Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category

By: Tony Burnett

During the early years of our marriage while my trophy wife, Robin, and I were raising our five lovely children, we owned a Volkswagen Vanagon (Microbus). Natural law dictates that if you drive a microbus you MUST display bumper stickers. I had several but one of my favorites stated “It’s still not weird enough for me.” Yeah, I’m one of those guys as many who read my column have probably determined. I would officially like to retract that bumper sticker. The world has gotten so weird in so many ways that it boggles the mind. Since I generally write about the environment and agriculture let me stick with AG today.

I am not as vehemently opposed to GM (genetically modified) crops as some people. I can see where artificially increasing the sugar and carbon content of, say, corn or switchgrass could be beneficial to producing alternative fuels. The problem with GM strains is cross pollination. Most people in the world do not want to consume GM food. The European Union outlaws GM products in the food chain as does New Zealand and several other enlightened countries. My opposition to genetic modification is that it is rarely done to improve the taste or nutritional value of the crop. Okay, there is the spinach genes that have successfully been spliced onto pigs at Kinki (I kid you not!) University in Japan. They are into the second generation of delicious, nutritious (green?) pork. For the most part though GM crops address some resistance to pesticide or herbicide. Obviously we have not learned our lesson from the antibiotic fiasco because now we are creating super resistant strains of pests and weeds. So what is commercial agriculture’s answer? Stronger pesticides and herbicides of course. Now you see why I’m yanking off that bumper sticker. Maybe we should not blame the seed developers. We should do the culturally acceptable thing and blame their mothers. After all, the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkley has determined that prenatal exposure to ganophosphate, a pesticide commonly used on food crops, can lower a child’s IQ by 5.5 to 7 points depending on the level of exposure.

For years I have avoided corn products whenever possible. Almost any corn product that you don’t grow yourself is going to contain GM kernels. It is unavoidable. Instead of corn oil for cooking and salad dressing I used canola oil. It handled heat well and had a pleasant flavor. Now Bayer and DuPont have teamed up to produce a GM rapeseed for processing into canola oil that has a much higher tolerance to herbicide. End result? Canola oil saturated with herbicide. Amazed? Appalled? Oh, it gets better!

The United States Department of Agriculture announced in April that it intended to allow the GMO biotech industry to perform its own environmental impact studies. That reminds me, I’m going to be out of commission for a few weeks in December while recuperating from back surgery. I have been having trouble finding someone to take care of my chickens. Maybe I should ask this pack of coyotes that live down by the creek. I’m sure they will give it their undivided attention.

So anyway, I’ve said my piece, or as my beautiful daughter would say, ranted enough. Let me get back to watching the revolution on television.