Organic carrot or agrochemical stick – what is your choice?

Are you an individualist, rather someone who likes to be put in a box, or a person that likes to please everyone and everything?
In any case, if you can tell the difference between a tomato and a Granny Smith, then you should read on.

“I can’t eat lettuce from the supermarket. It tastes like recycling paper.” I will never forget these words from my brother some twenty years ago. Having grown up with vegetable out of mother’s garden, none of us were keen on artificial supermarket products. When I started to grow my own veggies, it was somehow clear to me that I wanted to grow them without using commercial fertilizer and pesticides, even if that hadn’t been the case in my mum’s garden. I even went a bit further: to me a strong basis seemed to be imperative to grow healthy and nutritious vegetables and therefore it was never a question not to buy organic seeds[1]. More than fifteen years later I realize that this decision was more than a single piece in a huge puzzle.

pic organic versus uniform carrotTraditional carrot vs. “GMO-super-EU carrot”. Or “individualism and taste” vs. “uniformity and easy-to-staple”. Photo: The organic pepper

Have you ever been disappointed that the seeds from your vegetables or flowers did not germ and hence not reproduce any new plant? Well, if you knew about how agrochemical companies introduced the “terminator gene” as a trait for plants not being able to reproduce then you would know better. It’s part of their plan to own the world. Using seeds from previous harvests for the next crop is a custom that has been practised by humans for thousands of years and it is what provides our todays’ seeds as much as maintaining biodiversity. In developing countries it is a prerequisite for farmers, which make up the bigger percentage of society, to survive. However, since the agrochemical mafia can – with the help of TRIPS and the WTO – patent life and bring anyone to court who dares to oppose, they will put an end to all this, as a very famous case in Canada has proved a decade ago. Schmeiser was not the only victim in his fight against Monsanto: today, no producer dares to grow organic canola in North America. Even worse, given that the EU is starting to bend to ongoing pressure from the US GMO and agrochemical lobbies, there is little hope that latter will not achieve what they have been planning for decades: to own global genetic pools in order to blackmail producers and consumers worldwide and to become ever more powerful.

Last Saturday I had the disturbing pleasure to watch the movie “The seed savers[2]”, an interesting and at the same time alarming documentary. It illustrates how Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer and others have successfully manipulated our world in a way that the vegetables we eat don’t just look uniform, but that they all serve the same purpose as well. Namely, to make shareholders of said companies richer. If you believe that buying organic vegetables makes a difference, then I must disappoint you. Many organic vegetables are not grown from organic seeds, but from conventional ones provided by above agro-multis and if even organic lettuce bought in the supermarket tastes like recycling paper then it’s because it needs to have the same traits as paper: easy to staple, long-lasting and cheap to produce. Forget the taste, forget the colour – all those things can be added by simply manipulating some gens and cheating on consumers.

Benefiting form a useful clause in most organic standards[3], agro multis have kept organic seed growers at arm’s length. In order for latter to successfully introduce organic seeds, they first must pass approval. In the EU this is not so easy, because the procedures to officially register seeds are so expensive that independent farms or small companies simply can’t afford it, as even the European Court of Justice indicates. In addition, it is easy to imagine that a bonus[4] from the right donor to the employees at the centres who test new seeds for “distinctiveness, uniformity and stability” can cause competitors’ seeds to fail the test, just as the organic zucchetti which producers and consumers all desperately want to have.
Correct, Syngenta and Co. don’t want some small companies or idealistic greenies to take away their multi-million dollar business nor do they need you to eat healthy and tasty veggies. What they’re really interested in are profit-bringing seeds and crops.

