Asteroid goddess of grains, agriculture and fertility of the Earth Ceres is transiting the final minutes of the final degree of Pisces before dipping into Aries July 11.
Ceres stations retrograde on the zero degree of Aries July 26, re-entering Pisces retrograde August 10. It will go direct at 16 degrees Pisces November 16, re-entering Aries direct in January 2012.
The final degree of the zodiac (29 Pisces) and the first degree of the zodiac (0 Aries) are a highly symbolic zone related to the closing of one chapter and almost simultaneous opening of another. Recall that the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan were triggered as Uranus crossed this threshold March 11, 2011. (This after Japan agreed to enrich uranium for Iran early in 2010.)
With Ceres moving back and forth over this potent little expanse, the world's food supply and the planet's ability to produce food are hot themes. We get a taste of new, ramped-up directions from Big Ag as Ceres in Aries vibes within the Cardinal Grand Cross: purposefully flooded breadbaskets worldwide coincide with diminishing supplies and continued inflation on food prices, fuelling food derivatives schemes. The genetically modified onslaught continues and the corporate squeeze on the food supply tightens.
Buying organic or non-GMO food straight from farmers becomes a revolutionary act.
Monsanto's RoundUp Ready alfalfa is the next variety of crop it is attempting to have approved for commercial sale (initially in the United States), and the spread of this stuff has the ability to destroy the entire foundation of organic agriculture.
The lack of boundaries as far as the cross-pollination of GM crops, especially with a feral crop like alfalfa, is a fitting subject for the Ceres in Pisces transit. Pisces relates to the connections (often invisible) among living things/systems on this planet and how the whole can be affected by a single part.
The terrifying thing is that GM alfalfa already has approval in Canada. The Liberals approved it in 2005, slipping it through before most Canadians even had a grasp on what genetically modified crops were. Health Canada has already given GM alfalfa the green light, stating there were no safety concerns, and there have been test plots grown here ever since.
Yet, it was Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter who tabled a moratorium on the growing and sale of genetically modified alfalfa in Parliament March 10, 2011. The Harper Conservatives (then a minority government) delayed the vote heading into the election, which produced a Conservative majority May 2.
A moratorium is not a ban - it's really just a dam temporarily holding back the mass introduction of GM alfalfa into the Canadian landscape.
Reversing the 2005 approval of GM alfalfa under a pro-GMO Harper majority is going to take much more effort along with public awareness, involvement and pressure. From the notoriously apathetic, go-with-the-flow end of the sign of Pisces, those who care about what they're putting in their bodies have their work cut out for them.
What follows is an article I wrote on genetically modified alfalfa that was recently published in a local publication. I posted a shorter news article on the blog previously that I wrote for a small weekly paper on the same subject, so I apologize for the heavy rotation, but I think this is a crucially important point in the effort to keep any portion of our food supply GMO-free:
Executives from Whole Foods Market sent shock waves through their customer base with the click of a mouse this past January.
The Whole Foods Market (WFM) grocery chain, touted "natural and organic," experienced a meteoric rise from a single store in Austin, Texas in 1980 to over 300 stores, including four in Vancouver, one in Oakville and one in Toronto, by 2011. The same store that found its success selling organic and "natural" foods to people deeply distrustful of the growing glut of genetically modified (GM) fare announced to customers by e-mail that it was giving up its opposition to the widespread growing of GM crops.
The new Whole Foods' stance is one supporting "conditional deregulation," in particular of Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa. Whole Foods admitted this co-existence would potentially cause cross-contamination of non-genetically engineered alfalfa crops, in turn, contaminating livestock, dairy products and honey, but the softening of stance of those at the top of the corporate organic food chain was clear:
"The policy set for [GM] alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other [GM] crops as well. True coexistence is a must."
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa is genetically modified to withstand glyphosate, a herbicide sold under the Monsanto brand name Roundup. If authorized, Roundup Ready alfalfa would be the first genetically modified perennial planted in North America.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created when a gene from one species is transferred to another, creating in a laboratory something nature would not produce. Genes from plants, animals, insects and viruses are used to implant certain desired traits in seeds and even animals.
Although they are being grown widely (especially soybeans, corn and canola), genetically modified foods have not been proven safe for human consumption. Testing on animals has found a possible link between GMOs and organ damage, particularly liver and kidneys, as well as cancer. Genetically modified organisms spread rampantly through the seed supply, contaminating non-GMO plants and seeds irrevocably. GMOs also have the potential to damage soil and water systems. A study of genetically modified corn implanted with a toxin-producing gene that protects it from pests found that the toxin accumulated in nearby water, increasing mortality and decreasing growth in aquatic insects, which are food to animals higher up the food chain.
