The Flipside of GM Seed.

In this last week I’ve had two emails from people that are concerned about the effects on GM on our food security. I’ll come to the two mails shortly, however I’d like to lay a foundation as to why we are in the predicament that we are.

We are in a predicament you say? Howso? Well to start off South Africa is the only country in Africa that has embraced the GM seed houses with their efforts to rid the world of Open Pollinated and Heirloom seeds. Every other African country has turned away from the tide of GM food and many other countries will only accept food aid if the whole grain has been crushed to ensure that this seed cannot be planted and infect their own local crops. In my opinion it’s a hard thing to do but in the long run it many actually protect these countries in the future, when GM crops are the only ones available on the open market.

In South Africa, we eat GM food and GM derived foods every day… without us knowing it. The current estimation (2010) is that more than 75% of our maize production is GM, if you eat soya, canola, sunflower  and many other staple food you will be almost guaranteed to be ingesting some of them. It’s hard to believe but South Africans eat GM foods every single day.

A large percentage of the meat produced in South Africa is produced with the aid of feedlots, whether Beef, Lamb/Mutton, Pork or Chicken. GM grains are used to feed these animals to get them to a point where it’s economical to slaughter them. In-turn you are eating GM organisms that are transferred unadulterated into your system where they in turn can do damage to your own system. The term Grain-Fed in any meat product is possible the worst thing you can put into your body, as none of the aforementioned animals eat grain in their diets naturally. They are either grazers or omnivores and only a very small portion of their diet is naturally made up with grain. Their digestive systems are not designed to break-down large quantities of grain. They are kept in cramped feedlots and grain is fed to get them to a point where it’s worthwhile (economically) to slaughter them. The faster they can turn a feedlot around and get the next batch in, the more profit they make. No thought is given to the animals or the proper environment that the animals need for a quality life.

Grass fed and free-range animals on the other hand, get a choice as to what they want to eat, and naturally they will eat what they prefer. This form of animal raising takes a while longer, but the meat that is produced is infinitely better. Better flavored, better for your health and better for the animal. There are scientific tests that are available that prove that eating grass fed beef/mutton will actually LOWER your cholesterol level. Not something that the feed-lot industry would like you to know about. (Much like the “no MSG Added” clap-trap, just be careful about the marketing ploy of grass finished beef/mutton, it’s not the same as grass fed)

So that’s just one example of how South Africans eat GM foods, I could go on with all sorts of things like Milk, Yogurt, cheese, Margarine (do you still eat that stuff?), Cooking oil, Mielie Pap, Corn Chips, Your kids cookies, or your babies formula and even your favorite cereal are just a few examples of GM infected food stuffs that you put into your and your families mouths.

In fact in today’s South Africa, if you buy a processed food you are almost always infecting your kids with a GM contaminated ingredient.

Tina sent me a mail about GM and it’s effects on our feed security. Her concern is outlined in the following extract

“I shudder to think of the possibility of GM seed cross pollinating with Rural farmer indigenous and Heirloom maize Varieties and feel that we as seed savers should do something about it!

On a more serious note this is a massive threat to our food security for the future, if Their GM maize infiltrates local varieties and open pollinated seed what happens then?”

My answer is twofold. First, the problem has already started! Our Government is already distributing GM seed (with the help of the GM Seed Houses) to rural communities for them to plant. This in effect allows GM pollen to infect neighboring crops, this in turn will create a crisis when the GM seed houses decide to prosecute locals for “infringing” on their patents. However the biggest loss is that of traditional landraces, heirloom varieties and open pollinated varieties as these are all infected with GM pollen, the net effect is that GM houses will have the “intellectual rights” to historical varieties that have become infected with the GM pollen.

Secondly, once South Africa is at a point where ALL maize varieties are GM infected, we will have no option but to plant the GM seed stock and pay the royalties that the GM houses demand. This brings to mind a very pertinent quote from Catherine Bertini the Executive Director of the UN World Food Program. “Food is power! We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize.” If and/or when this point is reached in your life, you will very possibly have to change your behavior to that which the UN decides is desirable. Free choice goes out the window, you will have to do as the UN says or you will not be able to feed your family. That I believe is where GM crops will pay a major role in subduing the farmer. Especially if terminator, traitor, gene-deleter and similar gene’s are allowed to become a standard feature in future GM seed production.

The next mail comes from Martinette a friend of mine and is in fact a link to a site that has picked up on alarming weed resistance in the US to glyphosphates (Trade name Roundup sold by Monsanto). I’m not surprised by this and it just makes logical sense that resistant strains of many weed organisms will develop when any chemical control is implemented (One very good example are DDT resistant Mosquito’s in parts of Africa)

The scary thing for me is that Monsanto representatives are recommending that farmers use “Cocktails” of a number of different and potentially illegal chemicals to help control the resistant weeds. Note that it’s only the control and not eradication that they can do. What happens when these weeds develop a resistance to the new cocktail and even more dangerous mixes need to be made to once again “control” the new super resistant weeds?… or will they be called SuperHyper Resistant weeds???


What’s in our Garden

At this time our season is winding down to late summer, we have many beds that are opening up for our winter planting and seed processing is high on our daily chore list. In the open beds we will be putting in Hard Red Winter Wheat, as well as a host of pea’s, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale and some of the root crops like turnips, carrots and beetroot.

We now have to eat our way through a number of crops so that we can get to the seed and it’s a great way of gaining firsthand experience and taste tests on all of the new produce. We still have about 20 tomato varieties that need to ripen so that we can add the seed to our catalogue and then there are all the chilies that are almost ready for picking. Our corn varieties are almost ready and we have Krug Dent and Golden Beauty that will be up soon. The Indian Rainbow, Ciskei Mielies will soon follow and I’m really hoping that Stowell’s Evergreen Sweetcorn will make it before the first frosts, I did plant it a bit late. Our bean and pumpkin varieties are going to be great this coming year and you are in for a real treat.

As for the rest of our little farm we’ve had a run-in with some stock thieves that tried to make-off with some of our livestock but thankfully they were scared off before they could do any damage. Our lambing season has started and we have our first lamb (an ewe) of the season.