Friday, February 10, 2012

Added to, Continuing to... Hack my way through the GMO Jungle

So... This is my final list of questions. It hasn't changed much so I am just adding it to this post.

I will be meeting with Jim Gerritsen next week sometime.  I am waiting for him to let me know.  He's at another interview.  Very smart and busy man.  I am really looking forward to this!

The reason that I was inspired to ask Jim Gerritsen for his help was because I was getting alot of questions from friends that I felt inadequately prepared to answer.  I was also finding conflicting information as I searched for the answers myself.

What is interesting to note is that prior to my first blog on this issue I was getting alot of questions.  Since my blog post which invited questions that can be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience to answer, I have only gotten one question.

I'm not sure why that is... I just thought I would put out it out there.

Personally I find all your questions and information very helpful.  We all have our view on this subject and getting yours helps me to address questions for myself, that I haven't previously thought of.

So... given the current silence I thought I would post the questions that I have so far.  I am going ahead with this because I know it will be helpful for me.  I pray, that in the end, it will also be helpful for others.

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how/why you became involved in this controversial issue.
  2. Why did you choose organic farming as opposed to conventional farming methods?
  3. Do you live/eat organically?  What are the problems or pit falls that you have encountered and how have you solved them in your own life?
  4. Explain for the average person, What is a GMO and how is it different from previous seed modification processes?
  5. Why did they start modifying seed this way?  Are there any good or healthy reasons for doing this?
  6. Is there reliable proof that GMO's are physically unhealthy or dangerous?
  7. Besides health consequences, are there other compelling reasons to oppose genetically modified crops/food.
  8. Why is all the negative focus on Monsanto and what other companies are there that Genetically Modify seeds/plants?
  9. Pro GMO talks alot about being the solution to starvation.  Why is this true or false?  What do you believe is the answer to starvation in the world? (I know this is very broad but I hear this alot, Why is Africa Starving and Why are Monsanto's GM crops Not the answer?  What is the answer in your opinion?)
  10. It is commonly said: I don't like GMO's but I can not afford organic food.  What is your response to this?
  11. How can a lower income person or family eliminate GMO's from their food?
  12. How are "Organic" grocery store foods different then other foods in the grocery store.
  13. If I switch to buying organic ingredients what kinds of things do I need to be aware of, such as... Do organic ingredients/products spoil faster?
  14. As a life style we are use to going to the grocery store to meet our food needs.  Many are concerned about the GMO issue but say things like.  I don't have time to think about it or change.  I don't have access to enough organics because I live in a rural community where it is not available. There are no Farmers Markets or No Winter Markets in my area.  How do you respond to this?  How should we change?  Are these kinds of changes practical or possible given our current busy lifestyles?
  15. What options do renters or people who can not grow their own have?
  16. When and where did they start modifying seed/crops?
  17. What seeds/plants are being modified?
  18. Besides processed food, what in our grocery stores is likely or possibly genetically modified (what veggies)?
  19. Are any Meat sources or Fish being genetically modified?
  20. Besides the commodity crops, what garden seeds or plants are being genetically modified.
  21. Define: Organic seed/gardening, conventional seed/gardening, Heirloom seed/plants, open pollinated seed/plants, Hybrid seed/plants.
  22. I have heard that people who try to switch to organic seeds/plants and gardening methods have had poor results.  Why do you think that is?  What can I do to protect myself from that?
  23. What do I need to be careful of when purchasing my garden seeds or plants this year.  Should I be wary of my past sources (including Amish sources) of plants and seeds?
  24. What questions should I ask my current garden supply source to be sure I am getting what I want.
  25. Why are Seed Companies who are opposed to GMO's still using companies they are opposed to as a source for seed?
  26. I want to grow from seed for the first time.  How can I ensure success without spending a fortune for equipment and supplies to get my seeds to sprout and grow?
  27. What should I be planting if I want to save my seeds?
  28. Do I need to change how I garden if I want to save my seeds, ie: do I need to worry about distance when planting similar things like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash.
  29. How do you store seeds and how long can they be stored?
  30. How should I make sure my soil is where it needs to be to grow without chemical support?
  31. Are there any reliable and simple sources of information for gardening naturally and without chemical support?
  32. You say our current food system is broken.  Is this issue wider then the GMO issue?  How?  If you could solve the problem, what would be your solution?
  33. If you are looking for information on this issue how can you determine if the information you are receiving is reliable?
  34. This is not a new issue.  why are there still so many who do not know about it?
  35. Some people do know that an issue exists but are not concerned.  Why is this and why should they be?
  36. Many people view this anti-GMO or "Green" movement as Doomsday and False as well as unnecessarily scary and negative.  How do you respond to this and how can we who believe in this movement do better?
I am still working on this and revising.

