Surprise! Monsanto et al. Likely Own Your Seed Companies.

Where do you buy your seeds or seedlings from?  I was not aware until very recently that much of our garden seeds are now produced by companies owned by large pharmaceutical/chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow and Bayer etc. These aren’t seeds that are genetically modified.  These are the plain old garden seeds you see in many grocery stores and nurseries.   What in the world are bio-tech companies doing buying up seed companies?  One can only speculate.  Control is a big word.  What they own they can potentially genetically modify?  Or, what they own they can eliminate, thereby supplying their own GMO seeds to the farmers who can no longer buy the seeds they used to use?

This chart shows us what seed companies are owned by which of the Big Six companies, the largest being Monsanto.  These seeds are NOT genetically modified.  But the patented seed (for example  Big Beef tomato seeds or plants) come from companies owned by these giants.

An article called Forewarned is Forearmed: Veggies owned by Monsanto by A Garden For The House provides a list of seeds and seedlings that are owned by Monsanto.  Take a look: you will be amazed at the plant names you recognise.  You can also assured that the majority of big box stores will be buying their seeds from these guys.

What can you do?  There are still some smaller seed companies around that are not owned by the Big Six.

Ask you seed supplier.  Do they buy from any of these seed companies?  Look for small, local seed companies who collect and sell their own seed.  I am buying from Salt Spring Seeds.  They grow and collect their own seeds.  Unfortunately they can’t ship to the USA because of customs regulations.  They do ship internationally.   Here is a link to a list of companies that do not buy seeds from any of these companies.  I didn’t make the list so I can’t verify it but it looks like a good place to start.

Look for local seed exchanges.  Don’t buy your seeds at all!  Trade them with other gardeners in your area.  Here is an article with a lot of links to seed exchanges.

Start collecting your own seeds.  Cheapest, safest way, hands down.

Where do YOU buy your seeds?  Can you recommend any seed companies that grow and collect their own seeds or buy only from companies that have no ties to bio tech companies?

This post has been linked up to Natural Parenting Group Blog Hop, Patchwork Living Blog Hop,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #16, Our Simple Farm link up, Living Well Blog Hop 31, Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday and  Hometead Barn Hop #51.

Wasted. A primer.

No joke, food waste is a huge problem.  40% of American food is lost from the farm to the plate.  That’s almost half!  Much of this food is edible.  It isn’t old, rotten, or damaged.    Restaurants that have to keep prepared food “fresh” end up throwing out large amounts of food that are hours, or even minutes too old.  Best before dates that aren’t appropriate, government regulations making it impossible to give this food to food banks, and marketing schemes that encourage buying bulk all contribute to the problem.   Food over-stock in grocery stores, slightly damaged containers and produce that is the wrong size, shape, color or consistency are just thrown away.

All of these contribute to a horrifying amount of good food being thrown out.  Food is also thrown out at the production level.  Farmers will grow extra to make sure they have the appropriate quantity to fulfill a contract.  If there is extra, the food is simply disposed of.  And in a world where a billion people go hungry everyday, the surplus of food that is being thrown out is unacceptable.

Check out this trailer for a new movie called Taste the Waste.

Food waste in the home is also a problem.  The average American throws away 14% of the food he buys. Buying bulk, buying on a whim (as opposed to a list), and poor planning can be blamed for much of the waste.

Why should you care?   You aren’t starving.

Food waste isn’t just a problem for the starving.  Methane gas is produced by rotting food.  Methane gas is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide.  Food rotting in the landfills is as much of a problem for you as it is for anyone else.

The billions of dollars the US is putting into the disposal of wasted food is also a problem of yours.  These tax dollars would be better spent just about anywhere else, including feeding hungry people.

And not to be left out, food isn’t the only thing being wasted.  According to TreeHugger, ten trillion gallons of water is wasted to produce the uneaten food in the US.  That’s enough water to meet the needs of 5 million families.

A Solution?

