This morning I spent some glorious hours pulling out dead growth and seed saving. Something about seeing the entire lifecycle of a plant, from seed to sprout, to flower and back to seed, and participating in supporting this infinite cycle, feels really pure and ancient. I was pulling poppies of all kinds, big purple opium poppies, small red, ruffly red, and also nigella (or love in the mist) and finally foxglove with seed so abundant as I cut the 10 feet tall stalks seeds were shaking all over my head. With enough luck my head will start sprouting next spring, like a chia pet.
Seed saving is super controversial these days. It blows my mind that something so natural and clearly sustainable could be exploited and manipulated by big agricultural corporations, or "Big Ag" if you want to know the lingo. The best example is Monsanto. They are the biggest supplier of pesticide and genetically engineered seeds. Now, like chickens and turkeys who have been genetically modified for so long that almost no breeds can naturally reproduce any longer (even the organic ones), Monsanto can make seeds that are only good for roughly one season. They also have PATENTED their genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or certain cells/strains so that it is illegal to save the seeds and use them again. You have to buy them each year from Monsanto. (It also kind of reminds me of Bikram patenting "his" sequence of ancient yoga postures, you can't own this stuff!)
Problem #1. Monsanto claims that it is contributing to farm science and is contributing to sustainable practices so we can feed the world. If you look at their website you would think they were angels sent by Christ himself. But how can a practice in which you have to BUY their product every year be more sustainable than plants that will give you their seed every year for free? Promoting and selling their product to the farmers of the world, especially the poorest most vulnerable ones, leads people to be dependent on always being able to purchase Monsanto products even when harvest is bad, and even if it is due to bad Monsanto products. It's like how Nestle promoted their baby formula to the poorest women of the world. When they were in the hospital and had access to clean water they used it just fine and their breast milk dried up. Then they go home and have no clean drinking water to mix with the formula they now have to buy and their baby dies of diarrhea.
Americans have welcomed GMOs into their lives with open arms. Monsanto answered the call of "we want more for less, oh and bigger too, much bigger." Problem #2. When you selectively breed and cross-breed strains of vegetables and otherwise modify their genetic codes to yield more or be resistant to certain pests or the pesticide the Monsanto produces, then the strains are not hardy to other elements or adaptable to their natural regions. It makes crops extremely vulnerable. As we reduce biodiversity, we increase our vulnerability.
In Europe the folks have not been so welcoming to Monsanto and its likes. They employ strict labeling laws and other such measures to make sure the public knows where its food comes from (ie. not good for Monsanto because it makes them look sketchy). Monsanto sees the U.S. as it's allies! Not a good sign. "The documents obtained by Wikileaks included Monsanto asking the US government to maintain its strong pressure on the European Union legislation for the introduction of GMO foods. After moves in France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety, the US embassy recommended that 'we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU." Do we really want to be on their side?
Products developed by Monsanto:
- Nuclear Weapons
- Agent Orange
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - used as an insulator, highly toxic and still involved in lawsuits as recently as 2002 in regards to Monsanto dumping hella tons of this toxic nasty and poisoning town water supplies
- Roundup - Pesticide, causes birth defects in lab animals; you spray it all over your land
- Terminator seeds - Seeds that self-destruct after one use
- rBGH - Recombinant bovine growth hormone; it turns cows into machines