GMO’s and Food Security

I haven’t blogged much about this because I wanted the event to stand for itself, but three of us from Transition Goshen reached out to organizations and creative, involved individuals in our city and nearby Elkhart to put together a dynamic week called Share the Bounty. We and partners like our local food co-op, the Farmers Market, individual farmers, a local food alliance, directors of food banks, Church Community Services, local politicians, community gardeners, representatives from schools, and many others are joining together this week for round table discussions, public screenings of the film “A Place at the Table,” an Open Space meeting about food security, a co-op board meeting open to the public, and a Harvest Festival that donates funds to double SNAP credits at the Farmers Market. Last night I attended a food insecurity panel discussion hosted by Goshen College’s EcoPAX.

I am both humbled and thrilled on a moment by moment basis to be a part of this community. The level of caring, cooperation, devotion, creativity and willingness to get down and dirty (sometimes literally) with our community’s (and country’s) most pressing problems is astounding to me. Every person I’ve met this week and during the two weeks of planning, phone calls, meetings, discussions and emails that have resulted in this week … without exception, every single person has blown me away. I learned that after the 2008 crash, some areas of Elkhart County experienced 70-80% unemployment. Let that sink in a moment. 70-80%. We didn’t live here then, so when we arrived grassroots strategies had already developed by sheer necessity. Today, Goshen has experienced a real renaissance, especially in the areas of local businesses, music and local, organic food.

But we are far from finished addressing the 2008 downturn. The stories I’ve heard talking with teachers, guidance counselors and food pantry workers are heart wrenching, and they reveal a majorly broken system. Expanding welfare and food stamps isn’t going to solve the problem. Neither is getting a third job. Last night we discussed ways of — OK, I brought this up myself — “busting the entire paradigm, breaking through the box, when two jobs isn’t doing it, the third job’s not the solution. Who’s telling these people to quit their second job and volunteer at a CSA and get abundant, free food? Who’s telling these people how to assess their community’s needs (fresh, local food) and helping them to become entrepreneurs? The system’s broken. Why are we trying to expand it? Let’s build a new system.” To my surprise and delight, I was showered with business cards, offers to connect with grant writers, local farmers saying they would love the extra help in exchange for giving free food, local businessmen excited about how providing living wages in one area forces places that aren’t to start improving their wages or they won’t have employees … . Ideas were off the charts!

I have confidence that we are onto something in our area, and food security is gradually beginning to morph towards food sovereignty.

It is with this background — six months of efforts to increase community gardens and implement food forests in projects that specifically engage those who most need them, as well as November’s incredible push to get this event off the ground — that I wrote the following comment in reply to someone’s reply to my earlier comment on Jon Rappoport’s blog. It’s long, but I present it here for larger consideration by people frustrated that we still don’t have GMO labels, bans or even the awareness that such things might be necessary for the continued survival of many species, including our own:

@CriticalThinker, I agree with you that “having a different opinion than someone else and presenting supporting evidence and logical arguments for this viewpoint isn’t ‘attacking people’.” I was referring to numerous earlier posts that have resorted to name calling, outright mockery, misquoting and unsupported (though suspected) allegations, which I WOULD put into the category of attacking people.

RE: “raising consciousness,” I am referring to everything from discussions about what is in GMO labeled food; to teaching people how to prepare fresh, mostly raw organic food and encouraging them to see how their brain works differently; to yes, some of these commercials and strategies Jon suggests; to offering various models of how a positive, healthy world could look for people who are so far from that mindset or awareness that they can’t (yet) even imagine what that would look like.

Before you call that last one vague, I will share that we are actively doing this at the local level where I live, and I know that other towns and cities have pockets of people doing the same. The message in this case isn’t “Your food is poison,” because some of the people we’re working with don’t even HAVE food. At the local level, we have organic farms dedicated to feeding the poor high quality food, teaching them how to make that food and helping them to get back on their feet enough so that they have time and energy even to CARE about something like GMO’s. The unpleasant fact in the US is that an embarrassingly large portion of the population is food insecure, living on ramen noodles (no exaggeration) and/or dependent on SNAP and food banks. Processed, crap, GMO food is usually the cheapest, unless local farmers find ways to shift that dynamic — and we are here. They are in Milwaukee. They are in Oakland … and Detroit … and many other places.

