Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler
The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The Little shop of horrors:
GMO dangers, Agribusiness lies; and facts are much more frightening than fiction. A reason for the populace and in particular self-sustainable farmers to be afraid.
Written by: Alan Bishop of Hip-Gnosis seed development/Bishop’s Homegrown
The following article is simply an overview of some of the more pressing issues currently affecting the world of agriculture, I encourage all gardeners, market farmers, independent plant breeders, consumers, and enlightened human beings to do further research and stand up and demand that these atrocities and manipulations are put to a stop, or at least inform others of the dangers associated with the content within and call for stricter protocols and warning labels on genetically modified food products.
The switch from agriculture to agribusiness in the mid twentieth century heralded in the coming of a supposed “Green Revolution”, a revolution in which big Bio-Tech (seed companies) gave to us their promise that chemical inputs and hybrid plants would create enough food for everyone and enrich poor third world countries, heralding a new age in agriculture. Yes, they spouted off their almighty “fact” and said it will be good for everyone. But who was it good for?
Certainly it was good for the growing corporate farms and the conglomerate agribusiness companies like Pioneer Hi-Breed, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta who grew into huge, greed driven, money minded, corporate monsters, and certainly many a board member went on to find themselves setting in various political offices, particularly in the United States and Canada where they could scratch the selective backs of their previous employers and watch as their stocks in such companies soared, so indeed somebody benefited from all of this. However it certainly wasn’t doing anything for small farmers, even those farming in relatively good economic situations right here in the United States. The big Agribusiness companies did their best to get into bed with the USDA (who did then and still does provide a good portion of power and research money to privately owned biotech companies) and county and state extension offices, educating the public and farmers that the new “green revolution” and newly introduced hybrids and inputs could triple crop output and economic income. Indeed pumping the soil full of highly concentrated chemicals did allow for larger outputs for a few years, but it certainly wasn’t the seed doing the work since those adventurous farmers that have played with regionalized open pollinated varieties for years have seen the benefits of regionally adapted Open Pollinated cultivars over the benefits of seeds bred to do well in “average conditions”. What the companies didn’t tell you and the information they have tried for years to burry is far more telling than any brochure covering the benefits of conglomerate, bio-tech agribusiness
What they didn’t tell you was that their new inputs literally worked great for a year or two until they destroyed the micro-flora of the soil and took out more than they ever put in. What they didn’t tell you was that their new herbicides contained carcinogens that any number of farmers, farmhands, livestock, and consumers where exposed to and which often led to life destroying cancers. What they didn’t tell you is that they are the very same companies who created weapons of war like Agent Orange. What they didn’t tell you was that they were polluting the family and community drinking water, with chemicals so volatile that entire countries have outlawed them. What they didn’t tell you was that they were destroying the family farm. What they didn’t tell you was that overnight they literally set the course for some of the most dangerous instances of “bio-terrorism” and threats to the food supply and genetic diversity that we have ever seen or imagined. What they wanted you to forget was that you didn’t need them and had 10,000 years of independent agrarian agriculture and seed saving to rely upon to back up your food sources and those of the world.
Overnight Seed became a high priced commodity which was no longer saved from year to year or shared with others to create new bio-diversity. Overnight your own governments jumped into bed with the big agribusiness companies to work on new ways to control a populace and the flow of economic prosperity all around the world, knowing that controlling the safety of food and availability of resources to grow food was a power hold over everyone on the planet earth. Overnight genetics and seeds which for thousands of years were the property of every living being on the face of the planet were copy written and became the sole intellectual property of their breeders and venders distributing them and saving those seeds for next years crops, those very same seeds and genetics which were passed down to us from our ancestors for thousands of years, meant that you were breaking the law, a law which is morally irreprehensible and unforgivable. Overnight, soil fertility went from on farm, natural cycles to coming out of a bag shipped in from a thousand miles away. Overnight funding from our very own government gave big agribusiness the ability to play the role of god and genetically splice material from other organisms into our food supply, supposedly with the intent of benefiting mankind, but often leading to unexpected and dangerous outcomes.
The small farm which had once provided the very backbone of every community on earth and particularly the economic base on which the great United States was built on was being eroded and ripped out from underneath the very feet of families who had worked the ground and fed the populace for generations. In order to afford the fancy new agricultural “technology“ many a small farmer had to take out high interest loans which completely negated the positive effects that the first few years of cultivation with these new inputs may have had. Furthermore, bio-diversity was becoming a thing of the past as many small farms dropped their regionally adapted and farm bred/family saved seeds in favor of the newly introduced cultivars, by the time the small farmer came around to realize the mistakes he had made, those varieties were forever gone and the land worn out from years of abuse from harsh chemicals, the groundwater polluted, and the farmers and workers open to health hazards from the plethora of chemicals prescribed to take care of on farm crop disease and pest issues. Lots of farms went up to sale for the highest bidder, often ending up being replaced by low cost, cheap housing for the masses. Our government’s response? “Oh, that‘s ok, we don‘t need the small farmers and seed savers, after all the green revolution destroyed enough small farms in third world countries and poor portions of our own country that we can hand over to cooperate farms so we can ship in everything to feed the masses from thousands of miles away, and after all, who really cares about food safety?” By the end of the twentieth century the second GMO endorsing “green revolution” was rearing its ugly head, literally riding on the winds that blew into the twenty first century.