What do you think?  Does anyone have anything to add?

Like I previously posted;  I will take additional questions until Sunday 2/19/12 at 11:00 pm and post a final list.

Have a great day everyone!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Hacking my way through the GMO Jungle!

(My garden at rest...waiting for me to figure out what to put in it.)
Those of you who know me personally and who are "friends" with me on facebook are well aware that I am immersing myself in the battle against Genetically Modified Organism's (GMO's) in our food system.

I have no right to claim that I have the answers to this complicated problem.  I am a beginner... a learner... and a human on planet Earth who is concerned. 

I am on a journey to discover how I can take some of my specific concerns and find REAL and honest solutions I can apply to my own life.  I don't like what I see with respect our nations food system.  Yet like it or not; I participate in it.  I make choices one side or the other each and every time I go to the grocery store.  I have been almost completely disconnected from the aspects of "food" that happen prior to it reaching my fridge.  For me, this is no longer something that I am comfortable with. I need to do something different.

I am blogging about this not because I am trying to convince a GMO advocate to change their mind...not here anyway.  Besides, I'm not really qualified...yet.  I am blogging about it because I have been receiving response's to some of my facebook posts that let me know I am not alone in my concerns.  I am not alone in my desire to find some truthful answers to questions that I have.  I am not alone in my desire to make some personal changes. I am not alone in my CONFUSION.

So I am on a mission to find some answers that I can be comfortable with.  Answers which will allow me to take some steps to change my connection... or rather, disconnection to the food that I bring into my home.

Winter is the time that I make plans for my garden.  Traditionally I pull out my gardening books and graph paper and figure out what I am planting and where.  I read about the things I want to plant and I even work out pretty planting patterns.  It passes the time for me and keeps me busy during those cold months while I suffer with "Cabin Fever".

In the past I have taken full advantage of the local garden shops.  Right before planting time I take a trip on down to the store.  I buy a bunch of seeds from the racks and I load up my trunk with tomato plants, cucumber plants, pepper plants and so on and so on.  You know what I mean, I sure many of you do something similar.

This year in light of what I am learning, I am attempting to make some changes in this area of my life.  I do not feel safe with my arbitrary buying habits, nor do I want to support GM ingredients in my food. These thoughts have me changing the way I think about my garden.  It is no longer just something that I am doing just for the fun of it or because I love the taste of those yummy summer veggies.  For me it has become much more serious.  I now wish to grow as much as I can, as well as I can, to support my produce needs throughout the year. I want to change the way I shop so that I am not bringing GMO's into my house.  Food containing GM ingredients is not labeled so it isn't always easy to know what I want to buy and what I don't.  I cant really afford to go to the store and buy all organic even though I really wish I could.  Even if I could afford to go all organic the options in my local grocery store are limited, so in a way they would be "token" purchases that don't really serve my needs.

Searching for answers, I am swimming through gobs and gobs of information floating around on the Internet.  I am posting information and questions on my facebook page and am getting well meaning responses and more information and... questions.  I am on information overload yet continuing to seek answers for my questions that I can trust. Conflicting information is EVERYWHERE.

I am finding that I have multiple answers to my ever increasing list of questions...and they conflict.

Recently from my desire to get involved I have become acquainted with a Maine Organic Farmer who lives not far from me.

This morning I sent him this email...


OK so... I have a dilemma and I am not sure how to solve it. What is becoming clear to me is that there is a huge gap in real knowledge going on. There are people who have knowledge and then...tons of people who are very concerned and want to understand more. Then... there is gobs and gobs of information on the Internet and no way of knowing what is true and what is not.

One of the things that has in the past made me a decent "problem solver" is that when presented with a problem, I tried to attack it from both ends. This law suit (and the general fight against Monsanto) is, in my mind anyway, one end. It is an important end but I'm not sure the problem will go away unless there is also an attack at the beginning of the problem. The beginning of the problem is... ME (and many others just like me). I am thinking that if this problem is attacked from both ends maybe the middle will eventually be resolved. This method of attacking a problem has worked for me in the past and although it may be a bit oversimplified where this issue is concerned I want to give it a shot. I'm sure this in not a novel idea and that there are many fighting the same fight but in "my" world I am running low on reliable answers. I am so confused about how to tackle this problem in my own life and because I have been posting stuff all over facebook many of my friends are coming to me with questions and concerns that I do not feel qualified to answer. Which is why I am coming to you...reluctantly. I am reluctant because I am concerned about you and your valuable time. It was very clear to me on the days that we met in person that you are being stretched very thin. One human can only be stretched so far. But I don't know where else to go at the moment.

So here is my proposal... If you are unwilling or unable I certainly understand but maybe you would be willing to pass to me a person who is willing.

