Thursday, January 6, 2011
courtesy of the Organic Consumers Association
Tell Your Natural Food Store or Grocer: We Want GMOs & Factory Farm Products Labeled
Most people wouldn't eat genetically engineered foods if given the choice, but only a quarter of Americans are aware that GMOs are even allowed in the US food supply - and that's just the way the food industry wants it. As a Monsanto executive once admitted to a major newspaper, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association is the trade association and lobbying group for America's GM and chemical-intensive food industry, representing the biggest players in genetically engineered seed, farm chemicals, animal feed, factory farms, food processing, grocery retail and fast food. GMA members include Monsanto, Mosaic, Cargill, ConAgra, Smithfield, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Kraft, Hershey, Bimbo, Kellogg's, Campbell Soup, Kroger, Safeway, and McDonald's. GMA is a vocal advocate for what they call "agricultural biotechnology." The GMA boasts that 80% of all U.S. grocery store foods contain GM ingredients, yet they adamantly oppose mandatory labels for genetically engineered foods. This is outrageous.
The Organic Consumers Association is launching a Truth-in-Labeling campaign to get grocery stores to come clean about what's in our food.
We're starting with a national letter-writing campaign aimed at the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the largest food retailers, demanding mandatory labels on foods that likely contain GMOs, or that come from factory farm CAFOs. We'll be following this up with organizer trainings that will prepare OCA activists to take the cause to local grocery stores, increase community awareness about GMOs, and get state legislatures and city councils to pass GMO and CAFO labeling laws.
What Would Be Labeled?
If non-organic produce had to be labeled as "May Contain GMOs" and factory farmed animal products had to be labeled as "CAFO," what would be the likely impact in the marketplace?
Any processed food that contains corn (75 million acres, or 85%, of U.S. corn production is GM); soy (72 million acres or 91% of U.S. soy is GM); cottonseed oil (8.8 million acres or 88% of U.S. cotton is GM); canola (3.2 million acres or 85% of U.S. Canola is GM); or sugar beets (1.2 million acres or 95% of U.S. sugar beets is GM); is overwhelmingly likely to contain Monsanto's engineered DNA, and therefore needs to have a label that says "May Contain GMOs."
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grass-fed animal products, and whole grains, while avoiding multi-ingredient packaged foods, fried foods, sodas, juice drinks and factory-farmed animal products, is another good way to avoid GMOs. But most people in the United States find it very hard to do this. This isn't entirely the fault of consumers. According to the National Cancer Institute, the US only produces and imports half of the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables required for our population.
Only a quarter of the US population is aware that they are being force-fed GMOs, and most say they wouldn't buy GM foods, but nearly everything sold at grocery stores contains GMOs. And none of it is labeled.
Support Truth-in-Labeling. For more information about avoiding GMOs, go to our Millions Against Monsanto page or sign this petition: http://www.capwiz.com/grassrootsnetroots/issues/alert/?alertid=21526516&type=CU
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Water, water everywhere (and it’s fresh too!)
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
In my excitement I raced out the door and up the hill. Which is to say, I raced out the door, into my car, down
Travel to Kula must have taken 60 minutes, whereas with no traffic it usually takes about 30. During this luxuriated drive I had the chance to adjust to my surroundings. There was a couple standing on the side of the road in full beach attire, armed with blow-up inner tubes and lathering on sun tan lotion in big globs. For the first time in a while I noticed that the vine on Ace Hardware’s nursery had crept up the building wall. But the vine had nothing on the length of the line at the hardware store’s gas station. The line stretched half a mile down the road! And holy moly! I have never seen my little town so abuzz. Local twenty-somethings stood talking story with sixty year old men at the gas pump, trading stories about their respective Tsunami Day experiences. The store was bustling with activity.
Because I had by happy coincidence filled my tank the night before, I really had no reason to be at Ace Hardware at all. But because I was there (admittedly wanting to take part in the festivities) I decided to query the shopkeeper about their vermicomposters available. Unfortunately, Ace Hardware does not carry the kind of composter that I need – one that will sufficiently keep the vermis in and their castings out. (I don’t believe in making any living creature, earthworms included, live in their own poo).
So yes, if you are wondering, I have decided to support le au natural methods expounded by Hale Akua Farms and embrace the permaculture methodology of using earthworms for composting. After further research, I do believe that the contested red wiggler is welcome in my home (
I had also hoped to pick up some plywood for my garden boxes, but the only kind they had was quite chemically treated and probably too flimsy to hold a great big amount of soil and water. So I put a call in to Uncle Eddie, who recently brought somebody on board at Sustainable Construction, LLC, who has his LEED AP and only sources FSC wood. He will certainly be able to help me pick out some good, clean, strong wood for my garden boxes…
In the end, the big wave never came. But if nothing else, I hope that last weekend's "tsunami" served as a wake up call for our community. Sometimes I wish that the boats would just stop coming. If they didn't come, we would be forced to look inward and make the necessary changes to become a self-sustaining community. On the most basic level, this means growing our own food.
