The protest May 22 of about 250 Chattanooga area people against the agricultural giant Monsanto came exactly a week before the U.S. department of agriculture announced what observers say is a potential agricultural and economic disaster involving the company.
The USDA is launching an investigation after receiving notice from Oregon State University that gene-altered wheat has been found outside test fields. GMO wheat is not legal to plant. Monsanto had been authorized to test GM wheat from 1998 to 2005 in 16 states, but that plants modified to be resistant to RoundUp herbicide. But genetic traces have been found elsewhere. “The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a food safety concern,” USDA said in its press statement. The main element in RoundUp is glyphosate. The agency says that the food and drug administration had “completed a voluntary consultation” on food and animal feed “derived from” GE glyphosate-resistant wheat, meaning that Monsanto and FDA talked about the engineering work, and agreed it poses no threat to Americans’ health or food supply. Still, USDA has not approved any GMO wheat in the U.S., the release says.
This development may not sound shocking. But USDA is gravely concerned, said Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for animal and plant health inspection service’s biotechnology regulatory services (yes, this is Mr. Firko’s accountability structure). “We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation” and USDA will “put all necessary resources towards this investigation.”
Danger — a drip? A cataract?
“The genetic apocalypse we’ve been warning about for years may have already begun,” says Mike Adams of naturalnews.com. Four dangers are evident:
➤ Monsanto may sue farmers it could claim stole its intellectual property. Such suits have already been heard for unauthorized use of modified crops.
➤ Genetically polluted wheat crops in the U.S. could face scrutiny among importing nations that ban GMOs. That’s 27 countries. “This obviously has enormous economic implications for U.S. farmers and agriculture,” Mr. Adams says.
➤ “It proves the USDA cannot control the GMO field experiments it approves. Open-field experiments are not ‘safe’ nor ‘controlled.’ They are experiments conducted in the open air, where genetic pollution is an inevitable result. The genetic pollution that began in 1998 can’t be put back into the box in 2013.”
➤ A health danger. The level of polluted wheat could be less than 1 percent, Mr. Adams speculates, “but it is yet another source of GMO pollution in the food supply that could hugely impact Americans’ grocery shopping decisions.”
Rest assured that Mr. Fields’ concerns are over the top. After all, Monsanto in “voluntary consultation” with FDA said it is safe. Warning that the fugitive GMO has potential to destroy the integrity of American agriculture, he says “this genetic contamination may make these plants highly susceptible to threats that scientists have no way to anticipate or understand.” Such an alarmist!
In money economy, and agrarian economy
It’s important to consider these troubles — these governmentally arranged Pearl Harbors — with an easy mind. Neither you nor I can stop these problems. And we are liable to be stressed out if we think we have to counter them directly.
How about indirectly? Might we bypass them? I am encouraged by stories such as those of Denise Burns and her husband, Mike, who sell insurance from in-home offices and also run a little farm in Catoosa County. Fugitives from Atlanta six years ago, the couple homeschool four children and grow blackberries, blueberries and other crops. They raise chickens.
Mrs. Burns is aware of the GMO crisis, but she speaks calmly of making family choices without hurry or worry. Go back to her roots as a farmgirl. Her grandparents farmed in Catoosa, though she did not fully appreciate what their lives represented. Of late, she has rediscovered the beauty of agriculture.
She tell about the debt hurdle in farming.
“It’s easier to be a farmer if you inherit a large piece of land, fully paid off, and you don’t owe anyone any money. But it’s very difficult to be a farmer if you have any level of debt. And in America most of us mortgage our homes, and that’s basically how my husband and I became planted inside the acreage that we have. We bought a piece of land that was attractively located close to family members and we began incrementally over the years to plant different [crops], some of them current plants, some of them berry bushes, that sort of thing, and then we would rotate seasonal crops, and we have a few animals that we rotate around as well. We sort of backed into it from career positions, and if we’d been planning a little better and more completely to be farmers for a living, we would have paid off the debt first, I guess.”
Mrs. Burns had a career in the food service business before meeting and marrying her husband in the Atlanta area. “I sold a lot of the stuff that I now won’t allow my family to eat. *** worked for a turkey company at one point in the early to mid-90s. And I look back on that with a great deal of horror. That’s the part of my career I’m least proud of, I don’t talk to many people about because it was confinement poultry — and I don’t want to eat that now.”
GMOs, she says, are peddled as an advanced step of the longtime farm practice of selective breeding. “Genetic modification has just been happening in the last 20 to 25 years,” she says. “And that’s where Monsanto started it; they basically took the seed kernel of corn, soy, and canola, and injected into that seed kernel a DNA that basically implants in the seed the ability to withstand RoundUp herbicide applications.
“They sell it to us in this nice package of, ‘RoundUp-ready crops are what allows us to feed the world. As the population of the world expands, we’re going to need more food, and so genetically modified crops, the new science, this is the new way we’re going to be able to feed all these people in the world.’”
Sources: Mike Adams, “GMO genetic pollution alert: Genetically engineered wheat escapes experimental fields planted across 16 states,” naturalnews.com, May 30, 2013