More Proof that the World is run by the Rich for the Rich

The Center for Food Safety took the USDA’s decision to allow unregulated planting of Round-Up Ready Alfalfa to court in 2005, all the way to the Supreme Court, and managed to stop any planting of the bio-mutated forage crop until the USDA had a full environmental impact statement ready. No more sneaking GM crops in the back door by pretending not to notice they were being planted, and then when forced to notice saying, ‘Oh My, Imagine that, how did THAT get there?’, with a hand to a cheek and a distressed look on their pretty little faces.

GM Alfalfa is a BIG step. Nevermind all our sugar beets are soon to be GM, nevermind all the GM tomatoes, GM corn, GM this, GM that. Alfalfa is a perennial. It is pollinated by bees. Bees travel. So anyone growing normal alfalfa within about a 5 mile radius of a GM Alfalfa field is GOING to have their crop contaminated. There is no doubt, nor any question, about it. There is no way to stop it (barring killing the bees, which then kills the plants, ohh wait, we are doing that already!), no way to protect the un-modified crop or un-modified seeds.

Alfalfa is fed to dairy animals. Even mine. GM alfalfa and GM contaminated alfalfa means there will be NO ORGANIC dairy products. Period. Ever. Unless… we change the definition of organic to include GM seed.

So, the USDA and their subsidiary Aphis (can we say that a government branch has a subsidiary? it sounds so… corporate) came up with a plan to gently introduce GM alfalfa, as per the Supreme Court’s instructions. The plan wasn’t great, but it wasn’t all that bad. GM Alfalfa could be planted in states which only grew alfalfa for forage, but did not produce alfalfa seed. For instance, my state, Washington, produces alfalfa seed, so GM Alfalfa could not be planted here. Selfishly, I read that and thought, ‘Pheww, I’m safe.’ Aphis’s plan was, as I said, not perfect. But it was better than wholesale planting of GM alfalfa anywhere.

Vilsack, head of the USDA, looked at the plan. Maybe he even looked at the thousands of comments (over 200,000 actually) on GM Alfalfa left on the government websites; those arcane sites so hard to navigate and comment upon. Overwhelmingly the comments were against GM alfalfa; comments by consumers, by farmers, by dairywomen, by Joe Schmoe on the street. And Vilsack thought it over. He probably consulted friends like the owners of Whole Foods, and Organic Valley and Stoneybrook, great organic food sellers and food producers. Maybe his little brain even steamed. And he made his decision.

He threw out Aphis’ recommendations, the comments of over 200,000, the safety of millions, and is allowing wholesale, unregulated, unsupervised planting of GM Alfalfa. We won’t even have records of who planted what where. Why did he do this? Surely the advice of the owner of Whole foods, the advice of organic companies like Organic Valley and Stoneybrook, surely this mattered? But wait…

Those great, big, ‘defenders’ of the Organic way folded. They told him to go ahead and let it be planted. Money won over principle. Again.

It makes me so angry I want to scream**. Here’s the scoop. Don’t buy Stoneybrook, Don’t buy Organic Valley. Don’t go to Whole Foods for gawds’ sakes. Don’t buy ‘natural’ foods from anyone but the farmer who grows them. If you buy them in the supermarket they are almost assuredly already contaminated by GM food products. And don’t be frapping surprised if every bee in the world dies*, if every farm worker gets cancer from Round-up overexposure, if super weeds begin to take over the world (but it wouldn’t matter then, because without the bees we are toast).

*I’m not convinced that the bee problem doesn’t have something to do with GM crops. It all coincides too neatly.

**Yes, I’m back. It was a rough January, lots of work (I hope to do a gardening post soon), lots of family stuff, lots of depression after Gifford got shot, a cop got away with shooting an innocent woodcarver here in Seattle, and more. All is resolving now and I hope to be back on form!

36 Comments on “More Proof that the World is run by the Rich for the Rich”

  1. Welcome back Sima and thanks for the informative post and warning on Stonybrook, Organic Valley, etc!

    • Sima says:

      You’re welcome! I wish there were some mass produced, cheap, easily attainable foods which were made by ethical food companies. I need to do a bit more research on this and come up with a list. I’m sure it’ll change as companies are sold and merged and folded and sliced and diced.

