The Expanding Circle

…health, the environment, and social justice…

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Meta

Archive for the ‘GMOs’ Category

What I Can Do

Posted by tinako on June 28, 2015

Native plants support native animals.

Native plants support native animals.

I was tabling for our local vegan society and a GMO Labeling Bill a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the despair expressed by a few people who came up to me.  “No one cares, even when they know the facts about animals,” said one woman.  An organic farmer said, “Monsanto is so big.  People don’t know.  Who will tell them?”

My responses?  Who will tell them? “Me!!”  No one cares? “On this side of the table, I return to the same locations and every year hear from people who have come to care based on the info that I gave them last year.  In my personal life, I know several people who are vegan directly because I am.”

While I am sad at the effects of animal exploitation and GMOs, I am undaunted by the scope of the problem, because that is not my task.  Someone said,

It is not for us to peer dimly into the future
but to face the issue clearly at hand.

What I can’t do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.
What other people do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.

And I can show up with a table and some vegan and GMO materials, stand there a few hours and do my best to answer questions.  This is not impossible.

Vegan educator Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.  Do something.”

I thought about all this as I have spent many hours pulling and bagging invasive alien Garlic Mustard from woods by myself (with permission), and knowing I will have to repeat this for several years in each site before the seeds existing in the soil are all gone.  I would look up and see a large area infested, but before I could lose heart, I looked down at my feet and said to myself, “That area is not my job.  Next year is not my job.  This right here within my reach, this is my job right now.  Now it’s this plant.  Now this one.”  I would think about the relief the remaining, native plants will have with this individual allelopathic poisoner gone, and the relief the animals who live here will have when a co-evolved native plant of use to them can flourish.  After a while I looked around and the area was cleared.  This year.

My son thinks I’m nuts with a goal of eventually clearing an entire woods, but I see no contradiction in attempting the seemingly impossible.  I can’t rid the continent of this disruptive pest by myself, but as long as I have sufficient health, and as long as I care, I can pull that one.  And now it will never seed.

I tutor inner city elementary students, mostly immigrant refugees, a few hours a week.  Will I solve our country’s education crisis?  That’s not my job.  One week my task was to show 40 kids, not all of whom speak English, how to use a protractor.  Done.

In analyzing what is my job, two aspects to consider are, 1. are my efforts efficient and useful?, and 2. what do I do with failures?

As for the first, I try what seems sensible, listen to constructive feedback (seeking out contradictory opinions), watch carefully for results, and adjust.  I will choose this path over paralytic indecision.  As for the second question, first be sure you have defined failure correctly.  If I am vegan, someone asks me why, and they don’t immediately go vegan, have I failed?  Not if my goal was to express my veganism – automatic success.  If I approach a non-profit and they talk with me about social justice for animals but ultimately decide not to make any changes, did I fail?  Not if my goal was to offer a wider view of social justice for their consideration.  If I find I could have done better, I can learn and either try another direct approach or “go around.”

Each plant pulled, each person spoken to, each person who sees me rejoice in my vegan life.  Was I solving animal and consumer exploitation at that tabling event?  No.  That is not my job.  Was I making a difference?  You betcha.

Will you join me?  Please consider volunteering for any organization which is striving to make the world a better place, one action at a time.

Advertisements

Posted in Environment, Garden, GMOs, Musings, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

March Against Monsanto

Posted by tinako on May 21, 2014

MAM14The worldwide March Against Monsanto is back this Saturday.  There’s probably a march in your city.  Check out their website for a location near you.

Posted in Disease, Environment, GMOs, Social Justice | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

March Against Monsanto

Posted by tinako on October 10, 2013

Blogger Header MAM MainThere’ll be another March Against Monsanto this Saturday, October 12th, somewhere near you.  Don’t let our government and businesses think we’ve lost interest in these issues.  It only takes an hour to come out and show that you want a change.

Posted in Environment, GMOs, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

March Against Monsanto + GMO Labeling

Posted by tinako on May 16, 2013

Did you know that there is a worldwide March Against Monsanto happening Saturday, May 25th, mostly at 2 pm?  There are 400 people signed up so far to march in my medium city.  I see almost 4,000 signed up for Manhattan.  You can check for your city here at Occupy Monsanto, but if you don’t find it, try Googling, just in case.

