I just finished watching the movie Genetic Roulette online for the third time. Each time I watch it, I notice some new facet about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that I hadn’t noticed as clearly before. This time, it was the stark fact that the chemical companies who promote GMOs have been promising that the use of GMOs would create higher yields of food and therefore feed the world. Read the Union of Concern Scientists’ Failure to Yield report.
The truth is quite different. First, without GMOs, there is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is not the production of food, but the distribution of food which is a whole other problem to solve. So, let’s put that misinformation to rest.
Still, chemical companies would have you believe that we NEED GMOs in order to manage our production so we can all eat more at a lower cost. In most industrialized nations, the problem is not about having enough food and it’s become more a problem of having healthy food.
According to the Union of Concern Scientists, the promises of increased production are false. According to the USC, “Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.”
In fact, many farmers are beginning to see that their yields are lower after buying these GMO seeds and spraying chemical products on those seeds. One cotton farmer interviewed in Genetic Roulette said he began to really question his initial decision to use GMO seed when he began reading the dire health warnings on the seed bag itself. Don’t eat it, don’t touch it, don’t breath it, don’t let it touch your skin….sounds like the warning label on poison, doesn’t it?
The bottom line is this – chemical companies like Monsanto have been promoting the use of chemicals under the promise of higher yields (i.e. more crops for the farmer as lower costs), and that has not been the case. As farmers see their crop yields drop and their animals suffer from eating GMO crops, they’re beginning to understand that their livelihood depends on them NOT using GMOs.
The tide is turning and as the links between GMOs and human health, livestock health, crop yields and agricultural sustainability are known, people will vote with their dollars and avoid GMOs. Our health as a nation, as a world and as a species literally depends on it.
I just finished a two hour meeting with an amazing woman who is on a mission to change the world. Her vision is similar to ours at shopOrganic, so it was great to meet this dynamic woman, Mrs. Green, as she’s known to her universe. She hosts an hour-long radio show on a local station (hoping to become syndicated for all of you out there in radio land) about how mainstream Americans can go green. But more than that, she is living the journey. She’s discovering the wide world of organics, sustainable agriculture, sustainable technologies, and all things green. What I like best about her is that she doesn’t profess to be the expert who will tell you what to do – she’s more like the trail guide on a path that she’s discovering as she leads you forward. You can listen to past shows on her site and she’s had some really interesting guests. So, visit www.mrsgreengoesmainstream.com, sign up for her newsletter, listen to past shows or tune in live for her Saturday shows (they’re streamed live) and enjoy learning more about the green possibilities in your life!
I was thinking the other day about the repair of my ancient printer (see “The World Around Us” entry at shopOrganic.com/community) and realized that the true cost of things is often not accounted for. It’s like a gaping hole in our accounting systems and metrics that allow us to disregard certain costs – those enormous, universal, hits-all-of-us kinds of costs.
For example, that old printer part. I purchased a part for $20 to fix my printer. The old board probably needs a single component, like a $0.10 capacitor, to make it run like new. However, I long ago sold my oscilloscope, I have an old soldering iron out in the garage, but I think my skills are just rusty enough that I would likely toast the entire board in the process of trying to discover which component went bad. That said, I’m sure there’s someone in this town that could repair that board. I’d be happy to give the part to him or her just to know it would be repaired and reused. But, I doubt I’ll find that person primarily because I don’t have the time to spend searching for someone to repair a $20 board that I don’t need.
But is it really a $20 board? What’s the cost of that board just being tossed in the landfill? What’s the cost of the metals and the toxic substances seeping into the water table beneath the landfill? What’s the cost of that part just sitting, mostly unchanged, in a landfill for generations to come?
Now, that part is not in a landfill nor will I be the one to put it there. It will, no doubt, live in my cache of ancient, unusable technical spare parts for years to come. Every now and then, I’ll pull it out, look at it, remember fondly the time I fixed that old HP IIP laser printer and put it back in the box. At some point, I might even get it together to bring a box of old spare parts to the computer recycling center so they can tear it apart and recycle whatever materials they can.
Still, most people would take that old part and toss it in the trash because it is, after all, only a $20 part. Our landfills are filling with things that may not be perfectly good, but things that might have a useful afterlife in some sort of recycled format – only there’s no economic incentive to do so.
More than that, we don’t account for all these costs. So, that $20 part isn’t really a $20 part. If we add up the environmental impact and the time it will live in the landfill and…..well, you get the point and it’s more like a $2,000 part at that point. Now, if it was a $2,000 part, I bet someone would be more interested in fixing it, don’t you?
We may not ever change our accounting systems to look at the cost in a holistic manner, but each of us can perhaps become more aware of the larger costs of our consumer products and begin to make small changes. Critics will argue that small changes by millions of us won’t change anything, but in fact, that’s the only thing that creates change – all of us together, one by one.
There’s been a big flap in the organic world lately regarding the recommendation by a reputable organic association that consumers should buy conventionally grown fruits or vegetables that are not heavily sprayed with pesticides if price is a concern. This was picked up by many national news organizations and has lead to some pretty loud virtual arguments going on. The gist of it was that some fruits and vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides and eating conventionally grown varieties is not recommended. On the other hand, this same report said that there were some conventionally grown varieties that were not full of pesticides and that if you wanted to save on your food bill, you could ‘safely’ consume these conventional varieties.
So the discussion has centered around whether or not you should ‘ever’ buy conventionally grown produce. My take on it is this: we each have to make choices that are appropriate for ourselves, our families and our budgets. Life is not black and white, all or nothing. It’s about constantly finding a balance. Whether you go (or have gone) all organic or part organic; all green or part green is something you choose for yourself based on a variety of often complex factors. Clearly, the arguments for all organic, all green all the time are strong – but most of us find some blend, some mix that works in our lives.
From my perspective, it’s about making conscious choices and making incremental improvements over time. If each of us takes whatever tiny steps toward a greener future that work for us, it will make a difference. Is organic better for you, for the community, for the planet? Sure it is, but sometimes we have to make tough choices given the economic realities of our lives. We founded shopOrganic.com, in part, to provide a wide range of organic products at fair prices to people across the U.S. We, too, have to make those choices each day as well.
My hope is that one day we’ll look back on this time and laugh at the notion that we ever sprayed chemicals on food we ate. Still, we have to deal with the economic realities we face and sometimes the cost difference between organic and conventional can be prohibitive for those on tight budgets. I have noticed that the price difference seems to be disappearing on certain products – so smart shopping will help you find organic products at the same (or, gasp, even lower) prices as conventionally grown items in some stores.
I’ll end with two quotes that perhaps sum up this entire discussion.
“It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead
Now, go out there and enjoy your day.