Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:00 AM
By MIKE REID
For the Capital Press
I know it seems the city-based environmental types need curtailing in their zeal to what is often a newly converted belief system. But the hybrid-GMO bit (in the May 20 editorial "Label debate refuses to die") was logically askew.
First, look at what comes out of the hybrid car -- low emissions. Look what comes out of GMO crops -- pollen. So no wonder they like one and hate the other. If Monsanto would allow one law, I'd be in their corner. That law would be when someone (a corporation, individual) patents an organism, they stand to correct any damages that personal property commits in the future.
Think of all the costs us farmers in Western Oregon have sunk into the controlling of blackberries, for example. If they had been a patented plant, we would have a source to charge for that stupid release. It worked in asbestos problems and I don't remember ag being upset with folks being responsible for past misuse of that potential airborne problem.
In Monsanto's case, they want their cake and to eat it as well. They want to control the air "common" and force anyone who grows seeds to hand over any seed that has their patented gene in it. And they howl like wolves when anyone wants to prevent them from polluting the air with their pollen. (You can do anything you want on your property until it drifts or flows to mine -- the source of most arguments in agriculture between neighbors.)
So I'd love to see them and all folks that patent "life" be responsible in the future for any negatives. They got the "reward" so they should also have the responsibility.
Now the point about the USDA organic label being a place to find non-GMO foods. Well, it is getting hard to get any organic milk that doesn't have a GMO in it somewhere. How does one grow organic corn when Roundup Ready pollen abounds? This is happening in more and more crops. I grow mangle beets for animal food. I'm glad I don't have a sugar-beet-growing neighbor in the county I live in.
The point to agriculture should be how we can all use the land wisely, with true diversity. Having a monster GMO neighbor is much like the change from the neighborhood dairy to the concentrated smell pits that are the "economic model" of today. Dairies once had a day or two of smell, not the "we can smell them a mile away for months" of today. We need to call a problem by its real name. If we allow GMO pollen to be ever present in all our air commons, we will have no organic crops. Just like cities that once had commons for the household dairy cow lost them to folks who "cheated" and eventually ruined that approach for us all.
I'm an older farmer -- old enough to be wary of corporation promises. Like how what became "Agent Orange" was safe to use on the blackberries on the farm. The chemical has been banned, and a lot of folks died from it, like my mother, who got one of the rare cancers associated with exposure from washing clothes with the chemicals on them. Granted, it was many decades later, yet the blackberries are back.
You don't have to be a flaming environmentalist to want responsible corporate actions and to be skeptical of GMO crops or claims for chemicals that take care of unwanted plants. When a neighbor builds a fence, you assume the animals he controls will be contained by the fence. Don't shoot the bad news messengers, even if you think they are a touch crazy. And remember all the cycles of behaviors that lost us access to "commons" in years past. I no longer am a beef rancher because of road built between the home ranch and its Bureau of Land Management range. So maybe I'm more sensitive to seeing how big actors make nasty changes in the lives of smaller folks.
Mike Reid operates Rogue Mary Farm in Sheridan, Ore.