Because of distribution, regulation and efficiency problems, there isn’t an easy fix.  Pushing our government to work together with these companies to find a solution is one of the things the average citizen can do.  Things can be done.  Triplepundit states various ways that businesses could cut back on waste:
  • Less emphasis on the appearance of food. Supermarkets pay premium for vegetables and fruits that look a certain way and are of uniform size. Any produce that does not meet these criteria is often discarded. Shop at farmer’s markets or lobby your local supermarket to have a ‘discarded’ produced aisle.
  • Better supply chains ensure that fresh food is only brought in when needed to ensure less wastage. The best way to find out about supply chains is to speak to your local store manager and find out what they throw out and how much. Then you can find out if the store is willing to donate the wasted food to a homeless shelter etc.
  • Western cultures are encouraged to stockpile on food with offers like “buy one get one free,” “three for two” etc.  This is something that consumers should be aware of – do you really need the extra food?
  • Wasted food can and should be converted to compost wherever possible.
  • Donation of excess or unwanted food is also a good way to control food waste.
These things will need to be dealt with at a government level, though.  If there are no regulations to control it, it will never get any better.
You have much more control about food waste in the home.  Watch for upcoming posts on what you can do at home to waste less food.  You CAN make a difference.
“When I didn’t know, I didn’t care. Now I can’t “un-know”, so I have to care.” -Common Sense Homesteading

Linked to Real Food Forager: Fat Tuesday, Whole New Mom: Whole Food Blog Hop and I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Thursdays.

Fish in your strawberries? What you don’t know about GMOs.

A stunningly beautiful canola crop. 
80% of Canadian canola crops are GMO.

You hear about it on the news.  You know it is controversial.  You feel strongly that it is bad… but do you really know why?   And do you know who the Monsanto Company is?  I didn’t for years.  I chose products that were labelled “non-GMO” but I didn’t really know what it meant and I certainly didn’t know how diverse the GMO product list was.  I also didn’t know what Monsanto produced and how it dominates the GMO industry.

A GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is an organism that has had its genetics modified by adding a gene from a different organism to its genetics.  Often the gene is not from the same species.  The most common example is a GMO-patented food crop whose genetics have been altered by adding a gene that is resistant to herbicides.  Much of the commercially-grown corn in the USA is now genetically modified.

The Monsanto Company is, world-wide, the largest company that creates and sells GMO seeds.  They are also the producer of Round Up, an herbicide.  A Monsanto GMO seed will grow in a field that has had every living thing killed off of it with Round Up.  Nothing else will grow in it.  These seeds have had a gene added that is resistant to Round Up and creates a “fantastic” opportunity for farmers.  Kill off all the weeds and then plant the GMO seed!  Nothing will grow in the toxic soil except the GMO seed.  Does this not set off alarm bells? 

GMO seeds are sterile.  The farmer cannot collect the seeds and replant them the next year.  The farmer must return to Monsanto and purchase new seeds from the company.  Talk about monopoly!

What seems more fantastic to me is that Monsanto Company is the creator of Round Up.  How perfect a relationship is that??  First, sell the farmer the Round Up, then sell the farmer the seeds. 

I haven’t had herbicides near my property for years.  Weeds thrive in my lawn.  My garden grows weeds as well as (or better than) vegetables.  There is a constant battle between myself and weeds but I will not use an herbicide.  Naturally, this means less production and more work for me.  It would mean that to a farmer too.  So you can see why a farmer would choose to use Round Up and GMO seeds. 

What other great things has Monsanto been involved in?

  • For a time was a leading manufacturer of plastics including polystyrene and synthetic fabrics
  • Produced DDT and Agent Orange
  • Manufactured Nutra Sweet, (aspartame)
  • Created the Bovine Growth Hormone (BST)
  • Was influential in the development of the first nuclear weapons
  • Created PCBs
  • Filed and won lawsuits against their neighbouring Canadian and American Farmers who sold seed that was contaminated by GMO patented seeds, spread to neighbouring farms by the wind.  It is now officially a farmer’s fault if his neighbour’s GMO crop pollinates his adjacent field via the wind.  He is then illegally selling GMO-patented seeds.
  • Has successfully shut down organic farms because of wind cross contamination.

Is this a friend and neighbour you would like to have?  Not on your life! 

Corn takes much of the bad rap for being genetically modified.  But many other things we eat on a regular basis are GMO.  Check out this list provided by Disabled World.  Among others, honey, cotton, rice, soybean, tomatoes, corn, canola, potatoes, flax, papaya, squash, tobacco, meat, peas, vegetable oil, sugar beets, pineapple, strawberries, dairy products and vitamins, are now commonly GMO.

