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The Little Rascals

January 21, 2011

Your regularly scheduled Friday Scotch post will not be appearing today. Instead, based on chatter all around teh internets, I feel compelled to talk about the following:

As a kid I used to watch The Little Rascals. I used to watch it a lot. But when I think about it now, only two of said rascals come immediately to mind: Spanky and Alfalfa. If I think a little harder, the mind shakes loose the name Buckwheat, but that has more to do with Eddie Murphy than my childhood memories.

Oh, and there was a dog.

Sparky was the leader, and Alfalfa was the unlikely Romeo.  Alfalfa was the tall skinny one with the cowlick that wouldn’t quit. And Alfalfa was the one who sang terribly.

I only mention this because for most people this is the beginning and end of their association with Alfalfa.  But depending on whom you talk to, Alfalfa is in trouble, and Spanky is now working for Monsanto.

Oh those Rascals.

At the end of this post I’m going to ask you to click one of several links to send a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Hopefully in the next few paragraphs I’ll convince you to take this very modest action. If you remain unconvinced, I would love to hear your reservations in the comments.

You may think genetically modified crops are the cat’s pajamas. Surely the good folks at Monsanto do. After all, they are trying to feed the world. They are trying to use science in the service of man. And that’s fine.

I’m not so sure. I can’t stop them. But at least I can choose not to buy GM foods. Or at least I can do my best considering that the U.S. does not require any labeling for foods that contain GM ingredients.

Monsanto is trying to get approval for their newest GM product, Roundup Ready Alfalfa. This will join their line of other products that are immune to the deadly force of the company’s powerful herbicide Roundup. You may have even seen the movie, which prominently features Roundup Ready canola.

Well, alfalfa is different from canola. Much to Mrs. Fussy’s chagrin, I am now only buying expeller-pressed organic canola oil. But organic farmers rely on alfalfa for a bunch of things. Feeding cows is a big one. And if those cows are in the service of producing organic milk, even a wee bit of GM alfalfa will really ruin their day. All of a sudden all the work that went into raising this calf without antibiotics and feeding it a lifetime of organic feed is wasted.

But why would an organic farmer give their cows GM alfalfa? They wouldn’t. But Monsanto’s GM seeds have a nasty habit of showing up where they aren’t wanted, or intentionally planted.  The technical term for this concern is “GM contamination.”

And really, it is this concern that needs to be addressed.  The USDA even proposed remedies for this, but the organic farmers do not think these are sufficient.  And you know what?  I’m inclined to believe the farmers over the bio-engineers.

But that’s just me.

If you want to make the argument that organic farming has turned into big business, and that this escapade is really just two big businesses having a public standoff, you would probably have a point.  

Still, when I plop down my $5+ for a gallon of organic milk, I would really like to know that the animals that produced it were not fed any genetically modified crops, intentionally or not. Call me a Luddite, I can take it.  But GM alfalfa looks just like organic alfalfa. My understanding is that currently the only way to tell if you have GM contamination is to apply Roundup to your fields. If all your plants die, you are contamination free.


Please help me slow down this process, and encourage our government to take the time to think about these problems before green-lighting Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa. You have your choice of flavors.

There is the letter from Food Democracy Now.
You could sign onto the letter from the Pesticide Action Network.
Stonyfield Farm is encouraging people to go with The Center for Food Safety.
Organic Valley is asking people to contact their congressional representatives directly.

Surely there are more out there too.

If you do one a day, you can have three done by Monday.  Then when people ask, “What did you do this weekend?,” you can tell them that you helped large organic agribusiness delay the inevitable threat from Monsanto of corrupting organics with GMOs.

Luckily for all of us, there are still some people committed to saving seeds. And they are doing great work. Even though I don’t garden, I almost want to buy their stuff just to support the effort.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tonia permalink
    January 21, 2011 1:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing and writing this. I wrote letters to all. I do have a garden in the summer and do not use any sort of chemicals on my garden or property. And although I do not save my seeds, I try to use almost all heirloom seeds. I think I am the only one in my area not using any sort of pesticides. EVERYONE has their lawn sprayed. When we walk at night, we noticed that our side property is the only one with lightning bugs in the summer. I am that crazy person picking beetles of my plants at midnight. Hahaha.

  2. James permalink
    January 21, 2011 6:46 pm

    Can someone point me in the direction of some nice nerdy scientific studies that discuss the effects of GM crops on people or animals? Also, any nice concrete information about rBST/rBGH/IGF and milk would be very helpful. I have seen the study that Daniel linked to in “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GMO” but, I have searched the NIH and NCBI literature databases and find mostly papers singing the praises of reduced animal feed costs, reduced farm runoff and waste, and increased crop yields by researchers at Cornell, Duke, the Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, the National University of Brazil, the FDA, etc. who, I’m sure, have all been paid off by Monsanto. But seriously, I would like any information anyone has on the adverse effects of GM crops, GM animals, or recombinant proteins.

  3. January 22, 2011 12:24 pm

    AH! i had an email from pesticide action network waiting in my inbox when i came home last night, so took care of that one right off. i’ll send to the other ones you linked today.

  4. January 22, 2011 1:14 pm

    @James — a major adverse effect of Monsanto’s GM crops is that it essentially puts independent farmers of those crops out of business (via contamination & lawsuits citing “patent infringement). Farmers of those crops are intentionally and systematically run out of business, which means in the end, there will only be one major, giant “cultivator” of that particular crop (Monsanto). Also, did you watch The Future of Food? I’m pretty sure that film goes on at length about the effects of these organisms on human consumers.

  5. January 23, 2011 3:57 pm

    I’ll offer my mild criticism of your position along with my support for this campaign.

    This was my personalization section of the letter via The Center for Food Safety:

    I am a scientist with an understanding of the benefits of GM crops. I am also aware that the scare-mongering of those who believe that GM crops are damaging to health is probably misplaced. However, the potential impact on the environment of release of these products is real and so is the potential effect of routine use of pesticides on food products (for animals and humans) which will only increase with the introduction of these resistant strains into the economically-driven world of high-production farming.

    It is government’s job to restrict the forces of capitalism where they threaten the health and welfare of the general population. Please take a cautious approach for all our sakes.

  6. January 29, 2011 1:30 am

    Catching up on my reading, so I got to this late, but thanks for calling attention to this. Very important to know and act upon.

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