Friday, February 22, 2013

What *are* GMOs, and why should I care, anyway...?

This little tutorial is only for people who eat food, nobody else...:

(So if you don't eat food, please skip this post. Thank you.)

First of all, here is what GMOs (genetically engineered organisms) are not ... . Here's a definition of the old-fashioned, normal, healthy-for-you, what-yer-granma-planted kind of seed : "Open-pollinated seeds are the result of the natural pollination process. You know – birds and bees kind of stuff. But more precisely, open-pollinated seeds are the result of “natural relations” – if you get my drift – between genetically similar parents. You’re probably asking “What the heck does that mean?” Well, let’s use this example: A pure-bred Brandywine tomato plant in your garden has “relations” with another pure-bred Brandywine tomato. This pairing will produce pure-bred Brandywine tomato babies – not Mortgage Lifter babies, or Better Boy babies – only Brandywine babies. These babies are also open-pollinated, pure bred Brandywine, and if they stick with their own in the future, the lineage will carry on from generation to generation. Heirloom or heritage seeds are simply very old open-pollinated varieties."
Now, a sidestep into hybrids, mixes of plants: "Hybrids are seeds that are the direct result of “relations” between two or more genetically distinct (or different) parents that belong to the same species.  In other words the parent plants are usually the same species – a cucumber with a cucumber – but of a different variety – let’s say, a Straight Eight with a Homemade Pickle."
But: "Let’s get one thing straight right now, hybrids are not to be confused in anyway with GMO’s, which are not the result of natural relations of any kind – and it may be argues aren’t natural in any way, shape, or form. GMO’s are seeds that have been tweaked in a laboratory so that they are forced to include genes from all kinds of things, including mice, fungi, viruses, other animals, bugs, and in some cases, human genes. I have often been heard to say, that “Rice and mice don’t splice” – but if you are a genetics expert, you can force them to. And be aware that the number and frequency of genetically modified organisms in food crop seeds, including garden seeds, is on the rise. Demand that these seeds be labeled as GMO’s."

SO: More and more seeds that make the food on your dinner plate are exclusively GMO seeds, produced by agrogiant producers, and those seeds do not make yer granma's tomatoes. BigAg furthermore adds little killer genes to make saving those seeds impossible, thereby ensuring the dead-end dependence of farmers (who used to save seeds year to year) on the agrogiant. (They even sue individual farmers who somehow manage to get some FrankenFood seeds to germinate.) Instead of being able to save seeds and cut costs as farmers have done for millenia, thanks to this model of modern agrobusiness, from 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325%; for cotton prices spiked 516% and corn seed prices are up by 259%.

It's all about controlling markets - three corporations control 53% of the global commercial seed market - and despite the fact Big Agriculture promised increased yields and improved nutrition and better drought resistance, that has not happened. Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers reports a precipitous drop in seed diversity that has been cultivated for millennia. (Remember the old tried and true adage "Don't put all you eggs in one basket"? Yup, matters in seeds, too.) As the report notes:  86% of corn, 88% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans farmed in the U.S. are now genetically-engineered (GE) varieties, making the option of farming non-GE crops increasingly difficult.
Progress for who? Not the farmers, and judging from the test results, not for the end consumer: YOU and me, our families, our descendants, the animals who eat this "food"... . 

Take back the food system, America, before it's too late.