For decades, the GMO lobby has been telling us that the world needs GMO to feed the poor. Considering that some 50% of all food lands in the garbage bin before even reaching a plate, it is clear that to feed the world we need better logistics, not GMO. In fact, it’s the opposite. GMO is likely to cause more hunger. Already, climate change is a real challenge for agriculture. As an example, in the Rioja region, wine makers estimate that harvest is one month earlier than traditionally. The consequence is that grapes must be harvested before “being really ripe”. The outcome are wines that nobody can drink. The only remedy is to change grapes and using varieties that have been used decades ago, plants that are used and can adapt to scarcity and extreme weather.
There are many other examples how climate change is already changing growing conditions and things will get worse with time. Those of you who have their own vegetable garden will have suffered similar losses in the past few years: hot and dry weather followed by violent rainfalls, in some places accompanied with flooding or hail, have become more frequent as long predicted by climate experts.

Insiders and experts know that there is only one answer, and this is the organic one, using “living” organisms that live out there in nature in order to adapt to the climatic changes not GMO trash, numb as a dead glove. Darwin was the one who became famous explaining how plants and animals adapt to changing conditions by passing on certain genes while cancelling out others, less useful ones. Plants can learn and adapt, but only if we let them doing so, a thing that Syngenta, Monsanto and Bill Gates try to avoid. If plants (and/or humans) learn, the agrochemical mafia can’t blackmail the masses and hence not make perverse profits.
Have you ever asked why carrots that don’t look the same should be bad? Maybe the question “how can you staple them in order to work more efficient?” brings you closer to the answer. The only ones interested in uniform vegetables are retailers, because they help them increasing their profits. And we as consumer fall into the trap: looking for the cheapest, the biggest and the “most perfect looking” products we forget that vegetables are the fruit of plants. Plants that, just as we, each tend to have a unique character: some small, some skinny and others slow-growing.

If we want a choice to be unique, we need to stand up and say no to (genetic) manipulation, if not, we will become uniform, just like the food we eat. Today it’s our food; tomorrow it will be our own genes. The more we give in today, the less free to think, to act and to be as we are we will be tomorrow. If you want to make a change, then buy at small grocery shops or even better directly at growers and farmers markets. If you grow your own veggies, buy organic seeds, not such from retail- and supermarkets. Be critical to manipulations from the big industry and regulations from the bureaucrats in Brussels. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[5] mandates that “indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora.”

We don’t mind if the EU changes the legislation for seed growing, but if doing so they shall leave room for individualism and small businesses. They shall keep the promises they made in other treaties, not like the Swiss government who is ignoring a popular vote that introduced a moratorium on GMO experiments in the field in 2005. Despite the moratorium, the ETH Zurich was provided with a 3 hectares research area that costs 750’000.- annually (taxpayers money) for security alone! What is more disturbing than the exorbitant costs is the fact that while there are cameras, guards and watch-dogs, to keep off intruders, there is only an extra-high fence, but no measures to keep the “hazard” that is being grown inside, within the research area. It seems that the Swiss government hasn’t learned anything from the Monsanto vs. Schmeisner case in 2004 and as we can predict already, compared to the traditional tones the “Swiss yodel” will likely sound a bit different in the future. In Heidi-Land, we don’t mind unconventional or unlawful “novelties”, as long as they come with new bank accounts.

To conclude, no matter what TRIPS, WTO and EU ministers dictate, we have the right to own and grow the plants that our ancestors have carefully grown, selected and bread over thousands of years. We have the freedom to be normal humans, plants and animals and nobody can take it away from us, not Syngenta, not Monsanto and not the EU bureaucrats. I say no to GMOs and no to patents on life.

 

[1] For more information see here: www.sativa-rheinau.ch, www.prospecierara.ch or here.

[2] Orign. “Die Saatgut-Retter”.

[3] Which allows producers to use non-organic seeds as long as there are no better alternatives available.

[4] Hmm…maybe I got it wrong. How was that word starting with a “b” making authorities work faster?

[5] Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007

 

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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One Response to Organic carrot or agrochemical stick – what is your choice?

  1. J. R-Sondergaard says:

    Cannot agree with your argument more…the right to food – that we select for ourselves, the right to grow what we want to eat, & the right to choose what we eat, must remain a fundamental human right that cannot be bought or decided by multinationals or governments. It is the responsibility of the latter to ensure these rights, & not hold their citizenry responsible to these multinationals.

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