Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Hell No, G-M-O!

Let me begin this post by saying that since it is a blog, it contains my opinion. Let me also follow that up by saying that when it comes to the topic of GMOs, this should be your opinion, too.

Lately the FDA has been debating whether GMO salmon should be approved for human consumption. The fish have been produced by a company called Aqua Bounty Technologies. What this process of genetic modification entails is injecting the fish eggs with recombinant DNA in order to allow the fish to develop desirable traits.

Aqua Bounty Technologies’ salmon have been created by injecting fertilized salmon eggs with a growth gene, as well as the genetic material from a fish called an ocean pout, which is a large eel-like fish. This causes the recombined DNA from the eggs to later be present in the body of the adult fish. The ocean pout gene allows the salmon to grow and develop in the winter as well as in the summer. The growth gene allows the salmon to reach adulthood, an appropriate size for consumption, in half the normal time. The result is salmon meat that, to the naked eye, appears pretty much the darn same as normal, regular salmon meat.

So here is the thing that is most shocking to me about this. So far, the FDA seems to think that this GMO salmon should hit the market without any sort of label on it to establish that it is GMO salmon. There would be no way for you, the consumer, to tell if you were purchasing salmon that had been caught from the ocean or genetically altered and raised artificially on a fish farm. They have made a variety of claims stating that there is “no need” for a label, and that a label would simply “confuse consumers.”

Confuse consumers?? The only thing I am confused about is how the FDA thinks it is acceptable to approve this salmon for human consumption when there is absolutely no proof whatsoever as to how this will affect us, our health, and our well being in the long run. This makes the American people the subject of one of the most outrageous science experiments in all of history.

Additionally, if GMO salmon doesn’t need to be labeled, then clearly other GMO products don’t need to be labeled. If you purchase soy products at the grocery store, you may notice that they contain a label stating, “Made with non-GMO soy.” Because there is no law stating that GMO soy needs to be labeled, the companies that DON’T use it really have no choice but to label themselves, if they wish for their consumers to know that their soy is safe. Genetically altered soy, canola, and corn are already in heavy rotation in both food and non-food products.

Disturbingly, Aqua Bounty has eluded that this technology is necessary to conquer the impending food crisis. Here in this Reuters article, he states that without it, “it’s hard to imagine how we will meet the protein needs of the developing population over the next 20 to 30 years.”

I’ve said it once and I’ve said it again, folks: The impending food crisis is not a “maybe.” The best thing that you can do in order to be prepared for it is plant your own survival garden. Do not put yourself in a position where you must consume GMO products for sustenance. Do not allow yourself to become a human science experiment.

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A Lettuce By Any Other Name…

If you garden using conventional seeds, then you’ve probably experienced this problem that is described so eloquently here by Jerri Cook in Countryside. When choosing seeds from a catalog, you pick a lovely red leaf variety called Sheep’s Tongue in catalog A. A few days later, you see another red leaf variety in catalog B called Camel’s Tongue. You order this one, since you love experimenting with different types of vegetables, and you want your lettuce crop to last all summer. However, when you plant and begin to harvest your two types of lettuce, you notice that they grow, look, and taste exactly the same.  What’s up with that?

Well, here’s what probably happened. If catalog A has trademarked the name Sheep’s Tongue, then catalog B cannot call it the same thing. They can sell the exact same seeds, they simply have to call it a different name. So you, unknowingly, can buy and plant 2 sets of the exact same seeds. There’s not any way for us to detect that they are the same thing until we harvest our lettuce. Kind of tricky, right? If there are two of the exact same types of seed in two different companies, then obviously the original origin of the seeds is not one of these companies. This is confusing, I know, but unfortunately this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

No matter which conventional mail order catalog you choose to order your seeds, you are going to get the same ones. Catalog A, B, C, D, E, F, and so forth are likely all owned by the same parent company. The American nursery trade is a $39.6 billion a year industry. And Monsanto is now estimated to control between 85 and 90 percent of the U.S. nursery market, including fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide markets. 85 to 90 percent! They hold over 11 thousand seed patents. So even though Sheep’s Tongue Lettuce and Camel’s Tongue Lettuce are called 2 different things and came from 2 different retailers, the truth of the matter is that they probably both came from Monsanto.

Even worse, in my opinion, is a little 3-letter abbreviation that you may see listed next to seed selections in seed catalogs. PVP stands for Plant Variety Protection. When you see this, it means that is is actually ILLEGAL for you to save seeds from this plant variety for propagation purposes.

This is the part that really steams me. How is it right for a company to force you to continuously purchase seeds from them? This FORCES you, if you wish to grow PVP varieties, to purchase seeds year after year instead of simply saving them from your harvest. How can you put a patent on a seed or plant? How can you force farmers to live a life that is dependent on the whim of a gigantic corporation? How can you prevent someone from living a sustainable lifestyle, where it is possible and logical to buy seeds only once? How is this happening in the U.S??

Regardless of these questions, the fact of the matter is that this IS happening in the United States right now. Many companies, such as Greenpeace, have spoken out against Monsanto, claiming, “Monsanto-no food shall be grown that we don’t own.” Monsanto rakes in BILLIONS of dollars every year from across the globe with its plant, seed, and chemical technology.

The next step in Monsanto technology is the introduction of chemicals that will allow farmers to control the genetic traits of their plants. So for example, if your tomato plants begin to develop powdery mildew, you can purchase a chemical that, when applied to your tomato plants, will kick on their powdery mildew resistance gene. Of course, both the plants and the chemicals are all owned by Monsanto. I know it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it’s not. To learn more about it, just Google “Monsanto Traitor technology.” It will seriously blow your mind.

How can you avoid this evil monopoly that is Monsanto? You must buy heirloom seeds from a reputable source. Don’t purchase plants or seeds from your local garden store. And don’t purchase conventional seeds from mail order catalogs or internet sites. Plant heirloom seeds, save seeds from your harvest, and plant again the next year. Find other people in your community who are like-minded and hold an annual heirloom seed swap. This is an excellent way to be introduced to new varieties of fruits and vegetables, and increase the diversity of your own seed supply. Don’t bow down to Monsanto. As long as you have the right to purchase and plant heirloom seeds that are not controlled by this evil giant, you should exercise that right.

Get in the Zone

About a month and a half ago, I blogged about planting lettuce in my garden, since it is a crop that does particularly well in cool fall weather. Where I live in Virginia, early September normally starts to bring about drier weather and chillier night temperatures, and therefore cooler soil. But depending on your climate, how do you know when to plant your cool season crops?

The key factor in deciding when to plant fall vegetables is considering when you normally get your first frost. You should plant your fall crops so that they mature and may be harvested before the danger of frost sets in. Pay attention to the information that comes on your seed packets in regards to how many days the vegetable needs to reach maturity. For example, in addition to lettuce, I also like to plant another good fall veggie, beets. Each year, I plant the Detroit Dark Red Beets from my Survival Seed Bank. These take about 60 days from planting to harvest. In Norfolk, we usually receive our first frost around October 26. Because of this, I know that the latest I can plant my beet seeds is August 27. I just start at October 26 and count backwards.

When deciding when to plant fall trees, shrubs, and perrenials, it is very important to consider the plant hardiness zone in which you live. North America is divided into 11 different zones based on average low temperatures. Zone 1 is the coldest, and zone 11 is the warmest. The term “hardy” or “hardiness” means that a particular plant has the ability to endure winters in a particular zone. Here in Norfolk Virginia, I live in zone #8. Low temperatures here can reach 10 to 20 degrees F, so in order to a plant to be hardy to this zone, it must be able to survive these low temperatures.

If you live in a warmer zone, such as zone 10, your temperatures may pretty much never reach freezing, which means that you can plant a lot of things that wouldn’t survive in cooler temperatures. However, it also means that you probably need to specifically look for tropical plants and those that thrive in your hot climate.

So how can you apply this “zone” information when selecting seeds and seedlings, and determining when you plant them? Well, as you read your seed packets and plant labels, you will undoubtedly see information that pertains to zones. Most plants will list a range of zones that they can tolerate, such as zones 5-9, so it is best to know your zone and pay attention to these warnings. To find out what your climate zone is, go to this Backyard Gardener website and type in your zip code.

Okay, now that you know your zone, don’t deny it. There is no guarantee that a plant will live or die based on following the planting instructions for your climate zone, but it does give you a much better shot at success. When you think about it on a base level, you can consider that there is definitely a reason that you don’t see palm trees growing and thriving in Minnesota. Different plants just have different climate needs.

Depleted Supply of Potash Could Lead to Agricultural Collapse

 

Have you ever checked out a conventional fertilizer label before? If you have, you know that the three main ingredients that are used are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These are labeled as N-P-K. It is essential that these elements are used in appropriate amounts and levels in order to prevent burning out your soil, or killing off the soil’s natural beneficial microorganisms. In other words, we, as home gardeners, always really need to mind our Ns, Ps, and Ks.

What many people don’t know about these elements that go into fertilizers is that two of them are minerals that must be mined from the earth. Potassium, or “potash”, is a mineral that is mined then processed before it is spread on fields. Potash is a very large part of commercial farming, especially the farming of grains. The problem with this is that since it is mined, it is not a renewable resource. Once it is taken out of the earth, it does not re-grow, at least not at a rate that makes it obtainable to us. Like oil, once we take it and use it, it’s gone.

With current industrial farming methods, the methods on which most people rely entirely to obtain their food, potash is being consumed at an extremely rapid rate. Therefore, the earth’s supply of obtainable potash will soon simply run out. When this happens, a huge portion of modern agriculture will collapse.

Conventionally farmed cereal grains require between 45 and 60 pounds of potash per ton of grain. Since mono-cropping (growing only one crop on an acreage) is common, the soil is depleted of its natural nutrients. These farmers then rely on artificial replenishment, i.e. use of synthetic fertilizers. Since many are contractually obligated to Monsanto to purchase a certain type of seed and output a certain crop, they see that they have no choice but to continue mono-cropping and synthetically fertilizing their fields. And the vicious cycle continues.

Additionally, studies have shown that farmers can improve the health of the soil in their fields by tilling under the unused crop biomass rather than harvesting or burning it. This allows nutrients to be returned to the soil over the winter so that it is in better health for the next planting season in the spring. However, this is hardly ever done by farmers who practice industrial farming. The normal practice here is to leave fields bare then replenish them with synthetic fertilizers in the fall. This means more potash.

So here are the major problems with potash:

  • We’re using a lot of valuable oil and other resources to mine it and transport it.
  • Extraction of potash peaked in the 1970s and has been depleting since. That’s 40 years of running closer and closer to empty.
  • Current methods of its usage can really be defined as overusage. They are wasteful, destructive and unsustainable.

What are some alternatives to using potash in your garden? Well there are definitely organic farming methods of supplying your soil with potassium that are quite effective. One of the best ways is to compost the unused crop fibers from your garden, then use this compost as a soil amendment. Manure is also a great, organic way to add potassium to your soil. You can purchase organic manure at your local garden store, or if you seek out your own, make sure it’s herbivore manure. Manure is a renewable resource and is much safer and healthier for your garden soil.