The Country Diary of a GenX Woman

Free Food No More

Jan13 016For tens of thousands of years, people have been eating food that sets seeds and regenerates, either naturally or with a bit of management.   This year, my spring onions, broad beans, rocket and tomatoes have all reproduced naturally and I have just replanted the seedlings in different places in the vege patch.   As I was planting them, I was thinking about one of the biggest affronts to humanity, the modification of seeds to produce sterile second generation seeds so people can’t save seed and replant.   Seed-sterilizing technology will force farmers (even in developing countries) back to the commercial seed market every year.   This is not just true for farmers, most F1 seeds that you buy at your local garden centre for your tomatoes, peas and lettuce are also sterile and can’t propagate through normal genetic reproduction.  If not sterile, their seeds don’t breed true, seed companies do this with genetic engineering so that their F1 plant refinements can’t be stolen and replicated.  How can Monsanto and others possibly defend controlling the food supply?  This quote from Monsanto website says it all:

“Patent protection allows companies to see a return on their investment which enables further investment in R-and-D and product development. This profit-investment cycle drives product innovation that is responsive to farmer needs.”

Farming NOT Pharming

Monsanto’s seeds can also sterilize wild crops via contamination.   And Monsanto routinely sues farmers who wind up having some Monsanto seeds by virtue of seeds from neighboring farms blowing onto their property, as we have seen with a court case in Canada and also here in WA.  Monsanto are on the front foot with their statement to their “farmer customers”  but really why do they have to come and look at your field after you have bought seed.   You don’t expect the ford motor company to come and make sure you car hasn’t had an after market roof rack fitted or that breville will come to check you are only using the correct size muffin in their toasters.  Disturbed at this whole industry, I decided to back SEED through crowdfunding site kickstarter.

SEED: The Untold Story is a new documentary film that will investigate the dramatic story of seeds, the basis of life on earth. For 12,000 years man has been nurturing and cultivating seeds to form the backbone of civilization. Now, 94% of our seed varieties have been lost and many more are nearing extinction.  It unveils a David and Goliath battle for the future of our seeds by examining how five chemical corporations have taken control of seeds through patents, copyrights and genetic modification. These companies are placing ownership on the seeds, literally stealing the genetic material from our ancestors who nurtured these seeds for thousands of years.

I then watched the Future of Food documentary and it was pretty disturbing. Some of the facts I picked up were.

  • China used to grow 1000s of different rice types
  • There used to be 5000 different types of potatoes, you are lucky to find 10 varieties these days
  • There were 7000 varieties of apples
  • Genetic uniformity leads to less resistance to pests and diseases (we all know about hybrid vigour)
  • 1 million people died in Irish potato famine as so few varieties were cultivated and all were subject to blight
  • 97% of fruit and vegetable strains grown at the start of the 20th Century are extinct.
  • The original good hearts of the “green revolution” have now been replaced by greedy minds.
  • Agribusinesses now sell both the pesticides/herbicides and the seeds.
  • Monsanto’s BT corn is regarded as an insecticide as every cell manufactures BT Toxins
  • Under the American constitution, patenting of living things, e.g. seeds was not allowed for 200 years, it was excluded on moral grounds…. until
  • in 1978 an engineer from GE wanted to Patent an oil eating microbe – it was allowed, but never proceeded as it had issues.
  • But the doors were opened, and the Chemical companies raided the “ark” of the seed bank and patented anything they could get their hands on, 11,000 and counting.
  • No safety tests have been done by the US FDA as the modified corn/soy/canola were defined as “substantially equivalent” to natural ones, so are “Generally Regarded As Safe
  • The EU has mandated labeling of GE content, it is being resisted in US, probably to avoid trace-ability.
  • Monsanto quote in 1998 “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food, our interest is in selling as much of it as possible.  Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”
  • Super weeds are developing resistance to roundup through cross contamination with round up ready seeds and farmers are spraying more rather than less with more toxic chemicals like 24D which was used in 2003 when Mares Tail spread across 21 States in US.
  • There is a revolving door between Monsanto the FDA and the EPA directors coming and going, coming and going
  • 7000 years ago, the Mexican’s started cultivating corn, it is part of their culture and there are 100’s of varieties of corn for different altitutes, soils, attributes, uses and rainfall.
  • In 1998 Mexico banned GMO corn (so why 15 years later have I just signed a petition to stop Monsanto et al planting 3-6 million acres of GMO corn??)
  • It is cheaper to buy the subsidised US GM corn in Mexico than it is to buy locally grown.  People have already unknowingly saved and planted these seeds.


Once again, it comes back to Why???? and the horrible answer is “Because they Can“.  They have missed the moral code that says just because you can, doesn’ t mean you should.

Patents shouldn’t be on living things because unlike an inanimate object, they can reproduce and cross breed.  The whole gene manipulation is even worse than you think as they use resistant bacteria like E-Coli to transport the new DNA into the cell as normally a plant would reject any foreign DNA.  Yumm poo on your corn anyone?

Here is some extra reading material

Toxic Effects of Roundup in GMO Corn
Suicide grain technology
Monsanto Terminator Technology
Berkeley Uni Report on Novartis Sterile Grain
Huffington Post – Suicide Seeds
Ethical Investor guide on Terminator Seeds

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Inspired by The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady