Fresh Facts Week 40: An Organic Farmer’s Observations on GMOs

Literally the coolest thing happened last week. A few days before our first 100 degree day, water was released down the Kings River. Why the connection Uncle Vern? Well, it’s a local thing, but on hot afternoons in summer, everybody loads their pick-ups with inner-tubes and whatever kind of stuff that floats, leaves one car however far downstream they want to go and floats down the river for 1 to 5 hours.

  Plus, it’s very low cost, low skill, super relaxing; all is well with the world recreation. It’s Sierra snowmelt water so it’s numbingly cold and perfect and we’re so grateful to have whatever amount there is coming through this really hot week.

   One of my favorite books on the subject is Indian Summer, the story of a white settler’s kid raised by Choinumne Yokuts after his mother died in the 1850’s. He told how they would build huge rafts out of tulles and the whole tribe would float down to Tulare Lake (the largest freshwater lake outside the Great Lakes in North America at the time; you could actually take a boat from Wasco to Los Banos). Floating the Kings always reminds me how idyllic that time must have been. Anyway, I promised to finish the discussion about seeds we started last week so let’s get at it.

    So far, we’ve talked about open pollination where DNA is transferred between plants of like species however wind and insects get it done. Next was selective pollination where breeders choose which plants within that species they want to cross to maximize certain characteristics. There was a discussion of hybridization—just a way to mass produce seed from two specific parents—and asexual propagation of perennials using bud wood without any DNA exchange. WHEW!

   Now it’s on to the hot topic of gene splicing, known as genetic modification and whose offspring are known as genetically modified organisms or GMO’s.

   Most commercial modifications have been to splice in resistance to the common herbicide Roundup® generically known as glyphosate. Virtually all the commercially grown non-organic corn and soy beans grown in the U.S. have this trait.

   Another trait that has been spliced into corn is the pesticide Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) so when the worm eats the corn, it dies. These two GMO traits account for over 90 percent of all its use right now, but unless your product says “organic” or “gmo-free” practically all processed and fast food you eat is made from corn and/or soy having these traits.

   I don’t want to get in the technical weeds on this; I just want to make a few simple observations from the farm.

   First is a sure fire way to always identify a liar and it’s based on the concept that the truth doesn’t fear a discussion. To the contrary, knowing the truth sets us free. So when someone says on any level he’s right and you’re wrong, that could very well be true, but as soon as he adds,“So you have to shut up and if you don’t shut up I’ll make you shut up!” You just identified a liar; a truthful person would gladly entertain an intelligent conversation; unless you said something about his mom. So if GMO’s were no deal, their proponents should have no problem labeling them as such rather than using their legal teams and political clout to silence those who simply want the public to know what they’re eating.

   Second observation from our farm—and I could use the whole page to tell the story—is our organic chickens. As those of you who have visited know, we grow a fair amount of organic broilers. When we first switched to organic, our big concern was the lack of antibiotics to fight disease. Long story short, after over 50 organic flocks, the chickens fed an organic ration just don’t get sick, while chickens fed a conventional diet of GMO grain had a rough time.

   One final insider point: for every dollar GMOs save the farmer, the seed company charges 85 cents. So while this huge experiment continues, it’s not even lowering food costs. So Gina, plant an abundant garden from organic seeds and eat healthy!

Author Uncle Vern

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