Property patents for these GMO “inventions”, to the FDA, Corn is Corn, Soybean is Soybean. No need for further testing. It’s Food. It’s safe! And they haven’t changed that stance, or even questioned it, in almost 20 years of GMOs, despite lots of independent research to the contrary. So, by default, we and our children have become the lab rats in a massive long term Experiment with billions of test subjects.

Meanwhile the biotech industry employs an army of scientists (with non-disclosure agreements) to dispute any independent research that opposes the claims to Safety and Nutritional equivalence. And every one of the independent studies that have positively identified heath risks and nutritional deficiencies in GMOs, and believe me, there’ve been plenty, have been matched by the industry’s army of hired hand scientists, that always refute any negative findings. One example is the French research on lab rats fed GMOs, versus a control group fed non-GMOs, in which the GMO fed group was found to grow large cancerous tumors and have a shortened life span. Another recent study involved the examination of pig stomachs and digestive tracts versus a control group fed non-GMO grain, which showed marked swelling, lesions, and color change, all photographically evident in the GMO fed pigs. (This, and the finding that gut flora is affected killing good bacteria, may have something to do with “loose gut syndrome” and the increase in childhood allergies.) The Industry scientists’ answers to all of these peer reviewed studies on animals were that they were inapplicable to humans.

Even before the biotech/seed/chemical corporations got the “All Clear” from the FDA in the mid-90’s, (and continuing today) they embarked worldwide on massive multi-million dollar Public Relations and Propaganda campaigns with websites, social networking sites, and publication and TV advertising, promoting the “advantages” of GMOs, and attacking and discrediting any nay-sayers, (just as the US Corn Industry had done in the promotion of High Fructose Corn Syrup).  Instead of calling GMOs, “God Move Over”, as we sometimes laughingly use, they called it paradoxically, the “Green Revolution”, with the promise of wiping out World Hunger. Now, who could argue with a concept as charitable as “wiping out World Hunger”? A Nobel Peace Prize was actually awarded to one of the pioneers of Genetic Modification, Norman Borlaug, with that promise in mind, and with the resulting promise of world stability. Despite the deforestation for bigger and bigger GMO mono-crop farm fields and the heavy involvement of toxic pesticides and herbicides and the heavy reliance on nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers (which we now know releases CO2 relative to factories), the world accepted the use of the term, “Green Revolution”. And the Industry, which only cared about the Sustainability of Profits, made full use of this euphemism.

With the full cooperation of USDA bureaucrats and, once again, in corporate sponsored Farm Association meetings with dinners and drinks, they got the farmers on board with the GMO program. The farmers believed the ‘modern farming” hype they were fed that GMOs would free them up from the need and expense of pulling weeds and killing crop-eating insects, while increasing yields, and thereby profits.

Courtesy of
(Washington State GMO Labeling Initiative)

Fast forward 17 years to 2013, and find 86% of Corn grown in the US to be GMO, 93% of Soybeans, 93% of Cottonseed, 90% of Rapeseed (Canola), 95% of Sugar Beets, and 80% of Hawaiian Papaya. Billions of dollars worth of expensive GMO Seed have been purchased and millions of acres of staple GMO crops have been planted. And Monsanto, with their monopoly on Seeds (GMO and non-GMO) in the US and worldwide, and the other biotech companies are making billions in profits in annual revenues from royalties, the sale of seeds, and the sale of Agrochemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, and lots of people (not so much the farmers) are getting rich. Sounds like a great success story, doesn’t it?

Courtesy of

But all is not well in Agribusiness, with GMOs, or with the health impacts of GMOs. First of all, the promise of higher yields was never fulfilled. Even in the early years of GMO, the higher yields reported each period were as a result of more and more area planted with GMO. We doubt whether yield per acre ever actually exceeded non-GMO varieties. More recently Super-weeds have evolved through genetic selection that tolerate the herbicides, and compete with the GMO crops, even though the farmers have increased their volume of herbicide application, raising the farmers’ costs. And Super-bugs have evolved that tolerate the previously lethal affects on insects of pesticides within Bt GMO crops, and more and more pesticides are being sprayed onto the crops, again raising costs. Another factor adversely affecting yields of GMO crops are plant diseases caused by bacteria, like the one affecting Corn called, Goss’s Wilt, which has spread from Nebraska, North all the way to Minnesota and South to Louisiana, and will decrease total US yield by 10% this year. Even Monsanto has acknowledged that some of their “high yield” GMO varieties are particularly susceptible to this disease.

