Organic Sense

FEEDING THE WORLD, at what cost?

by Melissa Hughes  on July 06, 2010

Turning the tables on Monsanto!!! History has been made with the recent Supreme Court decision to force GMO crops to go through a full regulatory process. This victory, whether small or big, is a first for me to see Monsanto slowed down in any way no less because of organic considerations—yeah organics! This happened because the organic movement supported this in what way we could combined with the great leadership of the Center for Food Safety and the help of many other folks like Missy Hughes at our cooperative. Missy has long wanted to turn the tables on Monsanto. In her enclosed article, she takes on the outrageous claims of feeding future populations with more sterile food raised on more sterile land with weirder and weirder genetic manipulations—a vision that we all need to challenge which Missy does a great job of. This Supreme Court ruling is the new beginning to a war we thought we were losing. Never give up! Cooperatively, George

FEEDING THE WORLD, at what cost?

By Melissa Hughes, Director of Government Affairs for Organic Valley

We can feed the world.

It’s no small claim. Many moons ago, humans were trying desperately to feed their families. Then, the village. In the modern age, countries hope to feed themselves. Today, as if “progress is our most important product,” we have corporations advertising that they will be able to feed the world in 2050, when the world’s population will again likely double.

What have these corporations solved that hundreds of thousands of years of mankind have been unable to? They claim to have conquered bugs and weeds. By modifying the genes of food, they have created genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their “products,” capable of overcoming whatever Mother Nature can throw at them. “Products” include Bt-corn, which exudes a pesticide that kills worms, and Roundup Ready Alfalfa, designed to be sprayed with Roundup herbicide capable of killing all other plants but the alfalfa.

What could be bad about feeding the world? Why worry?

BP and the oil industry have been saying they can provide energy to supply the world’s needs. The oil industry is willing to take whatever measures needed, drill wherever needed, to provide that supply. Again, what’s so bad about supplying something undeniably needed like oil? We are seeing the devastation of such decision-making in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the devastation that climate change, in many quieter ways, is wreaking throughout the world.

Just as people will keep driving cars, people will keep on eating. But will there be an equivalent moment of “clarification” about the world’s food supply?

Corporations and the FDA claim the genetically modified organisms are “safe” for human consumption. Safe in their terms means that it’s safe until it’s shown to be dangerous. Sound familiar? Deepwater drilling is safe until something happens that overwhelmingly shows us it’s not. GMOs have become so embedded in our agricultural system that it will take years to eliminate them completely, should we decide to—that is if it becomes, as some argue it already is, apparent that these organisms are not safe. Just as cleaning up the Gulf seems insurmountable, eliminating artificially modified genes from the food supply is far from a simple proposition.

But should we keep on drilling and planting these highly lucrative “fixes” willy-nilly? This week the US Supreme Court, in its first decision on GMOs, clearly and resoundingly stated that farmers and consumers have the right to question the safety of GMOs, and that a company is responsible for the flow of genes from its products. Monsanto had tried desperately to avoid the government’s review of its Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA) product through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). According to Monsanto, an EIS was not necessary because the risk of contamination was minimal, and that even if there was contamination, RRA is a safe product. Remember, it’s safe because no one has shown it’s dangerous.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto procedurally, but the end result is that the United States Department of Agriculture will still continue its process of review through the EIS, and it also must respond to the 140,000 comments it received on the draft EIS. Roundup Ready Alfalfa is just one of a host of “products” that Monsanto has in its pipeline, all designed to “help feed the world.” The Supreme Court’s ruling makes it clear that each of these products should be carefully reviewed and their safety questioned.

As Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said, after introducing legislation to provide a complete regulatory framework for all genetically engineered products, “Haven’t we learned enough from the catastrophe in the Gulf of the dangers of technological arrogance…why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?”

Is RRA safe? We don’t know. Nor do we know if GMO corn, GMO wheat or GMO rice is safe. The government says it is. The corporations say it is. But do we?