      I feel that withholding my almighty dollar is one of the only ways to express disapproval and fight this kind of thing, but I’m not certain it makes any difference.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Yeah, it is good to see you again Sima. A wonderful post too. You raise a point about the bees. Have there been any connections between the decreasing bee population and the use of these GM crops?

      • Sima says:

        Yes there have. The general consensus, amongst those willing to look at GM crops this way (and noone in our government will) is that the GM pollen contributes to weakness in the bees, which leaves them susceptible to disease and illness. I think I’ll do a more in-depth post examining all of this, not that I’m really an expert.

  2. purplefinn says:

    I hesitated to look at what is “more proof that the world is run by the rich for the rich.” Sob, I don’t need more proof. But I appreciate your heads up. Saw a great show on an urban garden on PBS. No, we won’t overtake the damage that is being done. But I cheer on everyone who tries.

    More proof that our expensive health care is not per capita cost-effective: Life Expectancy Lags in the U.S.

    • Sima says:

      I think urban gardens and suburban gardens are great. I would be very happy if there were a local CSA or farm every few miles in the rural-suburbs and every mile or so in the ‘burbs. I dunno about making them in the city, but I bet it’s possible.

      I do worry about how to get good food into the American inner cities. I’ve always found them to be wastelands for food when I’ve lived in them. The vegetables at the grocery store, if there was one, were old, past their prime, almost rotten. The meat made one shudder… We’ve got to be feeding people better than that! But how? Urban gardens are one answer.

      The health care boondoggle is another thing that makes me want to scream. Sadly, it’s no surprise that the US is lagging. Maybe stories like this will help people push past the natural depression such realizations bring into anger and action. Can only hope.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Sima, just to let you know that I always walk away from your posts knowing I learn more about a subject I knew little about before.

        So glad that there is such a great mix of writers, educators and experts here bringing me up to speed.


      • dakinikat says:

        New Orleans has been working hard to get better produce to stores that serve the inner city. A lot of those stores are small mom and pop stores and they don’t always have good sources of fresh produce. They’ve been doing it since Katrina and there are now several stores within walking distance that get produce from small farmers in the area plus the fruit that comes in just down the street on the docks. I have a Mr. Okra who drives around the neighborhood with a truck and shouts out to let us know he’s around. It’s kind’ve like having a healthy alternative to the bomb pop man. I can get small amounts of anything off his truck!!

      • Sima says:

        @ Pat Johnson 3:15: Thanks so much for reading! I’m trying to bring little tidbits out about things I didn’t know even a few years ago.

      • Sima says:

        @ Kat 3:27: I’m really glad to hear this. When I lived in the ghetto in West Philly I was appalled at what was offered at the local stores. This was a country kid from California, used to getting anything that fell off the truck, basically :).

  3. zaladonis says:

    Great post, Sima.

    How far do bees travel? Would it help a farmer or gardener if they keep bees and have enough for the bees to busy themselves with or do bees just naturally travel?

    • Sima says:

      As I understand it, bees can cover a couple miles or more in their never-ending search for pollen. They travel from the hive many times a day to get this pollen, and it’s the GM pollen that is the problem.

      Bees also naturally swarm when certain things happen in the hive (generally it gets too small). The colony collapse disorder that is killing so many of them actually does kill them. The hive’ll be empty with only a few dead or dying bees left. Even some of the parasites which afflict bees will have abandoned the hive (specifically wax eating moths). The worker bees die out on their rounds. Like I said, I think I’ll do a post about this. I had to study bees a couple years ago for another project. I’ll dredge up my notes.

      • zaladonis says:

        I was wondering more about what a gardener can do to keep their plants, like alfalfa, from becoming contaminated through bees cross pollenating.

        As I’ve said, we’re planning to establish a large vegetable garden, and also chickens this year, and one of the crops I’ll definitely plant is alfalfa for the chickens. To me that’s a no-brainer, especially being a perennial. Everybody I knew growing up who had chickens had alfalfa all over the place! But if I can do anything to keep it from being contaminated, I’ll do it.

