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Ban GE seeds

Dear Editor,
Food companies should not be allowed to genetically engineer seeds. When seeds are genetically engineered versus being grown organically, they lose nutritional value. The patent rights associated with these seeds also give large companies, such as Monsanto and DuPont, rights to sue small, organic farmers when their seeds drift into the farmers’ field by way of wind or cross pollination. Using genetically engineered seeds also creates a larger chance of hunger and starvation in the world. Therefore, companies should not use genetically engineered (GE) seeds to grow produce because it affects the nutritional value of our food, gives them unfair rights over small, organic farmers, and increases chances for world hunger.
Companies who advocate and use the GE seeds say they are more ideal than organic seeds because they will help people live healthier lives. Studies by the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine and the University of California contradict those companies’ statements for a healthier life because of GE seeds. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine found that organic seeds had higher average levels of twenty-one different nutrients compared to GE seeds. The University of California’s studies on organic and GE seeds showed that organic seeds contained more natural antioxidants, which have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, and other illnesses. Therefore, GE seeds do not help people live healthier lives. Instead they decrease the nutrients of the produce.
The second reason GE seeds should not be allowed to be used is because they give large companies, such as Monsanto and DuPont, rights to sue small, organic farmers. GE seeds created by Monsanto and DuPont are patented. When wind or cross-pollination causes these seeds to be carried and planted into an organic farmer’s field, Monsanto and DuPont can legally sue the farmer for growing their patented seeds without permission, possibly causing the farmer to lose his/her farm. Even though the farmer has committed no intentional wrongful act, they have no hope of persuading the giants of Monsanto, DuPont and others.
Lastly, the use of GE seeds increases the risk of hunger and starvation. Biotech industries claim that GE seeds are needed to feed the ever-growing population of the world, but studies by the United Nations prove otherwise. A group of scientists from the UN stated that using the GE seeds would undermine nations’ capacities to feed themselves by destroying established diversities, local knowledge of agriculture, and sustainable agricultural systems. Therefore, using the GE seeds create a greater chance of hunger in the world.
In conclusion, GE seeds should not be used to grow the world’s produce. It drains the food of its nutritional value, gives large companies unfair rights over small farmers, and increases the chance for hunger around the world.
Sincerely,
Summer Jefferson

California News: YES on Prop 37!

Campaigners seeking mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in California claim that food processing giants and agribusinesses have paid millions of dollars in an attempt to stifle them.

The California Right to Know campaign, which is backing Proposition 37 on labeling GM food and ingredients, has disclosed campaign finance reports which show major agrochemical and food companies have spent over $7 million (£4.5 million) to oppose their campaign. According to California Secretary of State disclosure forms, the largest contributions so far have been made by agribusinesses Dupont Pioneer ($2,441,500), Bayer Cropscience ($1,064,000) and BASF Plant Science ($996,500).

Other major food players have also spent large amounts to oppose the labeling campaign. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle USA and General Mills have each spent $500,000. All of these corporations use genetically modified ingredients in almost every food and beverage they produce, including Coke and sodas, chips, salsas, pizza, bread and more. They have a huge vested interest in keeping the American public in the dark about how many genetically modified ingredients they use.

Payments were made to the counter-campaign ‘No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, Sponsored by Farmers, Food Producers and Grocers’. The ‘No on 37′ group claims that food labeling laws would “increase food costs by billions, add more government bureaucracy and [give rise to] frivolous lawsuits, without providing any health or safety benefits.”

The campaign has said the current Proposition 37 is flawed, and funded press statements advising voters vote against introducing new legislation. These statements include testimonies from a number of eminent scientists who express support for GM food and condemn the proposed labeling laws.

However, the United States’ Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch service revealed at the beginning of the month that the ‘No on 37′ group, “formerly known as the ‘Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition’ receives significant support from the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA),” which it claims are both well-known front groups for the “Big 6″ pesticide and genetic engineering companies.

More Pesticides Are Used To Grow Genetically Modified Foods Than Regular Crops

Both sides in the prop 37 debate claim the other is disseminating misinformation. The ‘No on 37’ campaign claims labeling laws would lead food manufacturers to switch to conventionally grown ingredients. They state this would lead to rises in food prices and even to increased use of damaging agricultural chemicals.