For those of us who eat organically or choose to avoid GMOs as best we can, we’re far from sure. We doubt we even need these “products.” Alfalfa is traditionally not sprayed with pesticides. Bt-corn’s yields are no better than non-biotech corn. Tens of thousands of certified organic farmers across the planet feed a rapidly-growing slice of the planet’s population without resorting to such genetic experiments. Taking risks like introducing GMOs into Mother Nature with disregard for the potential consequences is somewhat akin to drilling for oil a mile beneath one of the most spectacular ecosystems in the world.

Sure, we can do it—but should we?

For more information:
Elizabeth Horton
207-838-0084 on behalf of Organic Valley

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Susan from from Louisiana on September 15, 2010 at 06:33:14 PM
Petrochemical pest controls were first put onto the market as economic poisons. The Farm Bureau and the petrochemical pesticide industry feared the public would turn against these poisons, so they renamed them under the label of pesticides. Cides mean to kill, and pests can be anything including your children. Now the same parties have dropped the term pesticides for pest control or crop protection. But, no matter what they are called, they are toxic to more than just the identified pest. All rivers and most waters in the USA are contaminated from pesticides, from either agricultural runoff or airborne emissions being returned to the earth with precipitation. The smaller the rainfall, the more toxic the precip because it's concentrated, as I learned when we tested for acid precipitation and acid precip showed up from pesticide spraying in greater quantities than when we had really good rainfalls.

An article was published by The New Scientist in 1999 entitled, "It's raining pesticides." The study found in Spain, Switzerland, and indeed, all over Europe pesticides had collected into the atmosphere and were returned to the earth when it rained, in higher level that was was allowed in drinking water.

Since the European regulations are stronger than those in the USA, and since we have more herbicide tolerant crops than any other country in the world, it is my guesstimate that our rainwater is highly contaminated. Likewise, bottled water fed from springs may also be toxic.
Susan from from Louisiana on September 15, 2010 at 02:58:23 PM
What Genetically Engineered food does when exported into nation's where people are starving, is spread the DNA which belongs to Monsanto or Dupont under patent law. It does not matter how the DNA gets there, Monsanto or Dupont owns the DNA, and the farmers are required to pay a substantial fee to these biotech companies plus purchase seeds every year instead of saving their own as they have done since agriculture began 10,000 years ago. They are also required by contract to purchase Monsanto's toxic Roundup or other toxic pest controls and to spray repeatedly until all weeds are dead.

In the past, organic farmers have simply mulched the weeds under, or physically removed vines from the soil. This would not be allowed under Monsanto's contract. Even starving farmers must abide by the contract, which includes constant purchases on Monsanto's seeds, toxic herbicides, and chemical fertilizers.

If they don't have rain water, irritation is needed to keep the crops from dying. Farmers are not told this up front. The farmers will still be required to make purchases every year until they die.

Too many farmers in India have committed suicide have mortgaging their land to buy this new technology only to lose their crop or find their animals poisoned from eating the toxic vegetation. Too late, they realized that the truth was not told.

All crops put onto the market to date in the USA have been genetically engineered to be either herbicide tolerant meaning more and more toxic herbicides can be sprayed, as well as other toxic pest controls; or, in the case of cotton and corn, to become an insecticide.

No testing has been done with regard to the impact on humans or the environment and no labeling is allowed.
Susan from from Louisiana on September 15, 2010 at 02:39:40 PM
The Center For Food Safety has The True Food Shoppers’ Guide to Avoiding GMOs. For more information, go to:

People who buy organic agriculture need to become active, because organic is at risk because of the pollen being carried on the wind or by pollinators from genetically modified grasses and crops to the fields of organic agriculture, and hence contaminated organic with Monsanto's patented GMO DNA.

Monsanto has threatened or litigated against many farmers and put them out of business. Unfortunately, during the first Bush Administration, Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto attorney, has refused to recuse himself when his former employer has come before his court. He has always voted in favor of Monsanto. And now, President Obama has appointed another Supreme Court Justice who has worked for Monsanto. This means, that we may lose clean, safe, organic agriculture unless we get the public heavily involved and reaching a tipping point when genetically engineered crops are not eaten, served in restaurants, or purchased by supermarkets, as has occurred in Europe.

