Juno is currently stationing direct at 14 degrees Virgo (May 1) opposite Ceres in Pisces, and I'm posting the news article I did recently on Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa and the threat it poses to the organic industry.
Included in the article is information from a scientist who studied the spread of genetically modified canola in Manitoba, Canada, and found that unintentional hybrids are being created due to the cross-pollination of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready canola variety and Bayer's LibertyLink canola variety.
Despite the fact that these issues are important to all who eat organic or care about their food supply staying GMO-free, it's very difficult to get agriculture and food issues into mainstream media sources. For the most part, stories like these are considered "special interest" and generally only of interest to farmers (?!?).
I approached about forty daily and weekly newspapers in Manitoba and got the story published only once - in a newspaper in a small Manitoba town of less than 3,000 people.
I found my Juno in Virgo Mercurial "soul mate" in the editor there (named Ed!) who just happened to be running a special agriculture (Ceres) issue at the time that my query e-mail crossed his inbox. There's some of that Piscean flow we all know and love.
From what I can see, Ed is a rare breed - a small-town newsman who still cares enough to write his own copy and to publish pertinent articles written by other local journalists and writers, rather than just pulling stuff off the wire to fill space. I thank him for getting this story out to his readership and wish more papers had. A longer article will be coming out in a different paper in June, and I will post that one, as well:
A stalled motion in Canadian Parliament regarding a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) alfalfa could have the non-GM and organic agriculture industries hanging in the balance.
On March 3, 2011, a motion was tabled by Liberal members of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee calling for a moratorium on the approval of genetically modified alfalfa in Canada. The vote on the moratorium was delayed March 11 by the Harper Conservatives, who support further expansion into genetically modified crops, leaving it up in the air as the country heads to an election.
U.S.-based multi-national agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto is currently attempting to make its Roundup Ready alfalfa the first genetically modified perennial planted in North America. Roundup Ready alfalfa is genetically modified to withstand glyphosate, a herbicide sold under the Monsanto brand name Roundup.
After a five-year court battle, Monsanto’s GM alfalfa was authorized for sale in the U.S. by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 27, 2011. Additional lawsuits were launched against the USDA March 18, 2011 by groups including the Center for Food Safety and the National Family Farm Coalition, challenging the authorization and stalling the sale and planting of the alfalfa.
Priscilla Reimer, organic inspector and President of the Manitoba Organic Alliance, says the production of GM alfalfa in Canada is a huge threat to organic agriculture and is opposed by Manitoba's 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."
Reimer says genetically modified crops are already contaminating non-GM crops due to the lack of sufficient regulation framework from upper governmental levels, including no separation within the system and no labelling.
Reimer says non-organic corn, canola and soybeans are so cross-contaminated by GMO versions at this point that it is virtually impossible, once they have been put into the supply chain, to guarantee they are GMO-free. Unless these crops are 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. So when the farmers take it to the elevator, it all goes into the same bin. 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."
Anneliese Schoppe and her family farm outside Poplar Point, one hour west of Winnipeg, producing beef, eggs and heirloom vegetable seedlings up to organic standards.
Schoppe says her family works hard to keep its animal feed GMO-free, growing its own organic hay, and a test plot of Monsanto alfalfa 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?"
According to Alexis Knispel Kanu, who did her PhD doctoral work on the spread of GM canola, buffer fields are not enough to stop the spread of genetically modified seeds. From 2004 until 2007, Knispel Kanu studied canola plants growing outside field habitat where they had not been planted, in ditches, for example, in order to determine genetic make-up and how 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.
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 the 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's found that the genetically modified canola plants she studied from the escape populations had also 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 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.
April 13, 2011 - Ceres in Pisces, GM Alfalfa and the Neptunian Permeation of the Seed Supply