There is no law at present in Canada or the USA that forces companies to label their products that contain GMOs.  So don’t assume that reading a label will tell you anything.  Some companies are proud of the fact that their food is non-GMO and will label it as such.  Japan, the European Union, Australia and Malaysia have all made it law to label GMO products so that the consumer can make a choice.  Not so in North America though.  Why not?  Maybe because so much of our crops are already GMO that labelling GMOs would destroy our current system. 

What are the potential risks associated with GMO products?  Better Health gives examples:

  • New allergens
  • Antibiotic resistance may develop
  • Cross breeding
  • Herbicide-tolerant crops
  • Pesticide-tolerant insects
  • Biodiversity
  • Cross contamination
  • Pesticide use
  • Lack of research on health effects
  • Social and ethical concerns
  • Monopolization of food crops  
So how can you avoid GMO products?   
  • Buy certified organic.  Certified organic products, by regulation, cannot contain GMOs. 
  • Grow your own vegetables.  Most local seed companies are not large enough to be able to afford GMO seeds. 
  • Prepare and eat whole foods rather than prepared foods.  That way, you can choose the organic ingredients that are in your food.
  • Buy meat produced without growth hormones. Certified organic meat will not have been fed GMO feed and will contain no growth hormones.
What can you do:
Check out Organic Consumers who have all the information you could ever need including boycotts, petitions and protests. 

And just for the fun of it, did you know that some goats have been genetically modified to produce silk?  And genes from a cold water fish can be added to strawberry genes to create a cold-resistant strawberry plant. Now you know.  Care to take a stance? 


This post has been linked up with Live Renewed, Little Natural Cottage, I Thought I Knew Mama, Whole New Mom: Traditional Tuesdays and Common Sense Homesteading: Live Well Blog Hop.


Organic vs. Local Produce

I was thrilled, a few weeks back, to find organic grapes back on the shelf.  Most produce suppliers don’t stock organic grapes year-round because the price is too high.  Finally, the price has dropped and for a little while now we will have organic grapes.  I don’t even bother buying non-organic grapes since the pesticide usage on grapes is among the highest of all produce.  So I was pleased to pick up a package, priced at $3.29/lb and give my family a sweet treat.  Then I saw the label: Product of Mexico.  My elation sank back to realism and I soberly added it to my basket. 
I buy organic food, quite frankly, so I don’t expose my family to toxic pesticides that are sprayed on non-organic produce.  (Yeah, yeah, I know, certified organic doesn’t mean pesticide-free… but that’s for another post.)  There are studies that claim organic food has better flavour and higher nutritional value than non-organic food.  I also buy it because it is more environmentally friendly.   The soil isn’t fed a chemical cocktail to improve growth rates.  But organic produce may travel thousands of miles to reach me, and it is the carbon footprint from these miles that disturbs me.  Naturally, I would buy organic, local produce over anything else, but local food is often not organic.  I don’t live in a gardener’s paradise where you can grow anything, all year round.  I live in a climate where, if you are lucky, you can grow a variety of (non-tropical) produce during a few months of they year.  Rain can ruin a garden season in a matter of days, here.  So local farmers don’t always choose the organic route.  They choose the most successful route.

Produce that is fresh from the farm, that hasn’t sat in a shipping container for days (or weeks) before it is placed on the shelf, often has a higher nutrient value.  It looks, feels, smells and tastes better.  But has it been sprayed with chemicals to protect it from pests?  We don’t know.  Probably.
Buying local produce supports our local economy.  Buying from a local farmer will mean his money will go back into our local economy, and will contribute to our taxes, bringing us education, medical coverage, and parks and recreational benefits.  I love to buy local.  But I don’t love to buy anything that may harm my family.
It’s a tricky question and one that I think can only be answered by personal choice.  We can contact local farmers and see if they are using pesticides.  We can grow our own organic produce.  We can trust our Canadian government who allows (or refuses) the use of certain pesticides on our crops.  Or we can buy strictly organic, regardless of where the produce comes from.  Me?  I am leaning towards organic for health’s sake.  Give me local AND organic and I will buy it in a flash.   What I can’t grow I will have to make a decision on whether or not it will be an acceptable item to feed to my family.    And in the mean time, I think I will buy the organic grapes and hope my own garden will offset some of the fuel burned getting organic grapes to the local grocery shelves.  You can’t win them all but you can certainly do what you think is best for your family.