Scientists and supposed “plant breeders” (working in a lab and splicing genes does not qualify you as a plant breeder) were quick to jump on the opportunity to play god, literally cherry picking genes from a plethora of life-forms including animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi and placing them directly into the lifeblood of our food supply. Supposedly these new GMO plants and animals were harmless; often times they were touted as being “sterile”, and of course as always food safety wasn’t endangered and neither were the rights of small farmers further being eroded…..
The big biotech companies started placing plant variety protections and gene markers on everything they could, indeed, it’s as though man believes that he owns life. At first the manipulations were considered miniscule, a gene here or there to up yield or increase disease resistance and pest tolerance, but as always events snowballed escalating to the point of growing PHarma crops (crops which grow medicines) which create the very same proteins you find hiding behind the counter of the drug store. And the dangers? Well there are plenty. Instances of allergic reactions to genetically modified corn were reported in the 1990’s, most memorably the Starlink Corn incident. Then there was corn modified with a gene from pigs which escaped control in Iowa and caused a mess that was still being cleaned up years later, and if you thought small produce farmers and local produce was safe, think again as Genetically Modified sweet corn, modified to express the protein BT (fatal to caterpillars and worms) was marketed to produce growers country wide, who then gleefully sold this monstrosity (which is thought to negatively effect the protein building of the human body and the digestive tract and may have negative consequences to the reproductive system) to unsuspecting and uninformed customers. And then came a big announcement from Monsanto, that indeed they had succeeded in creating a “Terminator” gene, a gene which could render second generation genes sterile indiscriminately, of course they said they didn’t plan to market it, but the truth is, they would love to, they just haven’t been able to get it approved as of yet. The danger of this gene is imminently obvious, it kills seed lines indiscriminately and is particularly dangerous to crops which are wind pollinated such as corn, one of the two major crops that this gene would be present in. Of course threes always got to be one more terrifying step though doesn’t there? As though this isn’t enough, a small biotech company out of California (Epicyte) succeeded in creating a corn which actually produces a spermicide and the company had at one time optioned Dupont and Syngenta to market this monstrosity. Oh, and here’s a fun fact, guess who helped fund the research? That’s right, the USDA.
Oh and the PVP thing? In more than one case the big bio-tech companies have gained the entire assets of small farms by way of wind blown corn pollen which shows genetic markers exclusive to the vender, even though the initial crop wasn’t owned by or distributed by the big bio-tech company. Believe it or not, the bio-tech companies have their very own version of the men in black to investigate, without permission, small farms, looking for their genetic markers. Indeed agriculture has become a battlefield. A few folks in the gardening and market farming community will tell you that we have nothing to worry about, that the Monsanto’s and Syngenta’s of the world have no interest in vegetable crops or small holdings and yet the trend continues to infiltrate its way into these communities and I have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be interested in getting a foothold here, after all with the USDA on their side they have been able to steal and demean the “Organic” label to the point that it has no meaning anymore. They’ve been able to curtail having to place a warning label on genetically modified foods in our stores (even though the U.N. requires such warnings in Europe, and most recently they’ve been after the “Naturally Grown” label for their large animal operations, and need we not forget the pillaging of Iraq by way of the multi-national conglomerates as well as Africa where USDA money is being pored into research on the terminator gene as well as training of a whole new generation of genetic manipulators.
And then there’s the PR campaign to let those of us concerned with Bio-Diversity and self-sustainability know that the agribusiness companies really care. You may have heard about the new “Doomsday Seed Vault” as it’s being called, located on a god forsaken island off the coast of Norway, near the artic circle, that in the event of an emergency you couldn’t get to if you wanted to. What you probably didn’t know is that Monsanto and Syngenta both have their dirty little hands in on this operation too, as well as those great stewards of humanity the Rockefeller foundation (you know, the guys who used to up the money for Eugenics experiments in Nazi Germany and afterwards in the U.S.) But don’t worry, their busy collecting all that important “germ-plasm” of everything on earth so as to maintain and protect it, or you know, manipulate and degrade it, and it seems like the general public is ok with that, but a lot of us small farmers are getting more than a bit nervous, I mean after all, we all have good reason to be.
And the U.S. and Canadian governments? Well, they helped make the bed and they damn sure look comfortable in it from my perspective.
In the eyes of the post 9/11 world Terrorism seems to relate to any act of civil disobedience and we often here the words biological warfare thrown around on the nightly news, but I ask you, is not this form of agribusiness and the turning of the other cheek and funding of such dangerous work not a case of Bio-terrorism? Indeed Little Shop of Horrors, complete with the unreleased alternate ending, seems much less terrifying than these factual happenings. Truth is far more frightening than fiction.