Organic farmers face tough challenges - high production costs, difficult pest control, highly competitive imports, declining production, and more. Yet organic advocates pursue an agenda which is mostly anti-corporate and anti-technology - and mostly unrelated to organic farming problems. As a prominent organic farmer said recently, "Those advocates aren't helping me."
First some disclosure: I farm, but not organically, and doubt the proclaimed benefits of organic foods. But many Canadians disagree. They spend $2-3 billion on organic foods annually, though about 85 per cent of that is imported. More should be grown at home. I applaud and have supported efforts to do so.
To learn more, I attended the recent Guelph Organic Conference, Canada's largest organic event. In reality, I attended two very different conferences.
In one room were organic farmers and marketers hearing valuable information about controlling weeds, diseases, insects, soil fertility, and marketing.
One top grower said he works almost continuously from April into summer cultivating fields for weed control - often eight times. Money saved not buying herbicides is spent on farm equipment and diesel fuel. And some organic pest problems have no good solutions at all.
Though consumer demand is steady or growing, Canadian organic grain production has declined because of high costs and volatile prices. Despite high contract prices in 2013, expanded organic grain production is unlikely. Canadian demand is supplied increasingly from Chinese and Indian imports. We buy grain their hungry people cannot afford.
Contamination with genetically modified (GM) grains seems a minor issue - a maximum of two loads rejected per buyer per year, they said, and that's commonly because some organic growers plant (cheaper) non-organic seed to cut costs.
No criticism of non-organic agriculture or farmers was voiced by speakers in this session. These were classy, proud members of Ontario's farm community.
The topics and tenor in the "other" conference were totally different. Organic farming problems were all but ignored as speakers attacked the rest of agriculture.
They boasted that organic agriculture is "pesticide free" - ignoring the approved usage of registered organic pesticides like copper sulphate.
And opposition to pesticides was nothing like that directed against GM technology. A prominent activist who condemns the Green Revolution and compares GM growing farmers to rapists, was called an agricultural visionary. The discredited work of a French researcher, proclaiming links between GM corn and rat tumours, was cited as gospel. There was no mention of its total rejection by food safety authorities around the globe.
No one mentioned approved usages for GMOs in Canadian organic production. Absurdly, organic advocates attack the possible use of GM alfalfa to be grown as a forage (non seed) crop on some non-organic livestock farms - despite the very minute risk of between-farm contamination. (Alfalfa in Ontario is harvested before seed formation occurs, and, hence, no cross-pollinated seed exists.) Then, hypocritically, they condone the usage of a genetically modified enzyme to make "GM organic" cheese. Other GM technologies are also accepted (quietly) in organic agriculture.
One topic ignored in all sessions I attended was microbial contamination - despite the common dependence of organic crop production on manure application to fertilize ground-level crops like spinach.
Three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have now been consumed globally with not one illness attributable to the technology. Microbial contamination of organic produce has killed many. So why attack the former and ignore the latter? Organic advocates should spend more time helping organic farmers, and less time attacking others.
These brands, at the time of writing, source their ingredients from GMO-free supplies. If you’re concerned about the very real threat that genetically modified organisms pose to our food supply and ultimate health, please purchase from these companies and contact them to let them know that you support and value their decision to use non-gmo soy, corn, canola and other ingredients. Please enjoy this GMO-free food list and share it.
Midnight Poutine Cafe Marmelade: Gluten-free, organic and delicious Midnight Poutine But it's not all granola and clouds of sugar substitute fluff - she does a classic soy latte, addictive, you-wouldn't-know-they're-almost-healthy lemon squares and...
They said it couldn't happen. It was all supposed to be locked up tight and under control. Yet, despite all the assurances to the contrary, unapproved genetically modified wheat has been found in an Oregon wheat field, and the implications of its discovery are far-reaching and potentially devastating. Monsanto (NYSE: MON ) may have just single-handedly wrecked the wheat industry and the economy.
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