In case you don’t know, Monsanto is the ruthless mega-corporation behind GMOs and Roundup.  Their mantra seems to be “Just Shut Up and Eat.”  I am not going to try to explain why people dislike Monsanto.  You can read about it at Occupy Monsanto, or at Millions Against Monsanto.  This company seems to come up with one anti-consumer product or law after another, and they keep winning!  If you don’t know why GMOs and Roundup (glyphosate) are a problem, visit the above links, and do not miss this new study.

Here in New York state, we have a very important vote coming up in the next month, a GMO Labeling bill.  We’re working very hard to pass it.  If you live in NY, please visit GMOFreeNY.net.

If you live elsewhere, Google to find out what’s happening.  A lot of states are working on this.  Vermont just passed something in one of their houses.

Now is the time to act.  Monsanto has threatened to sue any state which passes GMO labeling regulations.  Tell everyone, and then march next weekend to send a message to the world that you won’t be bullied by Monsanto, and get involved with legislation, labeling and otherwise, to tell your representatives you want them to stand up to this company.

Posted in Disease, Environment, GMOs, Social Justice | 2 Comments »

GMO-Free Rochester

Posted by tinako on July 21, 2012

There’s a new group in town, and we want you to know about GMOs.

GMOs are genetically modified organisms, such as you get when you cross a soybean and a bacteria.  It sounds like a joke, but if you haven’t been paying attention, you’re eating them.  Are they safe?  There’s quite a bit of evidence that they’re not, but I don’t think anyone knows for sure, because there’s been so little testing.

Meanwhile, they’re being tested on you, right now.  You’re probably eating GMOs when you:

  • Eat out at a restaurant
  • Cook with non-organic corn or soy products including oil
  • Eat processed food or beverages.  I don’t just mean “junk” food – whole wheat bread and veggie burgers will probably have GMOs as well, unless they’re organic, and “natural” products and brands often have GMOs.
  • …And more (see this Shopping Guide)

But you’re not helpless.  You can still avoid GMOs, and you can help get them out of our food supply.

GMO-Free Rochester is a local grassroots action group working towards informing consumers, both through education and mandatory labeling laws.  I set up our website – what do you think?

You probably don’t live near us, but check out our website, find out about GMOs, and find or form your own local group!

Posted in GMOs, Social Justice | Leave a Comment »

GMOs II

Posted by tinako on June 4, 2012

Two years ago I read and blogged about Jeffrey Smith’s book “Seeds of Deception.”  Mr. Smith came to Rochester yesterday and I went to hear him speak.  He’s quite a persuasive speaker and you can hear what seems to be a very similar talk online, “Everything You Have To Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods.”  For some reason for the online talk he begins with “what you can do now that you know you don’t want GMOs,” so I recommend you begin at 12 minutes in and then go back afterwards and watch the beginning if you want.

At the end of yesterday’s talk, he deftly helped some of us organize a local action group which will begin meeting next week.  Some things I plan to do before then are tell my friends (did that), play the video for my dad and husband, and distribute some literature when I table for the vegetarian society, which I’m doing next weekend.  Also, while I had recently stopped purchasing some suspected GMO foods such as corn flakes, I plan to inform the manufacturers why I did it.

I’d also like to be more informed about the issue so I am able to speak more convincingly.  Vegan issues I have down cold, but recently many people have asked me questions about GMOs and I find myself not sure of how to explain why I avoid them.  When I read the book I found the studies convincing, but can’t explain them on the fly.  Somehow vegan issues seem more intuitive, more about compassion, cholesterol, energy, pollution, sustainability, all issues we can readily understand.  GMOs are about genes, lab tests, suppressed and deceitful data, and all while asking people to mistrust the FDA, universities, farmers, and the media.  I keep referring people to Smith’s website, but the questions keep coming.  What an opportunity if only I could find a way to boil it down.  Smith offers a webinar to do this, but it’s $80.  Maybe we can work something out through our new group.

Others in the group seemed interested in furthering legislation or a proposition on labeling in N.Y., which sounds great.  I am excited about the vote coming up in California.

Posted in Disease, GMOs, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Genetic Modification

Posted by tinako on August 17, 2010

I just finished reading Jeffrey M. Smith’s Seeds of Deception, about genetically modified foods (GM or GMOs).  This is a new topic for me, and I chose the book because I wanted to learn what the fuss was about.

I began reading with these assumptions:

  1. GMOs are pretty much equivalent to food from plants bred using natural selection.
  2. They have been tested.
  3. They are helping with feeding the world’s expanding population.
  4. People who are opposed to GMOs just don’t trust science or want change.  Luddites.