Now, let’s get down in the dirt under these expanses of GMO crops in the “modern factory farm”. Instead of finding healthy, rich Soil filled with earthworms, microbes, fungi, and nutrients, you find hard, compact dirt. But, what do you expect to find after submitting the Soil to years and years of chemical warfare in the form of ever increasing pesticides (neurotoxins), herbicides (toxic to plants), and chemical fertilizers? The dirt is so hard that the fields require more water and irrigation, due to less absorption. When the farmers are lucky enough to see rain, unless it is minimal, puddles of chemical soup form and run onto adjacent fields (causing damage to non-resistant crops) and into meadows, forests, and waterways, causing further ecological damage. (There is a Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico roughly the size of the State of Connecticut, caused by agricultural runoff.)

The dirt is so hard that you can only pull a plant out to examine its roots with the use of a shovel, and even then, it won’t easily shake off. And you’ll find a smaller root system than that of non-GMO varieties with less of the round nodules that draw in nutrition from the Soil, which accounts for GMOs being less nutritious (per studies contested by Industry scientists). Another factor robbing the Soil of Nutrients is less Crop Rotation. After all, if you’re cultivating Round-up Ready GMOs, nothing but other Round-up Ready GMO crops will grow in that field, so you could rotate a field between Corn and Soybeans, but that’s about all you can do. In this Monoculture system, you certainly can’t take advantage of the nutritionally symbiotic relationship of multiple species of plants grown next to one another, one of the many advantages of Biodiversity.

The affects of chemical cultivation of the Soil with herbicides and pesticides (billions of pounds/year annually worldwide) that accumulate year after year is a major reason why this type of GMO Agriculture is not Sustainable. And these chemicals are not “biodegradable”, (contrary to Monsanto’s labeling of Round-up - Glyphosate - which they have since been forced to remove from the label), nor are they “safe”. These chemicals themselves are not only dangerous to the Soil, but bioaccumulate within the crops, and within all species, including humans, that come into contact with, or feed on, these crops, or feed on animals fed these crops, so they are a threat to all species on this planet. They are found to be endocrine disrupters (mimicking estrogen) and to be toxic and carcinogenic. People (children in nearby schools, for one example) that live and work near the spraying of pesticides and herbicides (that drift in the winds), and farm workers, who work at Ground Zero, are particularly vulnerable, and routinely complain about rashes, respiratory problems, and other symptoms. And there have been many instances of cancer clusters in communities near farms. Levels of pesticides and herbicides have been found to be not only in our food, but in the blood, tissues, organs, and mother’s milk of people living close to farms and in cities far from farms. Although the FDA and Codex Alimentarius, the UN’s FDA, have set maximum levels of these toxics in our Food, (and the FDA has recently raised the acceptable level of Glyphosate - Round-up in our blood), we find any levels to be Unacceptable Levels. We absorb these Agrochemicals and more than 8,000 other modern chemicals through our food, our drink, through respiration, and through our skin. (Take a look at the ingredients in hair care products and cosmetics. Many should be avoided.)  Though we expel some, much of them bioaccumulate in the fat, tissue and organs of our bodies, and no one knows how these various chemicals interact. 

Courtesy of

Livestock, pets, and wildlife exposed to these dangerous agrochemicals are no doubt also at risk, though we’ve found less on that subject. The exception to that are the many reports of Colony Collapse Disorder in Honeybees, a species on which we all depend for the pollenization of crops, flowers and plants, a major threat to our food supply. Though there have been many theories for this threat to our ecosystem, it is widely accepted that Neonicotinoids, a very popular pesticide (many seeds are delivered with a coating of this substance) is in part responsible for the loss of Honeybees, and though many countries in the EU and elsewhere have outlawed its use, the EPA, FDA, and USDA still allow its widespread use in the US, as 30% of our Bee population perish each year.

