Honey may no longer be a safe food to eat.
That’s according to Ed Stockman, a fourth-generation farmer and biologist who campaigns against Genetically Modified crops. He spoke Friday on the opening day of the Northeast Organic Farming Association conference in Amherst.
And that’s not the scariest thing Stockman said. If U.S. agriculture continues the way it’s going, organic and non-GM farmers will be put out of business because of GM pollen getting blown onto their fields by the winds.
I put honey on my toast every morning, and always considered it a healthy food. But recent studies have shown that Massachusetts honey may be contaminated by neonicotinoid insecticides, which are banned in Europe, Stockman said.
Corn is the largest crop in the U.S., with over 80 million acres in cultivation. But not much of that is sweet corn, staple of summer picnics as corn on the cob; 45 percent goes to animals and 40 percent to ethanol, Stockman said. So we’re probably using GM crops every time we put gas in our cars, he said.
Of all the corn grown in the US, 88 percent is genetically modified, and soybeans, our second biggest crop, is 93 percent GM, he said. Cotton, beets and canola are also big GM crops.
Most of these crops are designed to withstand application of massive amounts of herbicides, principally Roundup, which is sold by the same company that sells the GM seeds. The active ingredient of Roundup, Glyphosate, becomes part of the cell structure of the plant and you can’t wash it off when you eat the food, Stockman said. It is a probable carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization.
GM agriculture is the leading source of “non-point pollution,” which are exempt from the Clean Water Act. This includes sediment, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which are endangering Lake Champlain and the Chesapeake Bay, he said.
“We’re blessed with the best farmland on the planet and we’re abusing it,” he said. “The generations ahead of us will have serious problems.”
Stockman offered an example of GM pollution of organic farms from his own land in Plainfield. He had a pound of non-GM corn seeds, and planted half of them one year and got an excellent crop, but the corn from the second half of the seeds the following year was inedible. He attributed this to pollen drifting from GM corn grown a mile away.
Glyphosate is not as effective at suppressing weeds as it used to be, as weeds have developed resistance to it. So industry has encouraged farmers to use more, and a new combination of Glyphosate and 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange). This combination, called Enlist Duo, is now in its first growing season and will increase environmental pollution, Stockman said.
Scariest of all was his statement that there are now more prisoners in the U.S. than farmers. “That’s not a good sign,” he said.
This is the first of a series of posts from the NOFA conference. To access past posts on simplicity principles, radical frugality, living without, gardening and climate change, click on this index of more than 120 posts.