        We already have a really large bee population on our property. (Freaks our guests sometimes, the buzzing is so loud they look over and it’s like a bad Lifetime movie!) In addition to our small fruit orchard and various berries I’ve planted a lot of flowering plants that attract bees (they go mad over sedum for instance, a plant I love and have a lot of), and I’m wondering if that’ll help keep the same bees on our six acres to avoid cross pollenating with GMs. And would it help if we kept bees, you know in those boxes. I remember my father, who’s been a Cassandra about Montsanto and GM seeds for many years, keeps bees and told me once he never took their honey – and I wonder if that might be why.

        Don’t go to any trouble researching, I can do that. Just thought maybe you’d have some insight because you’ve been farming a while and you’ve got good common sense.

        Must say, trudging through thigh-high snow drifts with the dogs, a garden seems a long way off!

      • Sima says:

        There’s really nothing to be done about stopping cross-pollination. You can do what old timers do on a few plants, and cover the blossoms after you hand pollinate. I would think that having a lot of bees (I love having lots of bees! We have different kinds, not honey bees, but lots of them) would help keep down the likelihood of cross-pollination, but I’m not sure.

        Bees need the honey for the winter, that’s one reason not to eat it. But also, the GM pollen is IN the honey. So that might be why your Dad avoided it.

        Out here we are trudging through muck and water, lots of flooded fields (normal for this time of year). It does seem a long way off, but it’s time to start things in the greenhouse!

  4. zaladonis says:

    Oh and you say don’t shop at Whole Foods (I already wouldn’t step foot in there but probably for different reasons!); where’s better for food quality, I mean besides directly from farmers?

    • Sophie says:

      Directly from farmers!

      • zaladonis says:

        I know, for sure! But my point is that’s not always possible. For instance in New England right now if you drive up to your farmer friend they’ll smile and glance out at their fields covered in two feet of snow. Or if you live in a city without a winter farmer’s market. Guess I’m wondering what Sima suggests is the lesser evil of what’s available.

      • Sophie says:

        Zal: I’m in New England (CT) and there are winter markets here. No, not the same stuff you’d get at a summer market, but…

        So, to answer your if-not-WF-then-where? question…there are often local one-off natural foods stores (some call them health food stores). I shop at them along with the farmers markets and farms during the winter. Generally, the farm stands that are open in the winter have dairy (milk and milk products like yogurt, butter, cheese, and so on), meat, eggs, jams, and root vegetables. There are a few farmers bringing hot-house and hydroponic lettuce, kale, and other greens to the farmers markets. You’re not going to get fresh fruit, tomatoes, eggplant, and stuff like that this time of the year!

    • Sima says:

      We don’t have tons of fresh veggies here either, although we aren’t covered with snow (I’m sorry, you guys who are!). SO I do buy organic stuff at the local store. We have a choice, and don’t actually have Whole Foods here. We’ve a locally owned ‘chain’ (I think they have 4 or so stores) which specializes in locally grown food, organics, etc. I shop there. It’s pretty pricey though.

      I sort of do my shopping in a tiered kind of way. Can I get x from my fields? No? Can I get it from another local grower? No? Can I get it from a grower in WA state? No? California? No? Then I usually don’t buy it (who needs asparagus from Peru anyway?). I tend to stay away from anything with a country of origin marker that isn’t directly on our borders, since I’m so close to Canada we get a lot of Canadian food. I intend to do my store choosing in the same, tiered way.

      A lot of produce is being grown in the winter in weird places now. All due to the miracle of plastic. I’m going to post about that soon too. I’ve been wrestling with that dilemma all January.

      • zaladonis says:

        Thanks, that makes sense.

        We have only recently come to believe we should eat anything all year round. When I was a kid there was a season for food, it’s asparagus season, it’s strawberry season, and we seemed to eat just fine. In fact I think there’s a special wonderfulness to a bowl of strawberries if we can only have them when they’re in season. I remember waiting with great anticipation for them to ripen, and how incredibly sweet and spectacular they tasted.

        “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.” — J.M. Barrie

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    Here’s what I am planning on doing this Spring. My son and his partner bought a house in the country about 45 minutes from here and planted a garden that yielded so much they were giving it away.

    I am going to plant my own little patch out there in the Spring and raise my own choices even and with their assistance will be canning for the first time in my life!

    This from a girl who just loves her coupons! Things are getting tight all around and even making the 45 minute drive will save me in the long run.