However, in addition to pointing out that an increase in pesticide use would at first glance seem beneficial for the agchem companies fighting to ensure the proposition fails in California, Dr Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, retorted, “Rather than reducing the need for hazardous pesticides, genetically modified seeds have driven a massive increase in chemical use that has been linked to significant environmental and public health concerns.”

Many genetically modified seeds are modified to be herbicide-resistant, so that more dangerous chemical weed-killers can be sprayed on them than crops grown with regular seeds.

She continued, “It’s clear that genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant seeds are the growth engines of the pesticide industry’s sales and marketing strategy. These seeds are part of a technology package explicitly designed to facilitate increased, indiscriminate herbicide use and pump up chemical sales.”

The Right to Know campaign also points out that Prop 37 will have no cost impact on consumers or even on food producers. It simply adds a label to genetically engineered food.

Voting on Proposition 37 will take place on 6th November. The results will apply only to California, but supporters of GM labeling have said that, if successful, the campaign could spark a groundswell of support and lead to similar consumer awareness campaigns elsewhere. Polls in California currently show 69 per cent support for prop 37, though the ‘Yes on 37’ campaign claims in excess of 90 per cent support.

IF YOU’RE A CALIFORNIA VOTER, VOTE YES! ON PROP 37, AND INSPIRE THE WHOLE OF THE UNITED STATES TO VOTE YES ON THEIR OWN PROPOSITIONS TO GET GENETICALLY MODIFIED “FRANKENFOODS” LABELED!

August Garden Update

I’ve been thinking about water this week. The worst American drought for half a century is ravaging the nation, threatening to turn much of the country into a dust bowl. And it’s been hot and humid in the garden, in the 90′s and pushing 100 some days, which is very hot for our temperate, moderate, mountain coastal climate zone. And we’re doing plumbing work at the Ranch, so the combination of these factors has made me think about the water the plants drink every day, via the irrigation system, and via my hose and watering can.

I’m a great believer in hand-watering whenever possible. Of course, in the real world, we’re busy people, so it’s pretty much essential to have a drip or sprinkler irrigation system to ensure no days are missed. But if there’s time, it’s best to water by hand.

Not only do you get to judge by eye, by smell and by instinct the exact water amount to feed your charges, but you also get to see how they’re doing. As the gardener waters, they look at the plants. I notice details, like pests and mildew, and like ripening fruit and shoots that should be plucked. And I connect with the plants on a spookier level that can only be experiential, can never be explained. But in short, the plants are like everyone else: they love high quality attention, and they love to be observed and fed. They love love. It makes them grow strong and healthy and delicious and lovely.

Our plants are particularly lucky, because the water they drink is well water drawn from the water table that’s under this property. It’s 100% pure, non-chlorinated, and as local as it could possibly be.

While I’m a fan of progress, and while I love the excitement of space exploration, I’m only too aware that NASA’s base is upstream of Los Angeles, and that L.A’s tap water contains traces of rocket fuel. The standard issue tap water in Southern California isn’t great, which is fair enough, because it’s basically the desert, so shouldn’t be expected to be rain water or straight from the source. But when it comes to growing veggies, it’s probably worth considering your water source, because not only will the plants be stronger and more disease-resistant if they drink great water, but I also imagine the edible parts of the plants will be more nutritious and luscious if the water they’re grown with is sweet and pure. It’s easy to leave a big container out in the garden to collect rainwater. Easy and free.

Despite the lovely water, an infestation of plant bugs recently arrived in the garden due to the heat. It’s the first infestation we’ve had in the garden since Spring, so we’ve done pretty well. And considering that one sixth of America’s corn crop has just been lost to pestilence in less than one month, including corn that was genetically modified to be pest-resistant (but obviously isn’t)… well considering the conditions we’re gardening under, with this humid heat, it’s probably to be expected that we have a few bugs. And we do.

The Latin name for the ones in the garden here in Malibu is Miridae, and the common name is horrible plant bugs. The kale was bound to fall prey to insects as the heat rose, and that’s what happened this week. All of the kale had to be pulled out and destroyed this week, so there won’t be any more kale until cool Autumn days. Completely infested. Beyond even feeding to the chickens, it was so crawling with disgusting critters.

