All About GMO

Twin Oaks Farm will keep you informed about GMO or Genetically Modified Foods!

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By now you probably read about the latest study, from the Criigen (Comité de recherche et d’information indépendant sur le génie génétique) at Univiserty of Caen in France. If not below you will find different links to either a resume or the full study.

I have been vocal against GMOs for years, long before I started this farm. This study, already vilified by the pro- GMOs, is one of the first long term study of not only the genetic modification impact but also the intense use of the pesticide Roundup. We are talking here about the pesticide the most used in the world !!!

It is very often falsely assumed that GMO crop is just pest resistant when actually it is resistant to the herbicide used. I am no scientist but around here, for the last 4 years,  I have been fortunate to live pretty close to Nature, letting Her be Herself ... NO pesticide, NO gmo, NO herbicide … and you know what ?? Nature basically has her shit together… She will grow or outgrow what she needs, deal with too much or too little water … etc etc … so somewhere somehow, again no scientist here, the fact that we (human) transplant a gene into a plant to make the said plant resistant to some chemical herbicide and create something Nature never thought of …. Honestly basic common sense is telling me NO and I do not need any study to convince me one way or the other !! Yes the “appropriate” media will ridicule the study, what I will remember is the picture of those little rats with tumors bigger than their head and they got it eating genetically modified corn sprayed with Roundup !!!

You will read the study the results are scary at best … in the meantime the same study is reported very differently in the European press. It is interesting to know that most of the study was paid for by “the grande distribution” or what we would call in English major food distributors !!! yes they are scared of being trapped into another food scandal.  Most European countries either forbid or have an ongoing moratorium against GMO’s crop, still they can import food containing gmo’s ingredients as long as they are labeled, they can also import animal feed containing gmo’s which said animals will then have to be labeled as fed with GMOs. Several governments have reacted to the study and are taking it seriously.

In this country all processed conventional food contains some form of GMO’s either from corn (95% of the production is genetically modified) or from soy (98% of the production is genetically modified) or beet sugar (96% of the production is genetically modified) etc etc … Because here the use of genetically modified ingredients does not need to be labeled you have no way to know !!!! as for the use of Roundup : you just don’t know … may be yes may be not … or when food become a roulette !!!

The ONLY way you know you are not getting GMO’s and/or a small splash of Roundup ??? is to buy certified organic food … Both, ingredients and use, are prohibited in organic certification … and certified organic farms are inspected and yes some large scale agro business may stretch the organic label but they still have to abide by those rules …

And we always think that just the large agro food business are stretching the label but no later than this week I got a call from someone enquiring about my eggs, to make a long story short when I asked her where she was getting her eggs  she mentioned “it’s not organic but it’s like organic” !!! Let me be really clear here it is either certified organic or it is not organic, “like organic” is not a label and is just misleading you … One of the upfront difference in this particular case is going to be the feed those chickens are getting: in a “like organic” situation , they are getting conventional genetically modified grains, yes they may be outside but that is not enough to make them organic !!! … Eggs from a certified organic farm comes from chicken fed certified organic feed, NO gmo’s No roundup: it is your guaranty !!! …

The most common comment I get about organic is price related … so yes organic cost more and we can have a long conversation why but it's getting late so in the meantime start to ask yourself why cheap food is so cheap (and actually is it really that cheap??) … when you see pictures of those rats (note that the quantities eaten by the rats are similar to the quantities eaten by humans in a “north american” diet (sic) !!) just imagine the cost of healthcare …

Be an informed consumer, get informed about genetically modified food, just stop buying it and with the money saved on unhealthy processed food you will be surprised how much good wholesome food you can buy. Start to grow a small garden, cook … yes spend time in the kitchen … and yes it may request a review of your budget apportionment  …

The more I grow/raise Real Food the more I am convinced of its total direct impact on our health …

Article on the study

The full report in English:

French review of the study :



Good movies to watch on the subject are "The future of food" and "The world according to Monsanto".

Not only GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) is bad for your health but the way the system works it will kill all seeds diverty .... hereafter is a copy of an interview with Claire Hope Cummings as it appear in the Ethicurean.


