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Seeds of Freedom

Story at-a-glance -

  • Seeds of Freedom, narrated by Jeremy Irons, details how seeds, which have been the heart of traditional farming and natural biodiversity since the beginning of agriculture, are being transformed into an expensive, patented commodity used to monopolize the global food system
  • Historically, farmers have stored, traded and shared choice seed from one season to the next. With the introduction of patented genetically engineered seeds, this practice is no longer permitted. Doing so exposes the farmer to costly fines and lawsuits for patent infringement
  • At present, there are six categories of genetically engineered crops that are either in development, or have already been approved for commercialization
  • GE crops have not lived up to the hype. Numerous studies have concluded they do not provide greater yields. On the contrary, they oftentimes produce lower yields than their non-GE counterparts. They also have not reduced herbicide use. Instead, use of broad-spectrum herbicides is estimated to triple as herbicide-resistant crops continue to be planted around the globe

By Dr. Mercola

Seeds of Freedom1, a film produced by The Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network, in collaboration with MELCA Ethiopia, Navdanya International, and GRAIN, offers a thought-provoking glimpse into the state of the global food supply, as crop seeds are being increasingly monopolized by trans-national biotech corporations.

"The story of seed has become one of loss, control, dependence and debt. It's been written by those who want to make vast profit from our food system, no matter what the true cost.

It's time to change the story." ~ Seeds of Freedom

Monoculture Can End Life as We Know it

The monoculture rapidly overtaking the farmland across the globe is a potentially life-ending trend. For years I've stated that I believe genetically engineered foods pose one of the greatest threats to life on this planet, and the truth behind this assessment is becoming clearer with each passing year.

Life on this planet depends on biodiversity, and anyone who doesn't understand this by now needs a serious re-education. Everything in nature is deeply interconnected and interdependent, and humans cannot extricate themselves from nature.

Chemical-based monoculture quickly destroys soil composition, and research by the likes of Dr. Don Huber shows that genetically engineered (GE) crops hasten and deepen the harm to the soil even further. The increased use of broad-spectrum herbicides on these genetically engineered mono-crops have also resulted in the rapid rise of exceptionally hardy super-weeds, which are turning out to be near impossible to contain and eradicate.

Between rapid soil destruction, super-weeds, super-pests, loss of biodiversity and indigenous seed, and subsequent loss of basic agricultural knowledge, we are already in dire straits. And once the land can no longer successfully produce food, we die. It's that simple.

In the meantime, communities, indeed entire countries in some cases, are losing their livelihoods and their sovereignty to giant biotech corporations like Monsanto.

While you may never have thought you'd need to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of farming, it's becoming imperative for everyone to understand how food is produced.

Historically, farmers have stored, traded and shared choice seed from one season to the next. With the introduction of patented genetically engineered seeds, this practice is no longer permitted. Doing so exposes the farmer to costly fines and lawsuits for patent infringement. GE seeds must be purchased anew each season, along with specially-formulated herbicides, putting farmers under financial pressures never before experienced. The failure of this system is evident in the horrific suicide rate of Indian farmers, who take their own lives at a rate of about two per hour due to inability to pay back their seed loans. GE seeds also spread beyond the borders of the fields in which they are planted, exposing neighboring farms to all the same risks—environmental and financial.

What Kinds of GE Crops are there?

At present, there are six general categories of genetically engineered crops that are either in development, or have already been approved for commercialization:

Herbicide-tolerant Insect-resistant (Bt crops)Virus-tolerant (ringspot virus tolerant papaya, squash and zucchini)
Nutritionally enhanced (Ex: golden rice, omega-3 soy)Climate-tolerant (Ex: drought resistant corn)Pharmaceutical and/or industrial crops, not intended for consumption as food

In terms of food crops, the most common genetically engineered varieties are:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Canola
  • Sugarbeet
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Success! Vermont Representative Seeks to Include GE Labeling to New Farm Bill

We have supported and repeatedly invited you to get actively involved in theeffort to get genetically engineered foods labeled in the US, and while there have been numerous setbacks, I'm pleased to report on a recent success. Our lobbying in Vermont has paid off in multiple ways, despite the fact that Monsanto's bullying tactics prevented the state from passing bill H.722, also known as the 'VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act'.2 (Monsanto threatened to sue the state if they tried to turn the bill into law.)