This is a very large portion of the population who is being courted by certain political parties (no, I don’t believe in that whole system, but the system itself has turned this part of the population into a very large pawn). I am not disagreeing with Jon’s points, just wondering why someone who champions imagination as the key to everything shares so few positive imaginings and seems so intent on lampooning other routes and strategies attempting to achieve similar goals. I agree “Right to Know” has not been a winning campaign. Not including at least some of the why was, imho, a mistake. Where I disagree is that ALL labeling campaigns, including CA and WA, are therefore worthless. I also disagree that there is only one way to raise awareness that leads to a ban, i.e. blasting the airwaves with how toxic everything is.

I don’t claim to know Jon’s sources and contacts or what social circles he runs in. I just know that I have lived in 42 different places across the US — some extremely ritzy, some poor, some mountain areas, some coastal, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Northern and Central California Coasts, Chicago, Madison, smaller Midwest towns, North Carolina, the Northeast Corridor, including the Philadelphia area and much time in NYC, and more. Too many to list. A one size fits all approach is unlikely to fit such a diverse area or the concerns of such a wide variety of people. In California, everyone I knew (except my now ex-husband) ate organic and mostly raw food. In Northern Indiana, we have a huge grassroots organic gardening, farming and community garden culture, but we’re surrounded by GMO corn syrup growers on the one hand and Amish people without TVs or a desire to vote, on the other. I have seen first hand that what works to raise awareness in Northern California is not the same as in Sedona is not the same as in Goshen, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois. They are each radically different places filled with individuals but also with their own local and state values that may or may not be shifted most effectively by a political campaign.

Ignoring the enormous contingency of people in this country (who do vote because they want to keep their SNAP cards) who are too frazzled working three jobs and traveling among different food banks is a mistake, imho. That COULD be a very vocal contingency, since they already ARE vocal about a number of other things. In order to get these people to care about GMOs, education is required, but they are just going to tune out the above message [that everything is poison]. How do I know this? Because I know some of these people, and I know a lot of people who work in food banks, community services and social work. Together, we are working on a very local and county level to increase access to and demand for fresh, organic foods. Most of us would love a ban on GMOs, but there are layers and layers of education and action needed in our communities. Before someone is going to care if their pop tarts are going to give them cancer in seven years, they need to know they can put food on the table tomorrow night. This is a reality in much of the US — a much larger contingency than most people want to imagine. The research is there, though. There are many roads to the same goal … sometimes it just helps to know the people who COULD be traveling such roads.

24 responses to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you Laura, for this inspiring and informative post and all the work and research that led up to it. My community as you mentioned is different from other places. While we do have an active and growing Transition and permaculture movement here, much of what you discuss re getting the rest of the people involved is so useful and applicable here. So many hungry overextended, isolated, frustrated people ready to become a happy healthy well fed community!
    To my readers-this post is well worth your time to click thru and read-and hopefully share. So many of us all overbthe world are at varying stages of addressing the things Laura discusses in this post. I feel that the more we can share our experiences and solutions the better it will be for everyone.


  2. Thanks for spreading the word. Yes, the problems we are facing as a culture and a species can be overwhelming, but if we can open source share our ideas and what’s working in our own little areas, then ideas and solutions can spread and join into larger movements. It’s heart wrenching to look rather than turn away, but where there is fear and rejection, there is also beauty and strength, if cultivated.