Why Monsanto & GMOs Pose a Mortal Threat to Seed & Crop Biodiversity

  • Defender of the seeds: Q&A with Claire Hope Cummings, author of Uncertain Peril
    By Bonnie P.
    The Ethicurean, June 30, 2008
    Straight to the Source

An environmental lawyer for 20 years, including four spent with the USDA, Claire Hope Cummings reports regularly on agriculture and the environment; she has also farmed in California and in Vietnam.

We chatted recently about her new book, Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds , for the current issue of Edible San Francisco. This is an extended version of that interview.

What motivated you to write this argument against the use of genetic technologies in agriculture?

Because GMOs (genetically modified organisms) don't seem like an immediate personal threat, their risks to our health and the environment are fairly subtle. They're real; they're just not the kind you see on the evening news. There's a lot of information about those risks already available. I wrote the book because I'm very concerned with the political and moral aspects of the technology. As a public-interest lawyer I was appalled to learn how this was invented and imposed on us. We were never given a choice. There's a whole matrix of control involved, from the biological level - the way they are engineered - to the social level, how they are being imposed on people and nature.

Let's start with the biological. Why do you call genetic technology the "defining moral issue of our time"?

Because it dismantles the basic integrity of the natural world. It's so short-sighted. We don't know enough about the biological world to know what we're doing, and we haven't agreed on an ethical framework for these technologies.

But isn't the technology itself morally neutral?

Like all tools, technology simply extends the hand of man. But we forget that that hand is connected to the head and the heart. So how it is manipulated is part of the technology. We can talk about science as a set of different tools of inquiry, that can be a little less value-laden, but technology is never anything but a tool that is connected to a value.

Genetically modifying a plant severs its relationship to its evolutionary course, and inserts into it, by force - using a gene gun or bacteria - some human idea of what the plant should do. The technology is limited both by its violent nature and our imagination. We're rearranging the molecular structure of these plants because we think we know how this plant should be used. Why, instead of breeding plants with traditional methods and relying on the plant's own carefully created system for say, drought resistance, would you use a much more expensive, unpredictable process like genetic engineering?

Because of patents. So you can own it. I mean, given all these great tools, what did Monsanto come up with? Herbicide-resistant soybeans to sell more of its chemicals. Most GMOs are plants that don't die when sprayed with a lethal herbicide, or ones that exude insecticide. That's Monsanto's idea of how to use nature to make money.

The point of GMOs is control over seeds for profit.

Which brings us to the social control aspect.

Yes, the ownership issue. For example, Monsanto owns so much of the world's cotton seed supply now that cotton farmers cannot get conventional [non-GM] seed. It is simply not offered. Monsanto also tells farmers they can't save seeds, reuse them, or even study them. This is the time-honored heart of agriculture. Seeds have always adapted themselves to a specific place and climate. Now, just when we need more food, more adaptability and natural diversity, millions of dollars' worth of seeds are being thrown away because of biotech industry contracts.

Playing devil's advocate, when this was getting started, no one made farmers buy biotech seeds. And they can still save their own seeds, right?

If they grow open-pollinated, non-hybrid crops. So yeah, your average organic farmer growing certain crops can save their seeds, yes, but I'm talking about the dominant agricultural system. It's like saying people smoke because they really like it, not because of advertising or addiction. Agriculture is not a free market, and the reason that farmers have adopted biotechnology is because they have been absolutely desperate - until just recently until prices went up - for some competitive edge. And the reason biotechnology gives them a competitive edge is because they can spray herbicides over the top, and that's a labor-saving device. A competitive edge in agriculture has always been about labor. That's why the tractor took over from the mule. That's why the plow took over from the hand-drill. It's always been about maximizing the labor in your field. And biotechnology crops provide farmers with a slight edge when it comes to labor.

So if Roundup Ready plants are save labor and require less herbicides, aren't those good things?

I did not say they used fewer herbicides. In fact, studies have shown that not only do Roundup Ready crops produce about 10% less in terms of their production - and the reason is, that when you ask a plant not to die by spraying it with a lethal herbicide, the plant has to make a tradeoff between its productivity and that trait - but the studies have also shown that the amount of herbicides being used on these crops is enormous. It's much greater than farmers growing the same varieties conventionally. This is USDA data, this is land-grant university peer-reviewed data, not some partisan study.