Despite Monsanto and the FDA’s position that testing GMO’s is not necessary, (on the basis of Substantial Equivalence), literally dozens of published independent research papers have found a staggering list of health risks through animal studies. These findings (against control groups fed non-GMO) include various degrees of infertility, low birth weight, shortened life span, irritation and lesions in intestinal tracts, enlarged livers, pancreases, and intestines, inhibited development of brains and testicles, changes in and alteration in cell growth and structure, changes in gene expression, and development of cancerous tumors. These findings showed a great degree of consistency of affects on multiple species of subject animals.

More than one retired biotech scientist has acknowledged that genetic engineering is not an exact science. Much is yet unknown. When they fire a gene into the DNA of a living cell, they’re not exactly sure where that gene ends up, and what other original genes are turned down or off by this intrusion, and they are not exactly sure how this affects the accompanying proteins in the cells, and what the repercussions of all of this are in the organism. Could unintended genes be turned down or off in humans by ingesting this genetic information? Nobody knows.

We do know, since it has been scientifically accepted, that micro-RNA, a component of the DNA that contains genetic information, can migrate into the cells of animals and humans from food eaten. It may be possible that GMOs are the cause of the recent significant rise in many human health conditions such as infertility, childhood allergies, low birth weight, autism, intestinal disease, cancer, etc. (And the medical and pharmaceutical industries are booming in response to these issues.)

Since more than 75% of the products in the grocery store in the US today contain GMO and since GMO’s are being eaten in most of the world today, (even if the only GMO ingredients in the product is Canola, Soybean, or Cottonseed Oil, all “Vegetable Oil”), this makes us all test subjects in a massive, long-term multi-billion human subject experiment, despite the claims to safety from the biotech industry and from our regulatory agencies, which resist re-exploring its safety. Those of us that wish to opt ourselves and our children out of this “experiment”, insist on our Right to Know whether a product contains GMOs or is GMO-free. 64 countries around the world have enacted GMO labeling laws, but the US and Canada and many other countries do not require, or don’t allow, such labeling. More than $8 million have been spent recently in Washington State alone by Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer in an effort to defeat the approval of Initiative 522 demanding Labeling of GMO’s. The Biotech Industry, the Food Industry and the FDA are adamantly opposed to Labeling. Many States are trying to enact laws that would require the Labeling of GMOs, despite federal legal and regulatory resistance (such as the Monsanto Protection Act, hopefully soon to expire). Other such legislation restricting labeling and/or putting limitations on GMOs have popped up in many countries of the world, reflecting the powerful influence of these corporations.

We must also be wary of International Trade Agreements like the Trans PacificPartnership (TPP), which President Obama is attempting to Fast Track, or Canada’s 21 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPAs), or more than 2,400 such Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) worldwide, which would compromise nations’ sovereignty, and put nations in jeopardy of being sued by corporations for potential loss of profits, for examples, if they were to legislate labeling or the banning of GMO’s, or if they were to ban Fracking.

Corn, always considered one of our major Food crops, has been reduced to an industrial commodity. It is traded on commodities exchanges and is considered a Raw Material for the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup, Ethanol for fuel, and Feed for Livestock. Some byproducts of Corn, now mostly GMO Corn, can be found in many processed foods in the grocery store, and only a small percentage (less than 10%) is actually eaten by humans as Corn. And Seeds are no longer Seeds. They have become Plant Reproductive Material in an industrial world. And if pollen from the GMO Corn crop drifts in the wind and pollinates some nearby non-GMO Corn crops, and genetically modified DNA is found to be in that Corn, farmers, through no fault of their own, can be sued for stealing Intellectual Property without paying Royalties or for the Seeds.

Courtesy of Google Images

The whole system of Agriculture today is a Failed System. It is not Sustainable. It is Broken beyond repair with Big Agribusiness subsidized by Governments, with GMOs and all of their Repercussions, with Monoculture Factory Farming, with Corporate Monopoly of Seeds and Inputs, with Corporate Influence on Regulatory Agency Bureaucrats and on Politicians, with the Proliferation of Toxic, Carcinogenic and Ecocidal Chemicals (and Homicidal-exposing farm workers to them), with Confinement of Livestock and the resulting Pollution, with Lack of Crop Biodiversity, and with Lack of Support for the Small Farmer. Need we say more? We must basically throw the entire system out and start all over again.

