If you’re looking for gardening advice on GMOs, I have 2 tips. We’ve known for over a decade that genetically-modified organisms wreak havoc when unleashed into the environment.
And yet The New York Times is still being a good corporate spokesperson, muddying the facts and leaving much room for doubt about whether or not these problems exist (or just practicing good, unbiased journalism, depending on your point of view).
Even though the biotech industry likes to promote the idea that their main goal is to create more food for the starving masses, the kinds of genetic modifications they’re making suggest otherwise. The two main reasons genetic engineering is done in plants are to:
- Give them the ability to produce their own pesticides
- Make them resistant to herbicides
Many people don’t realize that GMOs make up the vast majority of corn, soy, cotton, and canola, and that our processed foods contain a lot of ingredients derived from these crops. Alfalfa will be on this list soon, as the USDA recently approved it against recommendations of its own committee.
Also, farm animals feed on GMO plants, and even honeybees feed on GMO pollen. At least 60% of foods in the US, therefore, contain GMOs.
All of this is quite scary when almost all studies and some real-world experiences are showing that GMOs can cause major health problems in animals, including us. Genetically-modified organisms are toxins, allergens, and carcinogens that will promote new diseases and nutritional problems.
Effects Of GMOs In Our Gardens
But here, I’m going to give some gardening advice on a topic that is discussed somewhat less – the effect of GMOs on the environment.
For example, Bacillus thuringiensisis a bacterium that produces a substance toxic to some insects, such as caterpillars and Monarch butterflies. It has been used as a biological insecticide since the 1920s, and is now used to make Bt cotton, Bt corn, and Bt potatoes, which are genetically-modified crops.
The DNA of these plants is altered with a gene from the bacteria that gives the plants the ability to produce the toxin themselves. Research shows soil microbial life and beneficial enzymes decrease when Bt crops are planted.
One study concluded that soil life in your organic garden could be entirely dead after 10 years under a Bt crop. Another study found the gene in GM corn was passed to various soil organisms. We don’t know exactly what happens in that situation, but it seems that gene transfer from GM organisms to other organisms is commonplace.
Other plants are genetically-engineered by companies to resist the herbicides they sell, such as Roundup-ready soy. This allows farmers to spray their fields with Roundup, killing the weeds but not the crops, making it easier for farmers to use herbicides, thereby increasing the use of herbicides.
The list of other potential problems is long. Altered genes get into our waterways where they may affect aquatic life. They may impact beneficial insects in our organic gardens. Because genes can and do jump from one organism to another, they contribute to herbicide-resistant weeds.
Gardening Advice On GMOs
The gardening advice among organic gardeners is that we should avoid using any GMOs in our gardens because we don’t know the long term effects, and because there is absolutely no reason we need to use them in the first place. This means that we:
- Don’t plant GMO seeds
- Don’t use alfalfa meal, canola meal, corn gluten meal, cotton meal, soy meal or any other plant fertilizers unless we’re absolutely sure they are non-GMO
Personally, I see no good reason for us to be pursuing the use of genetically modified organisms. You may have a different viewpoint, but what we must agree on is that planting them all across the world before we know all of the effects is probably not a smart idea.
Fortunately, most parts of the world are rejecting GMOs, but unfortunately, it may be too late to stop them from spreading, especially as government regulatory decisions in the US and Canada continue to reflect the desires of the companies producing and selling these seeds over the desires of the general public.
What’s your view on GMOs? Do you think I’m a scaremongering, communist lunatic for wanting to take the precautionary principle and protect our future? Or do you agree that we should move back to real food? Any other thoughts?