But the grim reality is that our state and county governments are not structured to support or even allow growth in this direction. Instead, freight cargo for produce shipments is subsidized (and, if the proposed bill passes the legislature, will soon be untaxed as well), which forces our local farmers to compete on a global scale. It's murder! The most confounding thing about it is that these senators and representatives believe that they are doing good by subsidizing cargo shipments because it reduces the cost to the consumer. How do they not realize that they are killing our agricultural economy in the process? I suppose it is as the saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".
Monday, March 1, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Hydroponic agriculture is an innovative technology that has eliminated the need for soil. Instead, water is mixed with a cocktail of nutrients consisting of nitrogen, phosphorous, and trace minerals such as molybdenum and circulated through a network of PVC storm drains, delivering water and nutrients to the plants. This aqueous solution is then returned to a storage tank where the mixture is re-calibrated using sensitive technology to measure its pH before it is re-circulated. Inasmuch, hydroponic gardening not only uses no soil, it uses very little water as well.
That’s not to say that the hydroponic process is without its flaws. Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, is a potentially hazardous compound found in the plastic piping used for hydroponic farming. When this piping gets heated, BPA is released. A slew of health experts and scientists have recently spoken out about this issue, urging people to not use plastic bottles and to never drink from them if they have been sitting in a hot car. Presumably, plant uptake of BPA could occur and could be passed on to the consumer. Whether plants are capable of BPA uptake is a serious concern that warrants further research.
The permaculture farm I visited is located in a tropical area of northeast Maui. The first issue I took to was the fact that this particular farm was created by clearing virgin rainforest. Big no-no. Further, as any soil expert will tell you, rainforest ecosystems return very little organic matter into the soil, and once it is cleared, it can be very difficult to get anything to grow. For this reason, remediating the soil to grow food crops is an incredibly daunting challenge for these farmers. And while they have made every effort to deliver an eco-conscious, healthful product, their methods raise a number of serious concerns.
Azomite and peat moss, two primary additive constituents of their soil, are non-renewable resources that literally took thousands – even millions – of years to develop. I personally know several people that do not buy hydroponic lettuce because of a perception that the use of synthesized nutrients is unhealthy or bad for the planet. I will admit that I have not done my due diligence on the environmental impact of the synthesizing process of nutrient compounds, but any chemist will tell you an element is an element; identical no matter what its constituent source. This organic farm’s practice of extracting non-renewable resources from the ground to remediate its soil strikes me as much less sustainable than mixing a couple of elements together to produce the exact same thing. Further, azomite and peat moss must be imported from the mainland and could carry any number of alien or invasive species inside of it.
And then there were the worms. Vermicomposting is a commonly utilized practice in organic farming that employs the help of earthworms to decompose organic matter and produce worm castings, which can be used as fertilizer. The farm manager at the permaculture farm stressed the environmentally benign nature of these worms and repeatedly stated that they posed zero threat to Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem. He did so by pointing out that 1) red wiggler worms do not eat living plant matter (only the dead stuff) and 2) the ambient temperature outside of their compost heap is too cold for these worms and they would not be able to survive.
Whoa. Where do I begin? Am I truly expected to believe that a hungry little red wiggler would not mao down on a live plant if it had nothing else to eat?
Consider this: this farm’s red wigglers, a vegetarian earthworm species, have been raised to compost meat. It strikes me as rather preposterous to claim that they cannot adapt to eat live vegetation, such as grass, but meat is just fine and dandy. And even if they eat other things, it can still be harmful. The Minnesota Worm Watch says of the non-native red wiggler:
…These earthworms that are sold and shipped all over the country for home compost piles and vermicomposting operations…. are not known to survive Minnesota winters. However, if they or other species are able to survive winter and escape from compost piles they could further harm native forests. If you have a compost pile in a forested area, do not introduce additional non-native earthworms.
While there are particular differences between Minnesota’s native forests and ours regarding detritus and other decaying organic matter that blanket Minnesota’s forest floor, does anyone really know what would happen if some of these worms got out of their compost and into our delicate native ecosystems? Until there is conclusive evidence documenting their safety, the risk to our ecosystem certainly warrants further examination. Also, while they may not be able to survive the Minnesota cold, I left a Ziploc bagful of these worms outside of my house in Kula, where temperatures get down to the low 50s, for two nights. And when I came back, those worms were very much alive and well.
One more thing. A main component of the red wiggler’s diet is newspaper. Is newsprint organic? I’d have to check with the Maui News, but black ink is usually petroleum based. Also, the fountain solution that is used to wash/condition and prepare the paper for printing is highly chemically treated and is not recommend for garden use. So this organic farm feeds their potentially invasive worm species chemically processed newspaper that is stamped edge to edge with petroleum based ink. Huh. I have a sneaky suspicion that these chemicals are traveling right through those worms, into their castings, and straight into the so-called “organic” food that is grown at this farm.
I do not mean to dismiss the benefit of organic farming – and there are many. Overall, I do believe that organic permaculture is the more holistic approach. The point of what I am saying is that there are benefits and trade-offs to everything, and organic farming is no exception to the rule. As a community, the success or failure of cultivating sustainability on Maui demands meticulous analysis of these benefits and trade-offs, so that we can successfully identify the better option and make the right choices.