  3. Posted by Cindy Wineburgh on November 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Thank you, Laura, for a moving description of the situation in Goshen. I knew abt severe unemployment in Elkhart, but did not know how things had changed. Also appreciate your pragmatism – deal with feeding people first, then get into questions of “what food?” When one lives on austerity income, it is true the only concern becomes “how much does it cost?” – I wonder if any of the crusaders against obesity, for example, acknowledge how much high fructose corn syrup is added to the cheapest foods to extend them – it is not that low income people want to eat high fructose corn syrup, it’s that you can’t easily avoid it! I’ve thought of time banks and sharing economy ideas also applicable to communities like Goshen – if the people in position to get excited abt things (like the ones you describe) are open to them! (my community, in central Indiana, regrettably so far is doing same old same old “they’re multigenerational poor, they don’t want to change” ideology for the downturn)


  4. Thanks, Cindy. Synchronously, I got a ride home last night from someone who’s been working on the financial aspects of “Transition,” including explorations of alternative currencies (none in use yet), as well as creative ways to fund local initiatives, ideas and projects. We’ve had success with crowdfunding — raised nearly $1200 in a matter of days to buy a community cider press. There are definitely people working those angles here. One of the things we’re also exploring with food security is ways to get food to people where money/income is not necessarily exchanged. That’s percolating. 🙂


  5. The evidence for the superiority of organic food is mostly anecdotal and based more on irrational assumptions and wishful thinking than on hard scientific evidence. There is no significant difference between a natural molecule and one created in the laboratory. Being natural or organic does not make a substance safe * nor does being synthetic make a substance unsafe. Organic food does not offer special protection against cancer or any other disease. Organic food is not “healthier” than food produced by conventional farming, using synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming is not necessarily better for the environment than conventional farming. There is scant scientific evidence that most people can tell the difference in taste between organic and conventional foods. The bottom line is: fresher is better. Organic produce that travels thousands of miles to market is generally inferior to the same produce from local farmers, organic or not.


  6. I agree with you that fresher is better, but if you have not familiarized yourself with scientific studies about the dangers of chemicals such as Agent Orange (or seen photos from Vietnam), herbicides (or read stories and seen photos from South America where GMO crops and their herbicide spraying are causing major birth defects and killing people) or pesticides (aka neurotoxins), then I would suggest that you do some research. “There is no significant difference between a natural molecule and one created in a laboratory”: that depends on what one considers “significant.” You are welcome to an unnatural creepshow, freakshow of laboratory created foods, animals and people, but I value soul and some of the intrinsic energetic differences that to me ARE significant, noticeable and valuable.

    Also, studies in Europe have shown that even when you remove pesticides and herbicides and only look at the different effects of organic produce and GMO produce, the GMO produce causes way more cancer and tumors, along with digestive issues. These cannot be explained away by the toxic pesticides and herbicides since the studies were controlled to remove those as factors. GMO’s were largely, statistically more toxic than organic produce.

    If you are not a paid shill to be commenting here and legitimately believe that there’s no difference, I would suggest you do more research. It’s out there, but you won’t find most of it in the mainstream media. David’s parents personally know a family who had their child killed by riding his bike near a field as it was sprayed by pesticides. He was totally healthy and vibrant, got accidentally downwind and sprayed and died that afternoon. I was married to someone who was in Vietnam and personally saw the birth defects from Agent Orange. I also have personally spoken with and known some people in Oregon and California who got cancer from working with herbicides and pesticides. I have a friend who nearly died after walking barefoot on a golf course after it was (at that point unknown to her but discovered later) dosed with herbicide. Her dog died within two weeks and she was deathly ill for over two years, only recovering after doing major liver cleanses. In addition to these personal, known examples to me, I have seen numerous photographs and scientific studies.

    Local, fresh, AND organic is best … You’re welcome to eat otherwise, but even if invited, I would not accept the invitation to dine on the same fare as you.


  7. And one more, just in case anyone thought getting busted so many times for lying and falsifying data was resulting in any change of Monsanto’s behavior:


  8. Genetic modification of a plant affects only polypeptides translated from the genome template. Proteins in GMO and non-GMO foods may have variation in three-dimensional structure, but all that structure is rendered moot when the protein is digested to free amino acids by enzymes in the stomach and in the small intestine. While there might be vanishingly small variation in amino acid representation in the digestion mix, amino acids are still amino acids whether they come from a GMO plant or a non-GMO plant.
    When a GMO food is digested, the digestion products, amino acids, are no different than the mix of amino acids generated by digestion of a non-GMO food. The whole GMO obsession is one big hoax.


