Should we be taking a closer look on whether or not to use GMO free seeds in our gardens? With all the information we are bombarded with and the constant debates for or against GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) it is difficult to know what to believe. However it makes common sense that until all the facts are in, we the consumers should be cautious about eating GMO products.
Most of us are already consuming GMO’s in some form or another. More than 60% of all processed foods such as chips, cookies, pizza, ice cream and corn syrup contain ingredients from engineered soybeans, corn or canola. Humans have been altering the genetic make up of food crops for centuries, always looking to create better crops. We save the best seeds, breeding and cross-breeding to produce much of the food that we eat today. For example we transformed the wild tomato into the modern tomato. One that is larger, sweeter, tastier, little resembling the humble plant it originated from. Many transformations take place in nature itself over time, with the healthier more robust species taking over.
The problem is that the technique of genetic engineering is very different from that of conventional breeding. Traditional breeders would cross related organisms whose genetic makeups were similar. Today Genetic Engineers can transfer genes between species that are not related at all. A gene can be pulled from almost any living organism and than inserted into any other organism. For example to help prevent fire blight from attacking apple trees engineers are incorporating an antibacterial gene like those found in the Cecropia Moth into the apple tree. What that means is that apples grown from this procedure would contain a totally unrelated gene which would be from the Cecropia moth. While many see great promise in this technology, as a way to feed an ever growing population, others see uncertainty and danger. Many people feel that these foods are being rushed to markets without undergoing ample testing or before the effects of such modifications can be fully understood.
Also many genetically modified seeds have been programmed to work only with the constant applications of herbicides and pesticides. The survival of these plants then becomes dependent on these applications. The world wide decline of the honey bee and other beneficial pollinators have been linked to the use of many of these chemicals. So not only is this harmful to the natural environment but we are also consuming foods raised on mixes of chemical cocktails.
An example of pesticide use being lessened was in the genetic engineering of Sweet Corn. Scientists modified a type of sweet corn so that it produces a poison that kills harmful insects when the insects attack the corn. The corn is called B-2 Corn and has been inserted with the insect killing bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. The benefits are the farmer no longer has to use large amounts of pesticides and the farm workers are not exposed to such large amounts of pesticides. The disadvantages? The insects are poisoned for over a much longer time than with conventional spraying. Because of this longer exposure the insects could become resistant to the poison. If this happens both crop spraying and using genetically modified corn would be ineffective. Also many beneficial insects are poisoned either directly or indirectly. In the U.S. where B-2 Corn is used a great deal there is an ongoing debate over the harmful effects of B-2 Corn on the Monarch Butterfly. Also the question than becomes do we want pesticides as part of the DNA in our foods?
As a new garden season approaches it is encouraging to see how many seed companies are opting to carry GMO free products. The Safe Seed Pledge was created in 1999 by the Council For Responsible Genetics. The Pledge helps to connect gardeners and agricultural consumers. Sellers are encouraged to advertise that they have signed the Pledge through their seed catalogues or on labels.
” Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.” – Safe Seed Pledge
The following is only a partial list and features seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge found in British Columbia, Canada. Click on the link to find more lists and more information on GMO free seeds
1.Brother Nature Organic Seeds -www.brothernature.ca
2. Clear Sky Farm – www.clearskyfarm.ca
3. Eternal Seed – www.eternalseed.ca
4. Omega Blue Farms – www.omegabluefarms.ca
5. Salt Spring Seeds – www.saltspringseeds.c0m
6. Stellar Seeds – www.stellarseeds.com
7. Two Wings Farm Organic Seeds – www.twowingsfarm.com
8. West Coast Seeds – www.westcoastseeds.com
The following www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org is full of good information. Click on programs, than Safe Seed Program. There are listings for companies world-wide that are selling GMO free seeds.
Many seed companies, large and small have been bought out by large biotech corporations that sell GMO seeds. When we buy from local regional seed companies we know that most of them are providing their own seed or are working with local farmers. So what can we do as consumers, as non-scientists, as people that want to have healthy food for ourselves and our families? Be aware, find out the true facts and make sure that you are comfortable with your own choices. Insist on labeling on all of our foods, so we can see at a glance if it has been genetically modified or not. We have the right to know.
This is a guest post from www.northerngardendesigns.com
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