But the good news is that more and more uninfluenced experts on Agriculture are arriving at many of these same conclusions. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) notably issued a 341 page report on September 18, 2013 entitled, WAKE UP BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE, with the subtitle, Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate. This report was written with the caveat that it does not necessarily represent the policies of the UN, or its member nations, or the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), but it is certainly speaking to them. Here’s a quote from the Key Messages page of this report:

“The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to an “ecological intensification” approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, Monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. We need to see a move from a linear to a holistic approach in agricultural management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation).”

There are close to a billion hungry people in this world, while the UN’s FAO has reported that we have enough food at this time to feed 170% of the world population. The only problem is getting it to them. They can’t afford the price of that food, and transportation is a problem. Why not have the poor people themselves (75%of whom live in rural far-flung areas) produce the food locally, rather than ship it across continents and oceans?

Take a page out of Jesus’ Book. Teach a man to farm, and help him to accomplish it, rather than feed him in charity. And I’m suggesting actually helping him, and not charging him expensive prices for seeds, chemicals, etc., plus royalties, and killing his farm, (the reason more than 284,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, some by drinking the very pesticides purchased from Monsanto). Give a man open- pollinated seeds, and teach him to cultivate them and to collect seeds for the following year, so that his seed cost could be zero, and help him to learn how to raise these crops and livestock organically. It’s not so simple, but it could be the plan.

Biodiversity is known to be the strength of any ecosystem, and tragically, in less than 100 years, we have allowed corporations to lead us to the loss, the extinction, of over 98% of the species that were made available to us by our Mother Earth for millennia. A simple, yet elegant explanation of the importance of Biodiversity can be found in The Law of The Seed, a very recent publication, which presents a model for the writing and establishment of new national laws according to this paradigm. It was written in part and inspired by Vandana Shiva, a woman from India, who is a Guru to me and to many of us. She is a former quantum physicist who has dedicated her life to what she calls, Seed Freedom.  

“Agricultural biological diversity, or more specifically, genetic resources for food and agriculture, is the storehouse that pro­vides humanity with food, clothes and medicines. It is essential in the development of sustainable agriculture and food security.

“Evolution is the process by which nature practices its capacity of selection; for selection to exist, nature needs diversity. Di­versity is also the basis for the farmer, for the breeder and for the agricultural scientist in general. We need diversity to allow evolution and thus capacity of adaptation. We need diversity in order to be able to select the best characteristics for crops. This diversity has been developed over thousands of generations and our duty is to safeguard it for those in the future.

“In spite of its vital importance for human survival, agricultural biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate. It is estimated that some 10,000 species have been used for human food and agriculture. Currently no more than 120 cultivated species provide 90% of human food supplied by plants, and 12 plant species and 5 animal species alone provide more than 70% of all human food. A mere 4 plant species (potatoes, rice, maize and wheat) and 3 animal species (cattle, swine and chickens) provide more than half. Hundreds of thousands of farmers’ heterogeneous plant varieties and landraces (meaning non-hybrids), that ex­isted for generations in farmers’ fields until the beginning of the twentieth century, have been substituted by a small number of modern and highly uniform commercial varieties. The loss of agricultural biodiversity has drastically reduced the capability of present and future generations to face unpredictable environ­mental changes and human needs.”

A farmer from Virginia named Forrest Pritchard, author of a new book, Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm (Lyon Press), when questioned by Staci Strauss of, explained why he farms in the organic, biodiverse and sustainable ways that works for him and his crops and livestock (and for us, his virtual customer):

“What we do on this farm is a very ancient tradition. If we want to say, we’re going organic, we’re going sustainable, we’re going grass fed!  Let’s put it in perspective, we’re not going all these directions. We are returning to these directions, the ways they were bred, and raised, and cultivated by our ancestors. These traditions that we’re picking up in 2013 are not new wave or trendy or the next hot thing. These are just sensible efficient economic platforms that our forefathers had the sense to recognize as truly sustainable.”