    Did I just use the word “girl”????

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m trying to get my little plot in the back completely filled with edible landscaping. I’m hoping our farmer and our master gardener will give me some hints. I’m already growing a sweet potato vine so it’ll go all over on part of it. I love my fresh veggies and they’re so expensive any more!

      • Pat Johnson says:

        My backyard would need an entire tilling before I planted anything. I had a pool up for years out there and the chlorine damaged much of the soil so I just plant wildflowers around the fence along with a few rose bushes which have been there for years.

        Though the grass is green every year it is not compatible with growing veggies and that is why they set aside a little plot out there for me to tend.

      • purplefinn says:

        Pat, you might try container gardening also. I grow one tomato plant and some lettuce in containers on my patio. They do well and are so handy.

      • zaladonis says:

        Totally agree about container gardening – I’m a big fan. Started when I lived in cities but I still do it in the country.

        For people who enjoy cooking, container gardening herbs is an easy way to have a good supply of whatever you use regularly always fresh and nearby, don’t have to worry about forgetting to buy it if it’s right there. And herbs can be expensive, growing your own is cheap. If you have enough space it can be really beautiful as well. I’ve filled pots with parsley, thyme, rosemary is gorgeous, or just planted it between annual flowers. If you like peppers they also can make beautiful container plants. There are some very old famous gardens (can’t remember the names of course) in Europe that are filled with vegetables and herbs for their beauty. But why not eat them too?

        We have lots of friends come out from the city for weekends throughout the year, and I love to cook, so I have tons of herbs in my gardens but I also plant them in pots so I can bring them in once frost nears – and during the summer I snip off those plants as well. Thyme, rosemary, sage, they’re all beautiful and do well in pots, even annuals like parsley and basil as long as you keep them from flowering. And I’ve had a potted bay plant for 12 years, and even though I’m constantly plucking off leaves for soups and stews and stock, it always grows more than I can use.

        Container gardening, large and small, urban and rural is easy and productive and cost effective. Also suggest keeping an eye out for cheap containers – we’re inveterate flea marketers and have found some gorgeous pots over the years for practically nothing.

      • Sima says:

        I do container gardening too, even now. In fact in the window of my kitchen are three basil plants, all in various stages of growth, all growing in water alone :). With enough attention, almost anything can be grown in a container, even potatoes, squash and corn.

        I agree with Zal, containers are a great way to get herbs throughout the winter.

  6. Sophie says:

    Unless… we change the definition of organic to include GM seed.

    Noooooooooooooo! Please God, no.

    And Gary Hirshberg (Mr. Stonyfield) said Walmart wouldn’t change them, they would change Walmart.

    And I already think Organic Valley stinks for not letting “their” farmers sell raw milk on the side.

    • Sima says:

      Yea, I don’t like Organic Valley for that either. If I were to become a big time dairy farmer, which I have dreamed about for years, I would not become part of any coop. Too many restrictions. Of course, that also means all kinds of risks and dangers. We have a dairy fairly local that got out from under the thumb of Carnation after 50 years. They carefully moved to an organic system and now sell raw milk over two counties. They are doing pretty good. That would be my model.

  7. Fannie says:

    I miss those old trucks coming around the neighborhoods in New Orleans.

    • dakinikat says:

      yeah, and he still sings “I got your strawwwwwberries … I got your onions too … these potatoes are mighty fine ….” You just don’t get that from the muzak and ads played in stores

  8. Delphyne says:

    Sima, Organic Valley and Stoneyfield put out statements that they do not and did not support the GE alfalfa and contested the Cummings article that they sold out to Monsanto. I’d be curious to hear your opinion about that.

    As to WFM, I worked there for a few years after being downsized from the insurance industry – I started work at a small health food store that I had shopped at for years and it was bought out by WFM. Suffice it to say, I never shop at WFM now and wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

    • Sima says:

      My understanding from various sources, including Organic Valley press releases, etc, is that they backed down from the fight against wholesale GM alfalfa planting and agreed to let it go through in the hopes that they can get better regulation against GM Alfalfa further down the line. I dunno, to me that’s just assinine, but then, what do I know, I’m neither a politician nor a big business owner.