I was thinking that I would take a week and get all my friend to get their questions together. I could organize these questions and then interview you. Afterward I would blog my results. Many of the questions that I have and that I am getting pertain to things that are probably very "basic" to you. they are coming from people like mothers, basic home gardeners who are afraid to buy seeds or trust where they have traditionally gotten their seeds or plants in the past, people who are afraid to "go organic" because they fear they will get NO produce from their gardens, even some people from the "small farm" world who question what is out there that is genetically modified and what is not ...and much more.

I firmly believe that problems like this (again, probably a bit oversimplified) begin and end with the consumer. I as a consumer didn't have time, energy or interest in producing the food in my fridge so I left it to "someone else"..... time, time... time, passes and Monsanto makes a buck serving my desire or need not to be involved. "I" have no skill to remove this "link" from the chain.

I "the consumer" have let it go too far! but to get back to a real "productive" relationship to "the seed" is a journey that takes more knowledge then I and many of my friends have. In a way it is a dying art that needs to be revived... in me..."the consumer". We need to know how to take the first steps as consumers to truly support a move...from what we are accustomed to, a lifestyle that supports "Big Ag." to something that is more "sustainable" and better for our lives and families and the planet.

So...let me know if you are able to help me. Even a name and contact info of someone who's knowledge you trust who would be willing would be a huge help. In a way this is a time sensitive request because I am finding that I am not alone in my hesitation to purchase or plan this seasons garden. I want to do it better then in the past and am afraid to make the wrong choices... for the right reasons.

Thanks for hearing me out.

His response to me was... Yes, No problem.

For your information "he" is Jim Gerritsen, of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater Maine.

Here is a little information that I have copied directly from his Wood Prairie Farms facebook page.

We are a small Certified Organic family farm in the State of Maine that market our products, and those of a number of other Certified Organic farmers that we know and trust, directly to our customers through our print catalog and webstore. Our modest scale allows us to focus on producing high quality organic goods for you and your family. We tend to your needs with great care. We know that its your business and goodwill that keeps us in business and for that we are grateful. So let us be part of your kitchen and your garden, by supplying you with good food and good seed.

Here is a link to Wood Prairie Farm's web site :

He is also President of OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) which is currently involved in a preemptive law suit against Monsanto, attempting to protect farmers from Monsanto's tactics of suing farmers who, through no fault of their own, find their crops contaminated.

Here is a link to the OSGATA web site if you are interested in learning more about the lawsuit.

He has graciously offered to give me an hour of his valuable time in which to answer some of our questions.  It is not my intention to engage him in a political debate.  I want answers to questions that I have.  I want them from someone who has the experience and knowledge to answer them.

He has the experience and knowledge that I am looking for, from an "organic" and "anti-transgenic agriculture" point of view.

I invite you to join me in asking questions.  Submit your questions by way of commenting on this blog post. If you desire more privacy with your questions, comment your email address and we can communicate via email... or if we are facebook friends already you can post your questions on my facebook page.  In my mind NO question is a dumb one!  In many respects it is the simple more practical questions that I am interested in. 

I will be open for you to submit your question until Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm.

On Monday, February 13 I will organize and compose a list of questions which I will post on this blog site Wednesday, February 15.  At that time I will also post the date of the interview. 

ASAP after the interview I will blog his responses. 

I encourage you to contribute your questions.

I have not fully composed my questions yet but I will give you an idea where my head is going.

What exactly is the difference between (or meaning of) "Organic" "Hybrid" "Heirloom" "Open Pollinated"?  What do you recommend for people who cant afford organic seed?  What do you recommend for families who are concerned about this issue, don't have time to garden and cant afford organic food at the store?  When gardening with "organic" seed what kinds of things do I need to do to ensure a good result?  Is gardening with organic seed different then what I get off the rack in the store?  What are the things I need to be careful of if I want to purchase a seed that is not "certified organic"?  If gardening with seed for the first time how can I best get my seeds to sprout and grow without spending a fortune on supplies?  If saving seeds for the first time what kinds of things do I need to know, be careful of and what are some good resources for information?  If I want to save my own seeds what do I buy and where should I buy them? What garden/vegetables seeds are on the market that have been genetically modified... and then the same question for produce in the grocery store.

I could go on and on but at least you know where I am headed.

I will ask all questions big or small as long as I have time.  Although as I previously stated; I am not interested in engaging him in a political debate or, in challenging his beliefs or point of view on this subject.  He gets plenty of that I would guess.  There are other places and other times to engage him in that manner.  He is a very busy man... fighting for small farmers and managing his own farm so PLEASE, whatever your view... be respectful.  I for one am so grateful for his time!

Thank you!

I look forward to hearing from you!!


(My herb Garden with its fragrent soil.... Ahhhh, I cant wait to get my fingers in that soil.)