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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Comments

Arline from from NY on July 22, 2010 at 06:57:32 PM
People starve, not because of global warming (about which there is GREAT dispute among eminent scholars and even warnings now that we are heading into a mini-Ice Age!)and not because there isn't enough food to feed the world population. If you research the causes of starvation, they are primarily because of war, greed and apathy. Can you imagine how many people could be fed just by what Americans throw away daily?
GMOs and Monsanto are definitely bad. Indian farmers are committing suicide because the expensive seeds foisted on them Monsanto have sterilized the lands which their families had farmed for hundreds of years.
We should be working on making people self-sufficient and keeping despots out of power, instead of letting corporations bring in "change", which does more damage to the environment than the combined impact of a world population that could fit comfortably in the state of Texas.
Alice from from TX on July 22, 2010 at 06:27:14 PM
I guess all these people pushing these toxic laden GMO
will eat them too. Maybe they should be the guinea pigs for about 20 yrs. Then see what happens.
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