This commercial technology - let's make sure we make clear we're not talking about science, but a product like any other product. They've positioned themselves as if they are operating in the public interest. They've sold the public and farmers and the agriculture departments a bill of goods, that this commercial product somehow makes them equal to public plant-breeders and those working on other issues involving things like hunger. Roundup Ready crops are a commercial product just like their pesticides. And like the pesticides, they would not survive if they weren't being subsidized.

There is no free market in agriculture in this country. So questions about why farmers adopt these plants, these particular seeds, have to be understood in the context of the fact that this is being completely controlled by the Farm Bill, which just passed and will continue to give billions of dollars of subsidies to commodity crops that are genetically engineered. It's what I call "zombie agriculture." Take away those life-support subsidies of money and chemicals, and this technology dies. Because it can't compete with biological agriculture.

Really this is all about who controls our food supply, isn't it?

Yes. Is food going to be something the public maintains as at the center of our personal and political decision-making, or will we just continue to hand it over to either private corporations, which have a completely different set of interests in mind, or to the government, which is now aligned with these private interests? That's what we have now. How are we doing so far? I'd say the sorry state of public health and the environment shows our food system is not healthy.

When Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he called it "the People's Department." The USDA used to send seeds out free every year to gardeners and farmers all over America. The democratic underpinnings of our food system have been dismantled.

We've already lost most of our seeds. There are about 50K plants in the world that could be edible. About 150 have commercial value. About 40 of those are cultivated regularly around the world. But only four - wheat, rice, corn, soy - make up most of our basic food supply. The FAO has estimated that over the last hundred years, we've lost 75 percent of our agricultural genetic diversity within that context. If you look at corn for instance, there might be 85,000 subvarieties in Oaxaca, but they're not being grown and they're not really part of our food supply. When you look at the forces reducing this genetic diversity, its partly an environmental problem - the overall reduction of biodiversity - but a big part of it is private ownership, industrial agriculture and the way it operates.

But if these varieties are working for us, surely that means they're the best seeds for the job?

That's a typical culinary orientation to food. The way I come at food is from our environment - the natural world and how it supports us more generally. We need agricultural diversity because it maintains the health of even those few plants that we rely on. You could say that 100 varieties of corn might be just fine. But if you only grew those 100 varieties, you would end up with pests, because the natural word has a way of designing resistant pests. So that crop would fail and you wouldn't have the genes that we need. Better that we should have 100,000 varieties of corn that are resistant to wind, drought, rust, aphids, whatever the particular problem is. You have to see the basic plants that keep us all alive in relation to the natural world.

So genetic diversity is kind of our insurance against future problems.

That's a symptomatic way of describing its value. Diversity is the basis of resiliency in the natural world, and that applies to all plants and animals. We need it even more now that we have these environmental threats. The industrial food system has put all its eggs in one basket. It has emphasized uniformity and technology, particularly genetic technologies and chemical technologies, and neither of those are very well adapted to those threats we're facing.

Seeds are us, I hate to use that corporate expression, but it's true: all flesh is grass. Seeds are what we as a species have depended on for our food system and what has allowed us to develop all this great technology and so called civilization that we have. That relationship is as important as any relationship that we have.

Talk to me about the tripod you write about, of "people, plants, and place."

That's my favorite way of discussing what we need to return to, what we need to build a productive agriculture on. True productivity, fertility, and health are based on those three things, and all of them are under huge duress right now. We have to go back to understanding that productivity is more an ecological question and more whole-farm based, looking at the whole farm, the soil. It's about biodiversity and even the larger human community in and around that farm

What can we do?

We can save seeds. It doesn't matter which ones. Calendula is a really pretty, very hardy flower, very generous with its seeds - so easy to save. Have fun and plant stuff. Kids like to see things grow; radishes are easy kid plants. There are so many easy ways to honor our relationship with plants. It's sort of like a prayer. You may not want to be a priest, rabbi, or the Dalai Lama, but you can have a simple daily prayer of caring for a plant through its entire cycle, and participate in the generosity and integrity of the natural world by growing food and sharing it. It's a practical spirituality that keeps us grounded in place and community, while giving us the enormous privilege of assisting in the regenerative capacity of the earth.

What it comes down to is whether or not we are going to be allowed to feed ourselves and make informed choices about how we do that - to live in our biological and social reality, which is that people, plants, and place were meant to be working together.