Future of Farming:
Tomorrow’s Food Supply
Sustainable Farming: Food for thought and food for tomorrow
A“If you control the food supply, you control the people” – Henry Kissinger s a foreigner coming to this island I was amazed at the amount of expensive, imported produce. Imported onions from Holland, bags of $26 radishes and little green options besides Romaine lettuce, gave me a bleak outlook for my food ventures to come. My preconception was that this island’s mild climate with rich, volcanic soil would yield bounteous produce and at a relatively low cost. After doing some research and talking with local farmers, the discrepancy of food supply and demand became clear. It seems that government is overlooking the real issues for productive farming and instead submitting to large agricultural companies advocating that their Genetically Engineered seeds will solve the food infrastructure by “boosting productivity” and “lowering costs.” But, logically, wouldn’t sustainable practices and permaculture be a better guarantee for our future food supply rather than experimenting with seeds that have no conclusive evidence on their detriments to the environment, our health, and our wallets?
I decided to grow my own produce. After visiting various seed distributors, I read the seed packets’ fine print labeling, and researched the brands and found the unfortunate reality that the “selection” being sold was privatized seeds with patents ... aka …“GMO-ized” - not something I was about to put into the soil nor my body!
Pioneer brand corn, registered trademark of DuPont, engineers its seeds with built-in insecticides, fungicide disease protection, and early planting technology. The list of these “Frankenseeds” upsettingly goes on ... and of course they happen to leave out the creepy part about engineering pig genes into our carrots!
Market control of seeds has perverted to greed in the last few decades, monopolizing the market and only getting worse. The ETC Group reports that: “In the first half of the 20th century, seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders. In the decades since, [biotechnology companies] have used intellectual property laws to commodify the world seed supply — a strategy that aims to maximize profits by eliminating farmers’ rights. … In less than three decades, a handful of multinational corporations have engineered a fast and furious corporate enclosure of the first link in the food chain.”
Of course one can always opt to buy organic seeds, but good luck finding them on this island! With an empty shelf at Ace Hardware labeled “Organic,” all I got was an empty promise from the store clerk that they should be receiving some… come December… The store clerk looked indifferent and couldn’t understand my frustration. He had no clue about the damage genetically engineered seeds can do. Imagine the disruption that these engineered plants cause among God’s perfect ecosystem of billions of years of evolution. Or what about viruses? The invasion of genetic material from a host means the development of new genetically engineered viruses which divide and spread, leaving an uncertainty of natural defenses against them. This means widespread death of certain plants, animals, or even humans.
Heard of Colony Collapse Disorder? Colonies of bees have collapsed drastically for the last 10 years, and this links directly to insecticides and GM crops. Did you know that many North American farmers now have to rent bees from Europe to pollinate their billion dollar agricultural industry? Has it really come to pimping out our bees?
I spoke to local farmer, and leader of the Green Party, Andre de Caires, to gather more insight on the local food system, GMOs, and what the future of farming could look like. “It really comes down to morals,” he says. “Values should trump economics and we should think about the generations to come and what we are leaving for our children.” As he continued on, the question became clear: Was the future of farming to be traditional natural selection, or would it be genetic engineering? Natural selection, or survival of the fittest, is an engrained part of the survival of any species. For centuries man has cross-bred plants naturally. Traditional plant breeding consists of the repeated selection of the best individuals of a plant population over time. One can also change the traits or characteristics of a plant by cross-breeding through cross-pollination or grafting. On the other hand, genetic engineering involves the introduction of a different species to another, changing the traits of the species altogether. Unlike breeding, the new varieties created by genetic engineering are often the result of crossing species barriers, (animals with plants) which could never occur in nature. These lab efforts by scientists are often fueled by corporate pressure for profits, and therefore lacking consideration for humans or the planet. Andre concedes that with these GMO seeds “It is better to be safe than sorry.”
The solution to the imbalance of farming and food lies not in GMO seeds, but in improved farming methods and productivity. The problems that exist now for this island are: infrastructure, lack of proper drainage, lack of proper technology and education, lack of greenhouse structures and most importantly funding. How do small farmers who for example, grow on family lands, obtain loans without the proper collateral to match, and repay the banks before crops are even ready for harvesting? With proper research and funding help, sustainable practices are a better guarantee for the future livelihood of farming and make crops more profitable for all. Sustainable farming, or permaculture, is a system modeling natural ecosystems and means harmonious integration of environment and people while providing their food, shelter, and energy in a sustainable way. This means higher yields per product yet with fewer products, as well as cost cuts through maximizing natural resources, such as: plant and animal wastes, sun, and water. How can we think that GMO seeds are the solution to agricultural woes, when proper sustainability and productivity are not even in place?!
Educating one’s self is the first step in the process of securing our food supply, and sustainability is second. Without proper knowledge and education about the resources we use for our food needs, the effects will continue to be detrimental on our society. Rather then spending countless dollars and time on marketing products, why not make the infrastructure for farming needs more affordable and create a balance of farming productivity where we don’t need to import so much of our produce and I don’t have to shell out a twenty every time I want to add radishes to my salad? With fertile, volcanic soil, and tropical conditions, there is money to be made in farming, and there are jobs to be filled. Let us start there and refuse the infiltration of unnecessary Frankenseeds.