We do have some Swiss chard and ruby chard left, but probably only enough for this week. And there is a bed of arugula doing its best to grow, with shade cloth and seaweed fertilizer to help it, but it doesn’t look very strong. Oh, and the butter lettuces look absolutely amazing for some unknown reason! No idea why they’re enjoying the sun and heat so much, but they’re growing exponentially and have no sign of bolting or bitterness. Let’s hope the plant bugs don’t find them. If they do, I have organic insect spray, and I’m not afraid to use it (sparingly). It’s basically oil, and it fries the insects. Mean and green.

We have a bed of heat-tolerant New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach to tide us over with greens for the next few weeks, but other than these semi-succulents, it’s slim pickings for the greens until cooler days, due to the combination of temperatures too high to germinate most greens seeds, and the insect issue.

We do have an abundant supply of onions and leeks, tomatoes and tomatillos are delighted, summer squash and cucumbers are going bananas, citrus trees are pumping out fruit, eggplants and chile peppers are taking over, and maybe most excitingly, the figs and apples are starting to ripen.

Currently growing but not ready to be harvested yet are bell peppers, corn, lima beans, melons, pumpkins of many kinds (Musque de Provence, Galeux d’Eysine, et cetera!), and a selection hard-skinned winter squash, including butternut and delicata.

I’m starting to plan our earliest cool weather crops. I’d like to plant seeds in flats at the end of August or by the beginning of September for our first Autumn crops, so our seed order needs to be made this week.

It’s still too early to sow hardier Winter crops, like onions and garlic, but lots of others can be started soon. Here’s what I’m planning to sow in the next few weeks:

Turnips
Kohl Rabi
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Peas
Spinach
Lettuces
Kale
Parsnips
Leeks
Cilantro
Parsley

I’ll continue to plant these all-year-round crops:

Beets
Chard
Radishes
Carrots

Okay, off to continue the war against the Miridae… Amor vincit omnia!

California’s Prop 37

The USA is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t require genetically modified foods to be labelled. As a matter of consumer choice, pretty much every other country in the world totally allows people to buy genetically modified foods, but has mandatory labeling, so people who don’t want to eat genetically modified foods have the freedom to choose to buy another food product.

Californians now have the chance to add this freedom of choice to their stores.

Prop 37 is the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

It’s being proposed right now by the Organic Consumer Association, and it advocates exactly what it says on the can: that all genetically modified foods sold in California would have to be labelled.

Please support this historic, ground-breaking bill by asking your local food market and organic food store to join the more than 100 retail stores that have already publicly endorsed Prop 37. Thousands of volunteers are getting on board the California Right to Know campaign by asking their local health food stores to endorse Prop 37, and to provide educational materials for their consumers.

Join in by clicking this link, and you will be sent posted and flyers to give to the manager of your local store.

Together, Californians can do this, and it will be an amazing vote for health and freedom!

GM Corn Creates Superpest

“Instead of making things easier, we’ve just made corn rootworm management harder and a heck of a lot more expensive.” says Bruce Potter, University of Minnesota professor and pest management specialist.

Corn rootworm is called the billion-dollar pest, a rough estimate of how much money U.S. farmers spend annually to keep it at bay.

The best weapon they’ve ever had was a genetically modified corn plant bred to contain a protein that kills the insect. But many bug experts are convinced that rootworms have developed a resistance to the protein, so that they can feast on the plant’s roots and survive.

On top of a punishing drought, the leading corn pest is adding to crop damage in parts of Minnesota and elsewhere – even though the plants are supposed to be immune from the bug, the corn rootworm beetle.

Now that corn rootworms have growing resistance to genetically modified corn, the list of pests that are resistant to genetically modified crops has grown significantly in terms of real-world crop management.

It adds significantly to the argument that genetically modifying crops for pest resistance does not protect crops in the long-term. In fact, it creates the conditions for even stronger pests to be bred in the wild, for even greater crop damage in the future.

Minnesota Public Radio; August 3, 2012

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