On January 27, 2011, after a five-year court battle, Monsanto’s GM alfalfa was authorized for sale by the United States Department of Agriculture. A second lawsuit was launched March 18, 2011 by groups including the Center for Food Safety and the National Family Farm Coalition challenging this authorization and stalling the sale and planting of the alfalfa for the time being.
Priscilla Reimer, organic inspector and president of the Manitoba Organic Alliance, says the organic industry in Manitoba opposes the policy of co-existence with GM crops. Reimer says the production of GM alfalfa, in particular, is a huge threat to the organic industry.
In addition to being used as feed for livestock, Reimer says, alfalfa is a crop often used by farmers during the three-year field transition from conventional to organic. It also becomes essential in the crop rotation once a farm is organic because, as a nitrogen-fixer, it naturally fertilizes the soil.
"If in fact [GM alfalfa is] approved, it would essentially put organic production out of business," Reimer says. "[Alfalfa] is embedded in organic production, and for that to go GMO would literally destroy the foundation of organic production."
On March 3, 2011, a motion was tabled in the Canadian Parliament calling for a moratorium on the approval of genetically modified alfalfa in Canada. The vote on the moratorium was delayed by the Harper Conservatives, who support the expansion into genetically modified organisms.
Reimer says, despite the fact that the vast majority of Canadians do not want GM foods on the shelves, this co-existence policy is being imposed upon them through the lack of a sufficient framework for regulation, separation within the system, and labelling of GMOs.
Reimer says because of this, there is simply no 100% fool-proof method for determining if food products are GMO-free. However, as far as labels go, the organic labelling system is the best we currently have. "The organic label is the only label where there is any effort made to keep certified organic products GMO-free...The organic label really is the only one consumers can rely on."
Reimer says non-organic corn, canola and soybeans are so cross-contaminated by GMO versions at this point that it would be virtually impossible, once they have been put into the supply chain, to guarantee they are GMO-free. Unless non-GMO crops are also organic and therefore kept separate, they are mixed in with GMO varieties.
"There's no effort in the system to keep GMO and non-GMO products separate...Even if there is a GMO-free product grown, by the time it's gone through the system, you are guaranteed to be eating some GMOs in those key three crops - canola, corn and soybean," Reimer says. "We have a climate in which it is virtually impossible to ensure against contamination."
Reimer recommends looking for certified organic labels as well as buying directly from farmers who are certified organic or who farm up to organic standards.
Due to cost and bureaucracy, many farmers do not certify their products but grow and raise them to organic standards.
Anneliese Schoppe and her family are among those who farm to organic standards but are not certified organic. They produce beef, eggs and heirloom vegetable seedlings.
Schoppe would like to see strict labelling of GM foods, something the Canadian government does not currently have, or a complete ban.
Schoppe says if the goal is to eliminate GMOs from food sources, developing direct relationships with farmers is beneficial.
For example, unlike at her farm, chickens are often fed feed that includes soy protein to bulk up the meat and assist in egg production. Because so many of the soybeans currently being produced are genetically modified, this can be one source of GMO contamination in food. Schoppe says if people talk to farmers directly and ask questions about products and feeding practises, there is a stronger likelihood that they can determine which products are GMO-free.
Schoppe finds the idea of co-existence with Monsanto's GM crops unsettling. She says her family works hard to keep its animal feed GMO-free, growing organic hay, and a test plot of Monsanto alfalfa in a neighbour’s field has the ability to wipe out all that hard work.
"Just because you have a buffer field in between or an acre or two doesn't mean that's going to stop the wind or insects from pollinating this GMO alfalfa crop to the next alfalfa crop and then, what's pure anymore?"
Alexis Knispel Kanu did her doctoral work on the spread of GM canola. She looked specifically at canola that was growing outside field habitat where it had not been planted, in ditches, for example.
Knispel Kanu studied these escape populations and their genetic make-up in order to determine how the genes might be spreading.
"What we found was that genetically modified traits were widely present in these escape populations of canola outside of cultivated fields where no one had planted them and there were no licenses to do the planting. They were just growing sort of like weeds in the way that seeds that get scattered grow," Knispel Kanu says.
What was even more startling about Knispel Kanu's findings was that genetically modified canola plants she studied from the escape populations had cross-pollinated with each other, creating a hybrid of Monsanto's Roundup Ready variety and Bayer's LibertyLink variety.
"Of the two GMO traits that are widely grown in Manitoba, we found both in the same plant, which is not something that is done by the companies. That's something that results from out-crossing in the field," Knispel Kanu says.
Knispel Kanu looked at landscape elements that could have contributed to the spread of the seeds outside fields. What she found was that factors like the location of elevators and traffic intensity on nearby roads contributed strongly.
"A truck going to an elevator will spill seeds inevitably, and a train being loaded will spill seeds inevitably, so those larger-scale transportation factors are contributing to the spread of these plants," Knispel Kanu says.