  9. Then how do you explain all the (numerous) studies showing otherwise? The only times these studies are refuted is when Monsanto takes over the publication or someone gets threatened. The hoax is having the rolling door between our government and Monsanto and paid shills spouting company propaganda. If GMOs are so great, then why the thuggery, why the corrupt business practices, why the refusal to label anything, why the bribery and pressure to keep GMOs unaccountable for organic farms’ crop pollution (and it IS pollution) … why the refusal to conduct REAL scientific, long-term studies before determining something is safe? Even if the proteins were similar, your comment accounts nothing for the toxic herbicides and pesticides these crops are routinely drenched with — chemicals that HAVE been proven to cause cancer. You’re either a paid shill yourself, or a sadly misinformed artificial flavor and FD&C Kool Aid drinker. I would encourage you to research glyphosate and Agent Orange. They’re not health tonics. Also interesting that your url is just a straight url.


  10. Rest assured, I am paid or supported by nobody in my comments. I am a protein chemist with a thy-year career studying proteins from native sources. What I recited to you are the facts. Your studies may reveal this or that but what I have put down are the facts and it’s likely that Monsanto isn’t doing long-term studies because they too recognize the truth that the facts reveal. I not here to discuss the relative merits of pesticides and herbicides as you bring up. That isn’t even tangential to the legitimacy of the claims that GMO foods are dangerous. You can kick against the the pricks all day long, but in the end, the basic facts and the logic that accompanies them will prevail. “Don’t harbor beautiful theories by concealing ugly facts.” (Bill Patton) For the record, I am a big fan of organic gardening/farming and have been involved in the natural foods movement since 1975


  11. Good to hear you’re not a paid shill. I disagree that pesticides and herbicides are irrelevant to the discussion. GMOs and these toxins go hand in hand and are designed to do so. Blessings, Laura


  12. The discussion concerns the legitimacy of the claim that GMO are hazardous to human health. If, as you say, that pesticides and herbicides go hand-in-hand with GMO crops then you need to come up with a explanation of why the adjustment of one to several genes in the germline of a compromises resistance to pests and competing plants. Pest resistance is also something that can be manipulated for advantage. This can reduce or eliminate need of and herbicides to great economic benefit. I challenge you to demonstrate the verity of your claim that GMO crops and pesticides and herbicides “go hand-in-hand.” That aside, it seems you are unwilling to recognize the argument I have set forth that refutes the legitimacy of the entire GMO-foods crusade. And it’s irresponsible and misleading to propagate untruths.

    My Facebook page is openly available to anyone who wants to view it. I don’t know what problem you had with my Facebook url because your sentence was cut off before the end. I am the Jon Berkowitz who resides in Niskayuna, NY


  13. Have you really not heard of Bt corn that is designed to be its own pesticide and that cows that eat this corn are having some of the same effects (exploding stomach) as the insects? Have you not heard of Roundup ready corn and soy? As in, these are designed to withstand increasingky heavy sprayings of glyphosate? Do you think they design things to be sprayed by glophosate and then just miraculously don’t spray it? Are you not aware of Agent Orange being used because of Roundup resistant superweeds?

    Where do you think all these chemicals go if not into the food, water and land? My ex-husband was a Vietnam Vet who was exposed to Agent Orange. It’s not a health tonic. What about studies now indicating the role of GM corn in increased food sensitivities and gluten intolerance due to damage of human digestive tracts? What about the fact that most of these pesticides and herbicides are known carcinogens and neurotoxins?

    I am not spreading disinformation. Dow chemical and Monsanto are chemical corporations in the business of indistrial chemicals. That is a fact. Their GM Frankenfoods are designed to withstand absurdly high applications of their chemicals. To say the connection is not relevant to the dangers of GMO’s is like the bought and paid for Federal gov’t saying “Just because we have the NDAA and the right to drone American citizens, c’mon it’s no big deal, because at our discretion we might decide not to. Why do you assume because we designed the laws this way and insist through court cases that we maintain these rights to do away with due process and just kill people at our discretion that we intend to use the laws to imprison without trial or kill without consequence. That’s paranoid.” Roundup ready soy growers aren’t going to use Roundup. Right.