Photo courtesy of Staci Strauss –

Rather than cultivate one or two crops, Forrest’s kind of farm is a beautiful patchwork of many crops, vegetables, grains, and fruits, all working together in a symbiotic relationship. Rather than kill his soil with chemicals, and confine and feed his livestock grain, he lets them roam and fertilize the soil, and grind it into the soil with their hooves, and they eat grass and hay (dried grass) and scraps from the kitchen. In doing so, his produce, crops, meats, and eggs are much more nutritious and less toxic than anything coming out of the modern factory farm, and ecologically, his kind of farm does not produce the toxic waste pollution, or emit as much CO2, or rob the Aquifers of so much water. And with his outlet in Farmer’s Markets, it’s a win, win situation all around.

But, unfortunately, most farms in the US are not like that at all. They are still being operated according to the factory farm paradigm as sanctioned by the USDA, and as described in the earlier part of this story. And though Agribusiness, despite the ravages of its methods, is still profitable and is subsidized by the Government, and Monsanto and their likes are “raking it in”, the small farmers are struggling just to stay “afloat”.

But there is room for optimism. There are so many initiatives occurring and growing today, in an effort to reverse the trend, and to save and bring back what we can of the former richness of Agricultural Biodiversity. More than 1,400 Seed Libraries (Seed Banks) have been set up in over 100 nations, many of them here in the US, where farmers and gardeners (horticulturalists) are contributing, cataloging, and saving heirloom and traditional varieties of seeds, and thereby saving them from extinction. Because of restrictive laws to the contrary in many parts of the world, some of this work is being done by brave individuals clandestinely, or they would face prosecution. Though many species and varieties have been lost forever, it’s amazing how many special seeds have been squirreled away by older people, stored in socks in drawers, and are now making their way into these Seed Libraries, and back into the mix. (It’s reminiscent of a scene from the science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451, by Kurt Vonnegut, only with Seeds instead of Books.)  

And there are so many new and older organizations that, through the miracle of the internet and social networking, are providing education, instruction, and tutorials on everything from soil preparation, to plant cultivation by species, to how to collect seeds, wet or dry. One such organization, Project Harlem Inc. offers the know-how on Twitter and Facebook on what to do once you get some of those seeds into your hands. They claim you can grow 700 pounds of vegetable produce in only 100 square feet, that’s 10 feet square, offer instruction on how to accomplish the task. Even in cities, people are finding gardens to be much more efficient than lawns, and this is empowering and feeding young and older people who lack jobs.

All over the world, small farms are popping up to fill the demand for nutritious pesticide-free organic food, remarkably caused by the scarcity of healthy food today. So in that sense, by robbing the world of real food in their never-ending hunger for profit, the corporations have created a market for something better. We hear of brave, young people in Greece, whose economy is in shambles, and who can’t find jobs, setting up small farming operations and finding some success. is another notable organization with a website and lots of resources, and there are dozens of other similar initiatives out there from and for the small farmer.
Courtesy of Google Images

And more and more Farmers Markets are showing up in our cities and by the roadsides, where consumers are reestablishing direct relationships with farmers, supporting them, and learning from them. This provides the smaller farmers with an outlet, a means to make a living, and provides the consumers with a means to get healthy food, and hopefully, at a fair price.

A burgeoning grassroots effort has emerged in many corners of the world to protest the ravages of corporate Agriculture and the monopoly of the Seed by Monsanto. The March Against Monsanto in May, 2013, was a massive demonstration in over 100 locations spanning 36 nations, and more even larger demonstrations are being planned in October and beyond. (In some countries, there have actually been riots with some violence.)  But Monsanto and their cronies in the corporate world, the regulatory world, the judicial world (one example, the US Supreme Court, which recently ruled for Monsanto in Bowman v. Monsanto),the world of law enforcement, and the world of Government (one example, 71 out of 100 US Senators voted against a bill to give individual States the right to label GMOs), they are not about to capitulate any time soon. And Monsanto has hired a Security Firm out the remnants of the paramilitary group, Blackwater, so in effect, they have their own army. But, as the public gets educated to the evils of GMOs, millions, perhaps billions, of citizens could turn the tide.

Though there is much reason for concern, this is a very exciting time in which we live. Some day we hope to look back on the Rise and Fall of the Factory Farm and the GMO, and on the early 21st Century Renaissance of Biodiversity in Agriculture, as governed and inspired by the Law of the Seed.

