Not too long ago I heard a radio interview with a person from an ag company talking about best practices. Of course after getting angry I had to remember this person is promoting the ag company so their talking points were in-line with company practices. The thing is when you talk about best practices, are you talking about best practices for the farmers or for the company selling to the farmers? It is almost exclusively coming from the point of sale that best practices are talked about. The thing is, if farmers stop using GMO seed and hybrid seeds they could begin to seed save. Starting a seed bank is one of the best practices around. Sadly most seeds sold are that of GMO or hybridized seeds, these seeds are considered terminator single generation seeds. This means the seeds, if you find any, are not viable for a next generation. So when you look at it from an economics standpoint, this is detrimental to the farmer, yet beneficial for the seed supplier.
Go beyond the seeds and look at the chemicals needed in modern farming. First you buy the seeds that will need a specific fertilizer and herbicide/pesticide. Then you look at the safety equipment for these chemical applications. Many farmers just apply with no regard for personal safety more because the equipment is too expensive to purchase. So now you have farmers who have shortened their already shortened life-span by at least 10 years. Some even get sick and can no longer farm and become a burden to society and families. So if we really want to break away from this dependence we need to again look at the seed supply. When corporations can patent and own life, it strangles the farmers and pushes them into acceptance of integrated farming. This post is not even about the dangers of GMO’s, I am too exhausted to look up statistics and get into a battle of opinion. This post is focusing on a poor farmer perspective, so please consider this when you read it. I am not fighting GMO here, simply pointing out how damaging this system is to small farms around the world.
You may think that because I live in Jamaica and it is a small island that GMO’s are not a thing here, but they are. The farmers are often given seeds by local agencies who receive them from NGO’s trying to help. This is where the model of help is really showing its glaring downfall. When you try to create a solution based in capitalism you will find that the solution is often far worse than the problems. Ultimately what comes out of this is the current dependence upon terminator seeds. By giving farmers these seeds for a few years, you create a dependency. They can no longer save seeds so eventually they will need to buy them, along with all the chemicals that are integrated with them.
Sadly the focus of most new technologies are on commodity crops. Grains are by far the biggest technology crops. When you realize that most of the world is suffering from diet-related diseases and you can point back to the over use of grains you can see the dangers of such focus in the food system. If we were to focus more on vegetable production instead of products that can be value-added, we might see a decrease in diseases around the world. Yet we continue to focus on the grains, and modern animal husbandry. These mis-guided focuses are not actually addressing malnutrition issues which are just as problematic as starvation. Imagine living on nothing but rice and chicken for years. Would you have health issues? Of course you would, because this is not supplying you with all of your essential nutrients. So when we work on these issues we need to start with a wholistic view, instead of a band-aid view!
How do you know if your produce is hybrid or GMO? (the hybrid link is only information on how it can be disadvantageous to a poor farmer, the rest is a one sided discussion on GMO. The GMO link again is likely a one sided discussion but it does list those crops that are GMO and on the market today. I hold no opinion on GMO in this blog, simply the disadvantages of terminator seed technology.) If it looks perfect and it has a universal size, that is your first clue. If you do not find seeds inside, that is your second clue. If you do find seeds but the never produce fruit that is your third clue. Also there are lists of GMO and hybrid seeds out there. Just Google it! Today is World Food Day and we celebrate the farmers and their hard work, but reality is we need to find a way to undo this tragic dependence on unsustainable “best-practices” and look at ways to increase yields while keeping the farmers independent and secured in their futures. That truly would be amazing.