To become more involved to save organic and eliminate GMO's, google the Institute for Responsible Technology. I just ordered brochures to get to people in my inform them of how their food is grown and how we can avoid GMO ingredients. You can also.

I'll do whatever I can to protect Organic Valley and other organic farmers.
Julie from from Greenville, SC on September 10, 2010 at 09:26:37 AM
I am shocked to learn about all of this "bad food" we are eating as Americans. I had no idea it was that bad until watching "Food, Inc." last night. I will no longer buy anything that is not organic and try to buy as much locally grown foods as possible. Does anyone know of a list of GMO's or something on the label that lets the consumer know it's genetically altered?
Julia from from Phoenix, AZ on August 31, 2010 at 11:50:34 AM
I am a firm believer in working with mother nature not fighting it, and this is exactly what most of the world today is doing. All of these (monster) corporations( BP, Monsanto, Nestle, Kroger, Etc..) are completely based on greed, they are more the problem than the solution. They practice horrible politics and feed America horrible "foods" if that's what you could call it. Every year that goes by our youth tends to get sicker and sicker and i for one blame what they are ingesting.This does not apply to those families who choose eat organic. I think that if more people cared, especially about what kind of world of little ones are going to have to live in long after we are gone, the world would be a much better place. Remember money is just paper and should not be the most important thing in our lives. The health of our planet and the health of humanity is what is really important. Please love and respect our planet and love and respect you mind, body and soul.
Lydia from from Maryland on July 28, 2010 at 05:36:46 PM
If GMO's are so healthy for us why is obesity at an all time high and why is diabetes on the rise? Since we have changed to an all organic diet, my husband and I have become healthier and we have lost weight. Organic meats not only taste better but we eat smaller portions and feel full.
Chiara from from Milford NJ on July 23, 2010 at 03:08:54 PM
As an organic farmer myself and a mother of 3, I say fantastic to the recent ruling. Mother Nature has been 'doing' plants WAY longer than Monsanto!! I want to know what I eat is safe and I can prove it, I grew it from seeds saved from last year, and the year before and the year before and back the 40 years I have been gardening. The seeds before that came from my parents and grandparents saving seed.
Great article!! A small victory against GMO 'product'
Gabriella from from Garnet Valley, PA on July 23, 2010 at 07:25:23 AM
An excellent article! Thank you for the work you do in bringing this strong message to the public. Looks like the EU has it right! We need to follow their lead.
Mario from from OHIO on July 23, 2010 at 05:24:28 AM
It's so funny this article is coming out about this subject. On a day to day basis when driving around selling OV/OP product my mind is thinking "why are we tasked with the responsibility to feed the world?" It is a noble endeavor but is it TRULY OUR Responsibility and at what cost for this "noble endeavor". Or is it just a marketing campaign thrust upon us? I mean what sinful person would not want to take care of his fellow man? That is how Monsanto (and other large agribusiness) want us to feel and defend. But it boils down to real, more complex issues of overpopulation, importance of man vs. Mother Nature and growth of publicly traded companies at all costs.

Nice article and good to know I'm not the only that is "sinful" for questioning this motive
ed from on July 22, 2010 at 07:28:07 PM
If I were a starving person in Africa,I would not care what is on my food. it is a proven fact that sustainable produces less yield per acre than conventional ag. I would say treat GMO crops like a person going to a jury trial,innocent until proven guilty.I myself would consume them without hesitation. What is the alternative? Massive genocide until we reach a point where we can feed the world with organic ag? I agree there are new technologies in the pipelines to increase organic production such as hydroponics and undersea farming. Hopefully,we will succeed in those areas. But until that happens,we stick with current science. Given a choice,a starving person will opt to eat so they don't die of starvation and will not worry about some future SMALL possibility of cancer which COULD kill them!
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