      Here’s organic valley’s facebook response to Cummings’ article:

      I read it and see it as a betrayal. They see it as a good way to move forward. I guess it’s all in the interpretation. Moving forward with the government and Monsanto on GM is not really a goal of mine, frankly.

      If we do not draw a line in the sand, and defend that line, we are going to, indeed already have, lose it all. Organic Valley and Whole Foods pretended to defend that line, but backed down in the hopes of some future regulations and concessions from Monsanto and the government.

      Having said that, if Organic Valley comes up with the good fight, I’ll support them (but never buy their products, I have better alternatives 🙂 ) in the fight. It’s all diplomacy, isn’t it?

  9. zaladonis says:

    Hey Sima – if you’re still checking in this thread: how long are seeds good? If I collect seeds from a plant are they only good the next spring or worth holding onto for a year or longer?

    • Sima says:

      You can hold on to seeds for a long time, but the longer you hold them, the lower their chances of growing. So the % of germination goes down. It doesn’t go down drastically in the first 2 or 3 years though. It’ll go from about 90% to about 70% in that time, assuming the seeds are stored correctly.

      What’s correctly? It does depend upon the plant, but basically they need to be stored at moderate temperatures Nothing lower than about 45 or higher than about 65. All moisture should be removed (this is more important than the temps usually). The seeds should be thoroughly washed and dried before sealing into ziplocks, etc. You can use those little silicon dry packs that come in electronic equipment and other things that need dryness to keep the seeds moisture free.

      I usually keep seeds 2 to 3 years. Oftentimes we have seeds left over from the year before, and I just plant them a little more heavily than I would ‘fresh’ seed. We don’t grow or store our own seed, at this time. That might be coming though.

      Currently seed places are selling kits like this:

      These can be useful, but the most useful kit I’ve ever found is one that has ziplocks which hang in a portable file cabinet type box. You can stuff a lot of seed into little ziplocks in the big ziplock, organized by seed type. I got one 20 years ago that I’ve replicated over and over again and I store all our farm seeds in it.

      I’ve a friend who got some seed from a scientist in Canada. The seed was medieval wheat which was found in good condition in an archaeological dig in Scandinavia. Anyway the scientist had grown it on, and it had grown. So she had a lot of newly grown medieval wheat. The friend grew the small sample she received as well, and now I have some which I need to plant. So seed can survive a LONG time.

      Ok, enough about seed! Until the next question, that is :).

  10. Linda C says:

    This is more than a whole foods type of thing. If Monsanto finds out that their alfalfa has contaminated your field then Monsanto sues you for using their strain without permission. My friend owns 600 acres in South Dakota and it is getting ugly there. Monsanto wants the ranchers to destroy their own alfalfa and only plant Monsanto’s alfalfa thus giving Monsanto a monopoly over the entire state. My friend has proprietary rights to the alfalfa strain that has been there since the dust bowl.
    Monsanto also does business on the international market by selling their hybrid seed to subsistence farmers around the world through the generosity of the US government. The subsistence farmers are then placed in a position to buy the seed and all of the chemicals necessary to grow the crop. Since the seeds are hybrid, the crop produces no seed for the farmers to use on their own for the next planting season. Any profit that the farmers make goes right back to Monsanto to buy the crap all over again for the next season.

    • Sima says:


      Once GM alfalfa is grown openly the genie is out of the bottle. There’s no stuffing it back in. The pollen and the GM will spread. As it does, all alfalfa will turn into GM alfalfa, slowly but surely.

      And Monsanto will sue farmers who didn’t ever want or intend to grow GM alfalfa. I guess Whole Foods and their ilk are thinking that at that point, surely then, the government will see and stop the insanity. If they are thinking.

      Monsanto has already sued farmers who have had windblown and bee distributed GM seed and pollen infect their crops. In most cases, they’ve lost. But the farmer’s business is gravely wounded, if not destroyed, in the court battle.

      So, what’s next? GM sugar beets. Coming to a sugar packet near you!

      What’s the solution? Probably forcing, via local ordinances at first, the labeling of GM foods. If they are labeled, they will be shunned. If shunned the market forces will work against them, AS THEY SHOULD. The government and the GM companies are rigging the system by not requiring labeling, as in the EU.