    The reason we have superweeds is because of the massive use of Roundup on GM monocrops. And who’s to say that a tiny shift in proteins isn’t a big deal in terms of the body and the endocrine system? Look at what tiny shifts in an ecosystem do–huge ripple effects. Playing with genetics is, at best, something that ought to require good ethics and a sense of responsibility. Monsanto has shown neither. Consistently.

    If you are not familiar with the ravages of indigenous communities and the poisoning of their food and water, then I encourage you to research what’s happening in South and Central America. It is ALL related. Monsanto favors BigAg practices and BigAg is what’s depleting our topsoil of nutrients and poisoning our land and water. That all factors in. I’m sorry if you can’t see that.


  14. My initial post concerning the basis for claiming that GMO foods and non-GMO are indistinguishable did not have the purpose of launching into the controversy regarding pesticides and their toxicity into which you have manipulated this discussion. You have not addressed my initial assertion that, after digestion, the product from GMO foods is indistinguishable from that of non-GMO food. This is the central thesis of the controversy surrounding GMO foods. Even unique post-translational modification of products emerging from genetically modified plants are rendered into amino acids and simple sugars in the gut before absorption into the bloodstream. Are you aware of any of the beneficial results from genetically engineered crops? For example, this article discusses the engineering of the rice genome so that the crop produces beta carotene for the purpose of ameliorating vitamin A deficiency among natives in primitive communities.

    Furthermore, you have not cited the literature in asserting claims regarding the evil that pesticides are as you suppose. You seem to disregard the fact that the body has a certain capacity to detoxify noxious compounds and that resides in the liver. Not that we should tempt this capacity by seeking out opportunities to ingest toxins. But it is a significant factor in clearing the body of those things it cannot use Unfortunately you don’t seem to understand that we all have potentially carcinogenic processes taking place in our bodies and the causes of metabolic equilibrium shift toward products of these processes and the appearance of malignancy is not determined by one factor but by many. Thus, to say “Agent Orange causes cancer,” is not scientifically sound because there’s no quantitative consideration in the claim, nor is there any mention of the enormous variation in tolerance that exists among people for the toxins found in pesticides. Another element to consider is that the bulk of the pesticides fractionate with the fibrous parts of plant material and are eliminated before they get the chance to be absorbed. (

    But again, I would like to know how you can operate in this cause while not admitting the specious pretexts upon which it is based. Studies of anything biological usually yield a spectrum of results and frequently researchers will use calculations to arrive at results which support final conclusions that are consistent with the researcher’s objectives. You can debate, interpret and manipulate results. But you cannot do this with facts. And the facts concerning germline manipulation of plants and the resulting protein products produced by this do not support the notion that GMO-foods are different in their elemental constituents after digestion than non-GMO foods and therefore there is no logical or scientific basis for the assertion that there is a difference between them. Here is a study from a reputable, mainstream scientific journal which supports my stand:


  15. I have not manipulated the discussion, as I do not feel you can argue GMOs in a vacuum that fails to address pesticides and herbicides. If you feel so strongly about GMOs being safe then go ahead and campaign for them. Somewhere else.

    There have been enough studies and experiences of birth defects, neurological issues, cancers and respiratory issues and even death after spraying of such. A friend of my partner’s family had their young, healthy child drop dead within 20 hours that afternoon of mistakenly riding his bike downwind of a field as they sprayed pesticides on it. My father got the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma specifically associated with glyphosate after a summer of spraying RoundUp on dandelions. The level of toxins found in bloodstreams and crossing the placental barrier would seem to indicate that we have far exceeded many people’s capacities to detoxify them.

