I've urged you to steer clear of unfermented soy foods because of the detrimental impact they can have on your health, but another reason to avoid them entirely is the devastating toll they are taking on people around the world. In Paraguay, the world's fourth largest soy exporter, industrial soy production is threatening to wipe out rural communities while poisoning villagers and water supplies.
As written in The Ecologist:
"An investigation in Paraguay has discovered that vast plantations of soy, principally grown for use in intensively-farmed animal feed, are responsible for a catalogue of social and ecological problems, including the forced eviction of rural communities, landlessness, poverty, excessive use of pesticides, deforestation and rising food insecurity."
In the 2010/2011 season, Paraguay is expecting a soy crop of over 8 million tons -- a success for soy producers and a lethal blow to area residents.
Pesticides for GM Soy Sicken and Kill Local Residents
It's estimated that 90 percent of the soy grown in Paraguay is genetically modified (GM). GM soy is created to withstand large pesticide applications that would kill ordinary plants, and this makes it one of the highest pesticide-contaminated crops around.
"The primary reason crops are [genetically] engineered is to allow them to drink poison. They're called herbicide tolerant, and are inserted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of toxic herbicide.
Biotech companies sell the seed and herbicide as a package. Monsanto sells Roundup Ready crops and Roundup herbicide. Bayer CropScience sells Liberty Link crops and Liberty herbicide.
Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on these poison-drinking GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Because weeds are becoming resistant to the overused herbicide, farmers are spraying considerably more each year. The last 2 years of the 13-year study alone accounted for 46 percent of the increased herbicide use."
The massive pesticide applications sprayed onto soy crops can have a devastating impact on the locals living nearby, and is often used as a tactic by agribusiness giants intent on driving peasants and small farmers off of valuable farm land. As Friends of the Earth states:
"For soy producers in Paraguay, people are a bigger nuisance than bugs and weeds … Industrial soy production is sweeping across Paraguay. Standing in its way are communities of farmers and families who call this land home.
Spraying soy with toxic chemicals is often used as a deliberate tactic to force people from their land. Communities living near to soy may be sprayed with pesticides without warning up to 20 times per year.
The poison seeps into peoples' homes, destroys their crops and pollutes their water supplies. It causes headaches, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and sometimes death."
The organization states that on January 7, 2011, 17 residents of a small Paraguay community were taken to the hospital after being poisoned with agrochemicals. Their symptoms included fever, coughing, stomach aches, vomiting and skin eruptions, and one man, whose neighbors said they were "subjected to constant aerial and tractor spraying," died.
A Threat to Local Food Supplies and Small Farmers
Along with the issues of pesticide poisoning, the intensive soy farming is also threatening biodiversity and access to locally grown produce. The Ecologist reports:
"Attracted by cheap land prices, poor environmental regulations and monitoring, widespread corruption and low taxation on agricultural export commodities, agribusinesses have long viewed Paraguay as an ideal country in which to do business. In recent decades increasing chunks of rural land have been bought up and turned over to export-orientated soy cultivation …
The arrival of export-orientated soy production in Paraguay has led to significant swathes of forest being destroyed to make way for crops, according to critics, threatening biodiversity and depleting resources vital for many rural communities.
In testimonies collected by investigators from villages adjacent to soy plantations -- and featured in the film -- local people complain that there is no longer an abundance of food and other produce."
The film referred to is the Killing Fields: The Battle to Feed Factory Farms, which also highlights the serious human rights abuses and environmental damage going on in Paraguay at the hands of multinational soy farmers.
A Simple Way to Stop Contributing to This Madness
If you want to take a stand against the damaging spread of GM soy plantations, one of the best ways is to avoid buying GM soy. Most of the GM soy grown in Paraguay, and around the world, is actually used for animal feed, so avoiding it means avoiding all meat that is not organically grown.
Organic meats (as well as 100% grass-fed beef) are raised on feed that does NOT contain genetically modified ingredients like GM soy.
If we want to instill change on an industry-wide level, it's important that we vote with our pocketbooks and purchase only non-GMO foods of all kinds when we can. So how do we do that?
Again, the most practical option you have is to choose organically certified varieties -- the gold standard of which is the USDA 100% Organic label -- as the only GM ingredients allowed in them are those produced by contamination, which is well below one percent.
Additionally you can participate in Jeffrey Smith's Non-GMO Tipping Point Network on a number of levels, depending on whether you're a consumer, a retailer, or a food manufacturer
The Institute for Responsible Technology has also created a variety of tools that make it easier for you to choose non-GM foods, and this is the way to eradicate GMO's from your local store. Remember, if no one wants to buy them, stores can't sell them, and will simply stop ordering them. Food manufacturers, and subsequently farmers, will have to adjust and quickly change their ingredients and crops or risk losing their business.
- Here is a list of Action Items you can pick and choose from:
- Distribute widely the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Remember to look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content.
- Download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- You can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Guide in bulk and give it to your family and friends.
- Join the Non-GMO Tipping Point Network, where you can connect with Local and National Non-GMO Action Groups to learn more and help get the word out about GMOs to others.
- Bring the film Hidden Dangers in Kid's Meals to your local access TV station, or perhaps your child's school, along with some educational material specifically designed for teachers and educators.
- Share Your Milk on Drugs - Just Say No!, and Jeffrey's lecture, Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods with everyone you know. Post them to your Facebook page, or email the links to your network of friends and family.
- Send a letter simultaneously to dozens of food companies, dairies, and supermarkets, telling them you're one of the millions of non-GMO eaters and urge them to prevent GM alfalfa from entering their supply chain, and to take steps to remove all GMOs. To sign and send these letters automatically, see this link.
- Join the Institute for Responsible Technologies Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.
Also support the Non-GMO Project by urging your local food retailers to join the Non-GMO Project's Supporting Retailer Program, and food manufacturers to join and become Non-GMO Project Verified. This is currently the best way for manufacturers to get around the fact that there's no GM-labeling system.