Courtesy of Google Images

Part 2
Freak of Nature Foods

We had planned to include this information in the main article, but in the writing, it became clear that it would slow down the pace of the story on Seeds, the Brief History of Agriculture, the GMO Debacle, and then back to Seeds. But we couldn’t leave the Freak of Nature Foods out of the discussion, so we decided to write a second article, in which to very briefly cover this vast subject.

GMOs are not the only Freaks of Nature, but they are prime examples. We’ve written about High Fructose Corn Syrup, which by the way is triple GMO, with GMO Bacteria and Genetically Engineered Enzymes to turn the Glucose derived from GMO Corn into the molecule, Fructose. We’ve written about our illustrious FDA, and how they allow the food manufacturers to lie to the public right on the label about zero grams of Transfat, an item that everyone agrees is deadly, when it’s clearly written in the Ingredients. Partially Hydrogenated Oil is Transfat, while the “Nutrition Facts” label on powdered Coffee Creamer says zero grams of Transfat.  And we ask you to please avoid margarine or any substitute for butter.

There are also lots of other Freak of Nature Foods that many Americans eat on a daily basis. Fast Food, Processed Food, Canned Food. It’s all Junk Food. Besides all the Additives that make it bad for you, it’s processed so much, there’s very little left in it that’s nutritionally good for you. An elementary school teacher in California instructs her students about Processed Food by having them bury food in a large tray full of soil and earthworms. Two weeks later, they dig up the food. There is little left of the organic food, but the processed food is virtually untouched. If it isn’t good enough for worms, it isn’t good enough for us.

We’ve also heard anecdotally from more than one source that when given the choice on two ends of the same feeding trough, cows and pigs always go for the non-GMO grain. I guess that’s a sign of Animal Intelligence, right?

There are so many other “Freaky” items in our food supply that they’re too numerous to mention, but let’s mention a few. Artificial Food Coloring or Dye, Artificial Sweeteners, (If it starts with the word Artificial, chances are it’s not Real Food.), Growth Hormones, Antibiotics in Milk and Meat, all Processed Meats, MSG, and all the Chemicals, Emulsifiers,  and Preservatives, all names in the Ingredients you can’t even pronounce. If you can’t pronounce or recognize a word in the Ingredients, chances are, you shouldn’t be eating it. The fact that they creep into our food supply makes these foods, Frankenfoods, Freaks of Nature, and they should all be avoided.

Another kind of Freak in our Food Supply is what they have done to the species, both plant and animal. I’ll just mention one vegetable, the tomato. The tomato I see in the grocery store bears no resemblance to the ones I remember when I was younger. They have been bred to be tough, to withstand thousands of miles in the back of trucks. Even the tomatoes on the vine and the vines themselves look like plastic. Homegrown, is where it’s at.

We’ll mention just one Freak of Nature Animal, and that’s the popular Thanksgiving Turkey. It’s not the same Turkey that we used to eat. It’s called the Great American Buff, and it’s bred to grow incredibly big and unbelievably fast, with breasts so large that the Rooster can’t reach the Hen, so it must be artificially inseminated. It has no muscle tone, because of confinement, and it is so tasteless, that cooks inject it with hypodermic needles filled with salty chicken bouillon to give it any taste at all. (Some farmers are bringing back and raising traditional breeds of Turkey free range, provided that they can be assured of a market, but don’t expect large breasts and lots of white meat.)

Stay away from white bread, white sugar, white rice or instant rice or instant anything. Again, they process everything out of it, even the color. Especially be wary of Nutritional Drinks, considered Food Supplements. They even make a brand of it for children now. And parents who use it as a substitute for Food, or children who use it to feed their elderly parents, are culpable of ignorance and neglect. Besides all the chemicals, that stuff is full of GMO Corn Sweeteners. And brightly colored Sports Drinks, amongst other reasons to avoid them, contain Brominated Vegetable Oil to bind with the coloring. Now, we’re really talking Freak of Nature and Danger.

Contrary to what they would have you believe, processed Soup is not Good Food, and a dose of Ketchup or some Microwave Popcorn is not a Serving of Vegetables. We’ll mention three more things to avoid, only because we must, GMO Salmon, any kind of Farmed Fish, and Soy. Everybody considers Soy to be synonymous with Health, yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. Besides the fact that 93% of the Soy grown in the US is GMO, it is a strong endocrine disrupter, with serious effects, especially on infants and male fertility. So it’s best to stay away from all Soy products, including Soy Protein Isolate and Unfermented Soy, and especially, Soy Milk and Soy Infant Formula..