According to a May 9 report on the Vermont Right to Know GMO's web site3:

"We heard many times that over 90% of Americans want to see genetically engineered foods labeled, but we were continually surprised and invigorated by the public support for our efforts. After more than a decade of watching biotech giants take over the American food system, people have had enough. Our campaign has been fueled by these brave and vocal activists who were not afraid to stand up and say that we deserve better from our leaders, and we have a right to know what is going onto our dinner plates.

Without the voices of thousands of Vermonters calling for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, H.722 was destined to die in committee without any testimony. Legislators said again and again that they rarely receive so much positive support on any issue, and this kept the discussion about labeling GMOs alive in the State House. Though the bill did not ultimately become law, the extensive testimony heard by the Agriculture committee laid the framework for an even stronger bill next session.

... We are all disappointed that H.722 did not become law this session, but we are also looking forward with great optimism. Not only is the issue of labeling gaining momentum here in Vermont, it is becoming part of the national political conversation."

At this point in time, it's truly important to realize just how much power we actually have. We do not have to sit back and watch these atrocities in silence. Speaking out en masse has a tremendous impact, and there's no doubt in my mind we can turn things around, provided we keep at it.

Case in point: While Vermont didn't pass H.722, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the current farm bill on June 14, requiring that any food or beverage containing genetically engineered ingredients be clearly labeled4. The Sanders Amendment, which is cosponsored by California Senator Barbara Boxer, would also require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to report the percentage of foods and beverages that contain GE ingredients. The report would be due within two years.

As reported by ENews Park Forest on June 14:

"In the United States, Sanders said, food labels already must list more than 3,000 ingredients ranging from gluten, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, trans-fats or MSG, but not genetically altered ingredients. Around the world, by contrast, 49 countries require labels on foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

In the 1990s, there was consensus among scientists and doctors at the FDA that genetically-altered foods could have new and different risks such as hidden allergens, increased plant-toxin levels and the potential to hasten the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease. Those concerns are mounting. In just three days, the American Medical Association will consider resolutions calling for new studies on the impact of genetically-altered foods. The American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association already passed similar resolutions. Sanders stressed that labelling genetically-altered foods will not increase costs to shoppers.

He also disputed claims that genetically engineered crops are better for the environment. Instead, he said, the use of Monsanto Roundup-ready soybeans engineered to withstand exposure to the herbicide Roundup has caused the spread of Roundup-resistant weeds, which now infest 10 million acres in 22 states with predictions of 40 million acres or more by mid-decade. Resistant weeds increase the use of herbicides and the use of older and more toxic herbicides."

In related news, the government of India will require labeling of genetically engineered foods as of January 2013, according to a recent report in Times of India5.

GE Crops have Failed to Live Up to Promises

As pointed out by Senator Sanders, GE crops have failed to live up to promises—they do not provide greater yields, and they're certainly not better for the environment. According to Ronnie Cummins with the Organic Consumers Association, use of broad-spectrum herbicides is estimated to triple as herbicide-resistant crops continue to be planted around the globe. As for the promise that GE crops will help feed a starving world by producing higher yields, consider the results published in the following reports:

  • A 2006 report issued by the USDA6 stated, "Currently available GE crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistance genes are not the highest yielding cultivars."
  • In the only side-by-side study comparing yields of RoundUp Ready (RR) soy and their non-GE soy7, RR soy had a 10 percent lower yield than the non-GE soy.
  • A 2007 study8 on RR soy confirmed earlier results, concluding that RR soy had a 10 percent lower yield than its non-GE sister lines due to the fact that the RR soya could not adequately absorb manganese from the soil.
  • In 2009, a study published by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled Failure to Yield9, concluded that: "GE soybeans have not increased yields, and GE corn has increased yield only marginally on a crop- wide basis. Overall, corn and soybean yields have risen substantially over the last 15 years, but largely not as result of the GE traits. Most of the gains are due to traditional breeding or improvement of other agricultural practices." [Emphasis mine]

How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Foods

Until GE foods are labeled, your BEST strategy is to simply buy USDA certified 100% Organic products whenever possible, as these do not permit genetically engineered ingredients, or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers.

The majority of the genetically engineered ingredients you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with altered ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as most foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are about 90 percent likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.