by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer at Natural News. shared with thanks
The dominance of GMOs in agriculture today is not based on their free market success. GMOs are prevalent because governments around the world subsidize these seeds, forcing small holders to introduce them. In this way, governments routinely assist biotech corporations in the takeover of a nations’ agriculture and farmer’s seed sovereignty. Of course, it’s all done under the guise of “feeding the world!” But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, observations in Africa have found that smallholders in South Africa are actually burdened by genetically modified maize, which was forced on them through government program interventions starting in 2001. A paper in the South African Journal of Science by researchers Klara Fischer, Johnnie van den Berg and Charles Mutengwa found that South African smallholders would benefit more from a diverse selection of seed that is suitable to various growing conditions and changing pest pressures.
The research shows that non-GMO private initiatives are actually helping South African farmers access a wide range of maize seed that fits their ecological preferences and climate circumstances. This is ultimately providing greater food security, the paper points out.
GM Bt maize decreases yields because it is not suited for various conditions that smallholders have to deal with
Bt maize is genetically engineered to produce insecticidal proteins. Lab workers design the seed to increase its resistance to the African maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) and the Chilo borer (Chilo partellus). These pests can cause crop damage and hurt farmers’ overall production. However, GM Bt maize was originally created for use in large-scale chemical-intensive farming. It has little use for smallholders in South Africa. because is is so expensive.
GM maize is twice the price of popular non-GM hybrids and five times the price of open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) of seed. Because of this, smallholders must depend on government-sponsored intervention which subsidizes the rates. As smallholders are forced to participate in this scheme, the corporation that designed the seed profits no matter what. The biotech corporation profits even when smallholders struggle with yields due to varying climate and pest changes.
This one-size-fits-all chemical intensive approach to farming is also unnecessary and even catastrophic during specific seasons when the pestilence of the stem borer pests is at a natural low point. Between seasons at specific farming sites, pest pressure can fluctuate. Forcing expensive Bt maize on small holders can have a counterproductive effect if the pest pressure is low and cheaper open pollinated varieties could have better been used.
The input costs of introducing Bt maize may swallow farmers’ returns, putting them in the hole unnecessarily. Smallholders that are strapped already may be forced to pay more for expensive GM seed during years when pest pressure was low to begin with. All the while, the corporation that designed the seed grows richer and gains control over them.
The research found that OPVs are better adapted to smallholders’ agro-ecologies, changes in rain fall, and farmers’ storage conditions. The open-pollinated varieties can better adapt to the environment and the weather, giving smallholders better control over their region. (High yields of Bt maize are only possible when the weather conditions are right, including timely rain, perfect storage condition and fertilization.)
Also, when smallholders begin planting Bt maize, they must also plant a refuge of non-Bt maize next to their Bt crop, allowing an alternative feeding ground for the stem borers. This seems counterproductive and a slap in the face to native farmers. Not surprisingly, many smallholders do not comply with this method.
Open-pollinated seed varieties replacing GMOs and having greater success in South Africa
Farmers don’t deserve enslavement. Reintroducing OPVs of seed to small holders is proving to be absolutely essential to freeing their production, increasing their yields, and providing greater food security. The South African government is now working with the Agricultural Research Council and Grain Crops Institute to certify OPV maize that is more suitable to farmers’ unique circumstances.
Now the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center is helping smallholders with a breeding program called Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa. This movement is helping farmers access several stress-tolerant natural varieties of maize seeds. These non-GMO seeds have traits that are suited for individual farmers’ circumstances, including resistance to major diseases, low nitrogen in the soil, and drought conditions. These non-GMO seeds have a better variety of traits that may include tolerance to poor storage conditions, availability for early maturation and the ability to be processed at home.
These open-pollinated varieties not only are providing better yields in various situations but are outperforming GM seeds and hybrids. While hybrids’ year-to-year yields drop, yields of OPVs are more stable. This provides greater food security down the long haul, helping farmers be less dependent on corporations for their yearly (expensive) seed.
Sources for this article include
Top 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs
If you don’t know whether or not you’re eating genetically modified organisms, you’re not alone—at least in the U.S. Despite the many petitions and appeals for state or federal regulations on labeling foods that contain GMOs, none have passed. And that means companies still don’t have to disclose whether or not a product includes genetically modified organisms. What’s the big deal, you ask?
More than 60 countries require GMO labeling (or ban GMOs altogether) for a number of reasons. While there are many, these are some of the most common concerns:
1. Are they safe? Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow—they’ll all tell you their GMO products have met safety requirements, but the truth is, long term studies haven’t been done on their impact to the human body. USDA approval requires several processes that prove safety, but GMOs have only been in our diet since the mid-’90s, so it’s difficult to know what the long-term health impacts truly are.
2. Known health risks: What we do know is that when genetic modification happens, genes are forced to express certain traits (including pesticides). To do this, the scientists “turn on” all the gene’s components, which can mean releasing allergens that would normally not be expressed in a non-GMO variety. Experts like Jeffrey Smith suggest this is directly related to the rise in health issues.
3. Heavy use of toxic pesticides and herbicides: By design, genetically modified seeds require pesticides and herbicides. While some manufacturers have claimed the pesticide use would decrease over time, it’s only increased, according to a peer-reviewed 2012 study.
4. Pesticides and digestive health: The main function of herbicides and pesticides is to kill unwanted plants and insects. Glyphosate—the most common herbicide used on GMO crops—has been shown to negatively impact the gut bacteria of humans. Jeffrey Smith’s recent film Genetic Roulette highlights the parallel of GMOs in our diet and the rise in digestive health issues and food allergies.
5. Cancer: Both pesticides and GMOs have been connected with an increased risk of certain types of cancer. There are additonal health concerns too including reproductive issues, autism and even heart disease.
6. Environmental impact: GMO crops and their companion pesticides and herbicides wreak havoc on the environment including polluting air, water and soil. Glyphosate—marketed by Monsanto as the herbicide Roundup—is in effect, an antibiotic, which can destroy soil quality and thus impair the plant’s nutritional value as well. Cross-polination between GMO and non-GMO crops is common as well, and can destroy natural plant varieties in the wild.
7. Superbugs and superweeds: Despite the claims that pesticides and GMO crops can relieve farmers of crop-destroying insects and plants, the opposite is showing to be true. Farmers in the Midwest are now battling superbugs and superweeds resistant to pesticides. They’re damaging crops and farm equipment and costing the farmers more money in having to apply heavier doses of toxic pesticides.
8. Patent issues: At the core of the GMO industry is the corporate ownership of seed and seed patents. Companies like Monsanto are notorious for suing small farmers for saving seeds or if GMO crop drift pollinates on their land.
9. Corporate protection: A few years ago, the U.S. government passed a bill nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” In essence, it grants biotech companies immunity from the courts, even if a judge determines it’s unlawful to plant GMO crops, the companies can do it anyway.
10. Prolific presence: Whether or not GMOs are safe has yet to be determined, yet every day, millions of Americans eat them unknowingly due to the lack of labeling requirements. Are you a lab rat? Don’t you at least have the right to know what you’re eating?
[Editor’s Note: If you want to eliminate unhealthy ingredients and chemical additives from your diet for good, click here to sign up for a Naturally Savvy Get Healthy Challenge.]