Thursday, July 26, 2012

Think About It Thursday

"As recently as ten (plus) years ago farmers in India still grew countless indigenous oil crops, including sesame, linseed, and mustards; in 1998 all the small mills that processed these oils were ordered closed, the same year a ban on imported soy oil was lifted. A million villages lost their mills, ten million farmers lost their living, and GM (genetically modified) soy found a vast new market.

"According to Indian crop ecologist Vandana Shiva, humans have eaten some 80,000 plant species in our history.  After recent precipitous changes, three-quarters of all human food now comes from just eight species, with the field quickly narrowing down to genetically modified corn, soy, and canola.  If woodpeckers and pandas enjoy celebrity status on the endangered-species list (dubious though such fame may be), food crops are the forgotten commoners.  We're losing them as fast as we're losing rain forests.  As enormous factor in this loss has been the new idea of plant varieties as patenable properties, rather than God's gift to humanity or whatever arrangement was previously left to be, for all of prior history.  God lost that one in 1970, with the Plant Variety Protection Act. Anything owned by humans, of course, can be taken away from others; the removal of crop contral from farmers to agribusiness has been power and swift.  Six companies--Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, and Dow--now have control of 98 percent of the world's seed sales.  These companies invest heavily in research whose purpose is to increase food production capacity only in ways that can be controlled strictly.  Terminator technology is only one (extreme) example.  The most common genetic modifications now contained in most U.S. corn, soy, cotton, and canola do one of two things: (1) put a bacterial gene into the plant that kills caterpillars, or (2) alter the crop's physiology so it withstands the herbicide Roundup, so chemicals can be sprayed over the crop. (the crop stays alive, the weeds die.) If you guessed Monsanto controls sales of both the resistant seed and the Roundup, give yourself a star.  If you think you'd never eat such stuff, you're probably wrong. GM plants are virtually everywhere in the U.S. food chain, but don't have to be labeled, and aren't.  Industry lobbyist intend to keep it that way."

- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

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