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Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of...
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Saving Seeds = Saving Our Planet

Board Beet
By Your Board on March 5, 2013


An e-mail recently appeared in my inbox that really got me thinking about the sustainability of current conventional farming practices. The e-mail contained a link to a report by the Center for Food Safety as part of its Save Our Seeds (SOS) initiative. The report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers, highlights the ongoing practice of seed companies suing farmers for patent infringement when their fields are discovered to contain genetically engineered (GE or trangenic) crops, even though the farmers hadn't purchased GE seeds from the companies. The seed companies allege that farmers are knowingly saving seeds from prior year GE crops, or are obtaining GE seeds from “seed cleaners,” who specialize in the practice of processing seeds from prior years to use for subsequent plantings. According to the seed companies, these practices are expressly prohibited by the technology agreements signed by farmers who use GE seeds.
Many of the targeted farmers argue that their crops have become intermixed with GE varieties from neighboring fields through pollen drift or animal/equipment transport, a possibility which is acknowledged in the companies' technology agreements. Such transgenic drift is potentially very damaging for organic farmers, who risk losing organic certification if their crops are found to contain GE strains. 
Whatever one's opinion of the value and efficacy of the genetic engineering of our food supply, I think most would agree that farmers (and consumers) should have the option of avoiding GE crops and foods if they choose to do so. The report exposes the difficulty of controlling transgenic drift as conventional farms turn increasingly to GE crops, which essentially forces neighboring farmers to grow GE crops, regardless of whether they intended to. Depending on the outcome of several cases currently in the courts, these neighboring farmers may also be forced to pay seed companies for this “privilege.”The dominance of GE strains in crops such as corn and soybeans creates a number of other issues as well. For example, the resulting loss of biological diversity exposes our food supply to the potential for significant losses should a new threat emerge that is adapted to a dominant GE strain (also a threat in any conventional monoculture system). In addition, since most genetic engineering is for the purpose of conferring resistance to specific pesticides (sold by the seed companies), pesticide use is over 26% higher for GE crops than for conventional crops, which potentially increases human exposure and affects the health of ecosystems, especially watersheds. Higher pesticide use can, over time, also result in the emergence of “super weeds,” which require even higher levels of pesticides (and presumably, more genetic engineering of seeds) to combat. There is ample evidence that super weeds, are, in fact, emerging.
Food cooperatives exist largely because consumers want more information on, and more control over, the foods that they eat. Now, more than ever, it seems that we risk losing collective control over the “source code” contained in seeds, a code which is ultimately critical to our entire food supply. Perhaps not surprisingly, cooperatives, including Outpost, are at the forefront of efforts to maintain the biodiversity of this critical source code and to inform consumers about the GE (GMO) ingredients in the foods that they eat. From making organic and heirloom varieties of produce and grains available, to fighting for mandatory GMO labeling and implementing voluntary labeling in the meantime, Outpost and other food cooperatives are fulfilling a primary mission. That mission is to ensure a healthy, sustainable and diverse community. In this case, those values apply to the seeds themselves, which are the basic, and irreplaceable, building blocks of the entire food system.
For more information and to access the full report, click on this link. What's your opinion on GE seeds regarding the sustainability and control of our food system?


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