"That makes co-existence really challenging because it's a matter of segregating our transportation systems for these crops, not having a truck transporting GM canola through an area you're saying is GM-free. It's not just about where the crop is planted in relation to another crop. It's about how we're transporting these things through the whole landscape."
Knispel Kanu says GM alfalfa poses even more of a problem as far as cross-contamination due to it being a more feral, perennial crop that isn't dependent on cultivated environments tended by farmers to survive.
It is a group of six corporations - Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta - currently merging the world's seed supply with their genetically modified versions.
Five of the six – all but Syngenta - are chemical corporations that have only more recently gotten into the food business. All five have long histories of involvement with the military industrial complex, including chemical and nuclear warfare.
United States-based Monsanto is the most well-known of the six with its line of genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds designed to grow into plants that withstand its chemical herbicide Roundup. Monsanto is the company that brought us Agent Orange, a defoliant used to strip trees of their leaves during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange is highly toxic and carcinogenic and killed or debilitated hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people as well as soldiers during and after the Vietnam War. Exposure to Agent Orange caused widespread genetic damage and birth defects. Other products on Monsanto’s roster include saccharin, DDT, PCBs, bovine growth hormones and Aspartame.
Bayer is a German company that produced chlorine and mustard gases used in the trenches of World War I. Bayer was later enveloped by Nazi chemical and pharmaceuticals conglomerate IG Farben, along with BASF - another German chemical company trying everything to get into refrigerators and pantries. Eight hundred Canadian women are currently involved in a class action lawsuit against Bayer related to the dangerous side effects of its birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin. Bayer also manufactures the fluoroquinolone antibiotic Cipro, designed to ward off anthrax attacks, that poisoned me in December 2009. I'm still recovering. Cipro was repurposed post-anthrax scares and has become omnipresent, being prescribed widely by Canadian doctors for minor infections despite dangerous and debilitating long-term side effects.
DuPont is an American corporation now in the chemicals and plastics game but started off manufacturing gunpowder, becoming the largest supplier to the U.S. military by the mid-19th century. During World War II, DuPont produced military explosives and plutonium, playing a major role in the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atomic bomb. It is also the maker of the Kevlar vest, used in police forces around the world.
American chemical company Dow produced napalm, a chemical that clung to the skin and melted flesh, for the U.S. government during the Vietnam War. After public protests of napalm, all other companies making it stopped production, leaving Dow to reap the profits as the sole provider. Dow managed a nuclear weapons production facility from 1951 to 1975 near Denver, Colorado called Rocky Flats Plant that was involved in multiple management problems leading to radioactive leaks and contamination fires. Thousands of plant workers have died or are sick from cancers they say are caused by radiation exposure and most have had their compensation claims denied. Dow was ordered in 2008 to pay $925 million in damages to 12,000 homeowners who live downwind of the plant for plutonium contamination, but in September 2010, an appeals court threw out the award. Dow and the other company involved were indemnified by the U.S. government in the case, meaning taxpayers would have paid any judgment along with the companies' legal fees.
For Whole Foods, the newly announced co-existence policy with GMOs is more than likely a fait accompli. Ronnie Cummins, National Director for the Organic Consumers Association, an 850,000-member strong organization based in the United States, has reported that testing done by his organization of Whole Foods Market products sold as natural showed that two-thirds were contaminated with GM material. This was in contrast to the certified organic products which were uncontaminated.
GMO labelling has long been a source of confusion, frustration and anger for people who want to know exactly what they're buying and eating. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no guarantee that products labelled "natural," "green" or even "GMO-free" are indeed free of genetically modified material. Even certified organic products are no longer fool-proof.
The Strongest Defense Against Genetically Modified Foods
- Grow your own food from non-GMO seeds.
- Buy products from store shelves labelled certified organic whenever possible, which remains the best defense within the current system. According to the Organic Food Council of Manitoba, these food products must contain 95% organic ingredients, must be produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or sewage sludge and do not include genetically modified organisms. Animals raised organically are allowed access to the outdoors, are fed organically grown feed and are not given antibiotics, synthetic parasiticides or synthetic hormones. Certified organic does not mean pesticide-free as a number of natural pesticides can be used in their production. Products should read: "Certified by" a regulatory body such as the Organic Producers Association of Manitoba or the Organic Crop Improvement Association.
- Buy and eat food that has the smallest number of steps between the farmer - organic or farming to organic standards - and your plate.
- Develop a relationship with local farmers since the onus for maintaining non-GMO standards falls to the producer. Talk to farmers at farmer's markets. Ask questions about their products before buying.
- Shop at local grocery stores committed to selling organic and non-GMO products. Talk to store employees and ask questions about products.
- Avoid processed foods unless they are labelled certified organic.
- Avoid fast food.