As you no doubt noticed, it’s a minefield out there, and we’re just scraping the surface. I’m no health expert or guru, but my theory as discussed in our article, Killer Acid, about how not eating fruits and vegetables will kill you, is that any improvement in a person’s diet is better than no improvement at all. Rather than judge people for what you consider bad food choices, and treat them with disdain, it is better to encourage them. I’m not in favor of the orthodoxy that criticizes others for not measuring up any more than the orthodoxy of the USDA where distributing Raw Milk is considered a crime, for just one of many examples of USDA orthodoxy.

We all have to make our own choices of where to eat and what to eat, and it’s no easy task, especially if we travel, or if money’s an issue. You are what you eat, and you will bear the consequences, but in some cases, hunger forces compromise, and that’s just the way it is.

Maybe not you, but most people believe they have several layers of protection. First, they have faith in the brand, the manufacturer, to protect us, that there’s no way a big brand would produce an item that isn’t safe. Second, they have faith in the big name store, that they certainly wouldn’t sell something that isn’t safe. And lastly, they have faith in the Government, that it will protect us, that it wouldn’t allow a product that’s unsafe to be made or sold. The bottom line is that we must realize there is no basis for trust, and that no one will protect us and our families better than ourselves.

In this unscrupulous world, where Profit rules, we must read the Ingredients every time and make our own Food choices. Be assured that we are all active participants in changing the world through educating as many people as we possibly can, and through our purchases.

Courtesy of

Just a note before we introduce the videos. This was the first article with Twitter as one of our major resources (My handle: @Mikethemikeman1). In six months of research, my esteemed colleagues, much more expert than myself in the fields of GMOs and Food, delivered us literally hundreds of articles, research studies, publications, and videos on Twitter breaking on a daily basis. Just touching on every subject, we were able to connect the dots, and tell the whole story, and what a story it is!

The first video is of a very dynamic and inspirational TED lecture by Bill McDorman, entitled Seeds Will Save Us. He starts off by comparing the seed in the palm of his hand to a cell phone. Every member of the audience is holding a seed in their hand, and I encourage you to do the same while you watch.

The second video is of a lecture with Vandana Shiva, addressing members of the European Parliament, the Congress of the EU. There were dozens of better shot and edited videos of our beloved Vandana Shiva, but we chose this one, because, in response to the EU’s proposed Seed Law (May 6, 2013) to restrict seeds, she is introducing her extraordinary new publication, The Law of the Seed, (which we encourage you to download here.) Since the video is very long and the introduction is partially in French, we encourage you to go to 14:30 where her lecture in English begins, and it ends at 55:40, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The third video is of another TED lecture by Joel Salatin, organic farmer and author of Folks, This Ain’t, Normal, a very dynamic speaker. It starts off with Soil and points to the insanity of modern day society vis-à-vis the production of Food.

The fourth video is a full-length movie, entitled, Seeds of Death. This is a consummate piece, which will offer an education on the subject of GMOs and how they represent a threat to life on this planet.

For the fifth presentation, this is the first time we are using an audio-only podcast. It is a delightful interview by Staci Strauss ( of a farmer, farmer’s market advocate and author named Forrest Pritchard, who we quoted in the main article. Worth listening to, and again inspirational.

After the podcast, check out the world map regarding the Labeling of GMO’s, provided to us by the Center for Food Safety.

Finally we’d like to thank our readers in Germany, the UK, Russia, and France (our biggest audience outside the US), and to all of our US and international readers. We really appreciate you taking the time to read our articles. And we extra-appreciate when you refer them to friends. We love getting feedback from our readers. Our email address is For the sake of our people, our families, and Mother Earth, we encourage all of you, as charter members of Woodstock Earth, to spread the word and help get these stories out.

Seeds Will Save Us – Bill McDorman

The Greens/EFA EuropeanParliament -
Vandana Shiva on
The Law of the Seed

Joel Salatin at TEDMED 2012

Seeds Of Death - Full Movie

Farm, Forrest, Farm! (Podcast)

GMO Labeling Map

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