    I have sent links to articles. I will read the one you sent, but I personally don’t care if GMOs digest the same. I don’t believe it does in all cases, as per the humans now having Bt in their own guts. I also do not see how you can reasonably separate pesticides and herbicides from health concerns with GMOs. As for feeding the world? Permaculture and restoring the land so it is not so depleted of life giving nutrients. Permaculture also creates systems that mimic nature and help to enlarge and protect harvests.

    I don’t have time to continue this discussion with you. Clearly, we do not agree. In the long haul, mankind has not shown that altering Nature is a universally wise decision. People have an immediate revulsion against some things for a reason. Third World countries are among the groups banning GMOs. They would rather starve than eat that crap. Enjoy your organic gardening whilst trumpeting the safety of GMOs!


  16. Twelve “longterm” studies of 90 days or up to two years! LOL, 90 days to two years is not longterm, particularly when some studies have indicated multigenerational effects from both GMOs and the toxins associated with them. It is this sort of short sighted thinking that got us into the corporatocracy and medical mafia destroying our world. I do not worship the god of science. I’m sorry if that’s your chosen profession and religion, but, while science does sometimes have value, science and the corporations worshipping it are also largely responsible for most of the problems they purport to solve. Indigenous wisdom works well for millennia before science insisted on improving Nature. Even Pasteur recanted some of his work on his deathbed.

    As I said, enjoy your organic gardening whilst promoting the “longterm” safety of GMOs. In my world, safety includes living environment, as well as quality of life — all life, not just humancentric. We have not even gotten into discussions about the bees and pesticides. Try solving world hunger without bees! The way things are going, we might have to. I’m sure science will bless us with a solution to that, which causes another whole series of problems, for which they will also have the (patented) solution.


  17. An interview with Professor Gilles -Eric Séralini, his groundbreaking white paper studies on GMO toxicity is here on his teams website, over 200 scientists have rallied behind Seralini after his studies on GMO’s were dropped from top Science journal they were originally published in:


  18. Thank you for your willingness to continue to this point. Unfortunately it is abundantly apparent that you are in denial and you are operating on emotions rather than reason. This is evidenced in sum by your final comment. I am not trumpeting the virtues of GMO foods. I am pointing out why your fear of them as they relate to human health is irrational. You ave also failed to cite references in reputable, mainstream journals to back up your position. I just cannot understand how you can pursue a cause such as this while ignoring fundamental principles which indicate that it is not supported by basic facts and reasoning. You are unwilling to look at the basic concepts in their naked, unadorned state. That is denial, pure and simple. The fruit of your efforts will not turn out the way you hope it will because your house is not built on a firm foundation of peer-reviewed, sound biological science. The only way your cause can endure is for all those pursuing it to so flood the media and the populace with lies so great in number that they will believe the lies and accept your flawed schematic without thinking critically about it. if you were honest enough with yourself to think objectively about what you are doing, you would see that you are propagating untruths to a scientifically-gullible populace, without sound research to back up claims. This is irresponsible and, in the end, it won’t stand.

    “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Corinthians 3:13).


  19. Well, we shall see what stands, and we shall see what the long term actuality reveals. There are so many reasons beyond your specific point about whether or not GMO’s are a good idea — from pesticides/herbicides, to seed monopolies, to monocrops, to lack of seed diversity that could cause famines, to GMO farmers in India committing suicide in droves, to the flood of immigration into the US due to our falsely low GMO corn prices driving their heritage corn farmers out of business and into our borders to find other work, to killing bees and biological diversity, to a very real sense that adding DNA from humans into milk and rice is sick, perverted and a desecration of Nature. When you add all that together with the fact that these biotech companies won’t even label their foods for consumers to decide, then your one point is just one among many that do stand. Long term studies will likely prove you wrong … and by long term I mean far more than 2 years on rats.

    You and I live in different worlds, and I wish you well in yours. I do hope the fire torches the GMO monstrosities and rids our planet of them for good. If I get torched out of an unnatural, police state, total corporately controlled food system with corporations owning all the water and all of life, good riddance. That’s not a world I choose to inhabit, and I will go down fighting. You may believe rational, scientific and Christian are the end all be all, and maybe for you, they are. Not me.

    Blessed Be.


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