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Krupp: GMOs

I've often heard it said that families that sit down together for an evening meal have lots to talk about. And recently, when I was having supper with friends, the family's young daughter raised the question, "why don't we have a right to know what's in our food." I wasn't surprised since I know how inquisitive she is and how much she likes to ask questions. And the fact is that her question is being asked today by many people across the country, especially when it comes to genetically modified ingredients.

In order the understand the question of just what's in our food, it's necessary to go back in time and study the history of the bio-tech giant, Monsanto. In its early days, Monsanto helped pioneer pesticides like DDT, PCB's, and Agent Orange. Then the company turned its attention to the production of the world's food supply. Since then, Monsanto has created genetically modified seed corn, soybeans, canola, cotton and sugar beets. Their plan is to do the same for apples, alfalfa, tomatoes, salmon and wheat.

In another bid to dominate the world's food business, Monsanto began buying out their biggest seed competitors to the tune of $12 billion dollars. The result was that seed prices soared. Between 1995 and 2001, the cost of soybeans increased by 325 percent. The jump was so great that a study by Charles Benbrock, a research professor at Washington State University, found that the increasing cost of genetically engineered seed and pesticides were in fact lowering farm incomes. While genetically modified seeds cost the farmer more, studies by the Union of Concerned Scientists have found only minimal increases in yield.

What's more, Monsanto is making a determined effort to increase sales of Roundup - the pesticide that kills weeds, but not the corn or soybeans that have been genetically engineered to resist it.  But according to forty percent of farmers surveyed in one report, resistant weeds are up 34 percent from a year ago.

It's said that 75 to 85 percent of all non-organic processed foods that line our grocery shelves contain genetically modified ingredients. In Vermont most of the soybean and corn crops grown to feed dairy cows come from GMO seeds. In 2013, 37 labeling bills were introduced in 26 states, including Vermont and Maine - seeking to require all genetically modified ingredients included in food products to be clearly labeled. Monsanto threatened to take the Green Mountain State to court if the bill went through.

Lance Harvell, a republican state representative from Maine, likes to paraphrase a line from Genesis this way: "God gave the seed to the earth and fruit to the tree," he says. But then Harvell concludes, "Notice it didn't say he granted Monsanto a patent."

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay. His most recent book is titled: Lifting The Yoke - Local Solutions To America's Farm And Food Crisis.
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