Fu­ture of Farm­ing:

To­mor­row’s Food Sup­ply

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Christin Neisler

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.

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