Before I read the book, I was glad that the organic products I buy are non-GMO, but mostly because I don’t like how Monsanto, the goliath GMO seed company, bullies farmers.  I didn’t really have an opinion on GMOs health effects.

Having finished the book, I have come to question all four of those assumptions, which is a pretty big deal if we’re eating them.  I mean,

  1. They have been pretty clearly proven to not be equivalent to natural foods, at least when anyone has bothered to check.
  2. There have been very few tests for safety because of assumption #1.  When they have been tested, either the tests were so skewed as to falsely give an impression of safety, data showing unsafe outcomes was dropped, or the whole experiment proving harmful effects was mis-summarized or ignored.
  3. Smith says that world feeding organizations say that there is plenty of food, and malnutrition comes from poor distribution.  Smith didn’t seem to address future projections, which I understand are not so rosy, so I would still have questions about that.  But I don’t see the point in feeding the world unsafe food.  Michael Pollan discusses a related issue in his NY Times article “The Great Yellow Hype.”
  4. Most people pushing GMOs (heads of FDA, USDA, EPA, Monsanto, media) are doing so for reasons having nothing to do with your health and with very little basis in science.  People opposed to GMOs include many scientists at FDA, who are silenced by bosses who are not scientists, but more likely lawyers, and more interested in politics than science.  I knew that USDA was a sham front for the industries it is their job to both regulate and promote (an impossible task), but I did not know that pretty much the exact thing goes on at FDA.  To have our USDA food pyramid manipulated by industry and unhealthy foods dumped in our school lunch program is a disgrace, but the personal consequences are avoidable by ignoring USDA’s nutrition recommendations and packing school lunches.  But to find out that FDA is doing the same thing, that they see it as their job to promote biotechnology, is nothing short of shocking.

In his chapter “What could go wrong?” Smith explains 21 different ways genetic modification can be messed up, not by carelessness but by the dauntingly complicated genome, causing unintended dangerous effects in the foods we eat.  Have any of these things gone wrong?  Does our food have these effects?  For the most part, no one knows, because no one has looked for them.  If you ask anyone who promotes GMOs, they will just answer with assumption #1, GMOs are the same as natural foods.

Sometimes GM promoters will say Americans have been eating these foods and nothing has gone wrong.  What a comforting thought, that we have been unpaid lab test subjects, but actually, the statement is not true.  How about L-Tryptophan?  People taking this supplement began getting the horrible new disease EMS.  The affected supplements were traced back and it turned out that only GM L-Tryptophan was affected.  Not that the average person would know this, because there is no labeling requirement.  But this experience disproves not only the statement that Americans’ health has not been affected, but also that GM and natural products are the same.  More info on L-Tryptophan.  Smith goes on to make the point that EMS was a totally new, devastating and sometimes fatal disease, impossible to ignore.  What could be happening silently is that GMOs are increasing our rates of allergies (this does seem to be the case) and could also cause a delayed harm, say cancer in 20 years (there is some evidence of precancerous intestinal cells in rats eating GMOs, in some of the only safety tests that were ever done on any GMO).

Smith devotes a chapter to why the media is so pro-biotech.  The short answer is that Monsanto spends a lot of advertising dollars.  The NY Times has been one exception.

I know this sounds kind of nutty, kind of Luddite, kind of conspiratorial.  The book’s cover and the web site home page look kind of sensational.  I approached the book with extreme skepticism, too.  If you care about what you eat, I urge you to get the book and find out for yourself.  He quotes an awful lot of people, an awful lot of internal documents (FDA, Monsanto), and an awful lot of data.  He makes a compelling case that our government is lying to us.  Read the book, read some counter arguments (one being that Smith is not a scientist), and decide for yourself.

You can learn more at Smith’s web sites, seedsofdeception.com and Institute for Responsible Technology.  He has updated lists of GMO foods, tips for avoiding them, a newsletter and alerts.  You can keep up with GM news, what’s coming out, what’s being pulled.  He makes the point that consumers are on top of this food chain, and that it only takes a few informed people, or even one, asking their local restaurant to switch to non-GMO, to cause a chain reaction among competitors.  He offers sample letters, articles, and PowerPoints to help you get the word out.

And remember, when you buy a product, you’re telling the manufacturer to keep on doing what it’s doing.  What do you want to tell Monsanto?

Posted in Disease, Environment, GMOs, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »