Who Is Making Our Farming Choices?

need to knowMany farmers in Maryland and across the country are using genetically modified organisms—also know as GMOs.  Most of the corn and soybeans, growth hormones and vaccines sold by Monsanto, Elanco, Syngenta, Dow, Dupont, Bayer and BASF are produced with gene altering biotechnology.

This technology allows the creation of life forms that would never occur in nature because genes from one species are being transferred into a totally different species.  In addition, these new life forms are patented so farmers cannot legally save and reproduce them.

In the mid-1990’s the promise from the bio-tech companies was that these novel products would help cows produce more milk, control or eliminate weeds, repel insects and diseases, and create heat and drought tolerance.

The idea was that us farmers would make more money, our yields would go up, our pesticide use would go down (good for sustaining the environment), and we would be on our way to ending world hunger.  Sounded pretty good.  So how do these promises stack up after 20 years?

Well, I do not know if you are feeling any richer, but most farmers I know have not noticed the difference.  On the other hand, the bio-tech companies have done pretty well for themselves, and they had enough money to buy up most of the small regional seed companies.  Genetically engineered seeds are more expensive, and now it is hard to even find locally adapted non-GMO seeds.  Interestingly, some mid-West farmers are returning to older corn varieties because they feel they are losing yield and profits with the bio-tech seeds.

Dairy farmers found cows treated with rBST hormone get more udder infections.  Most dairies have abandoned rBST, and consumers welcomed that change.  We ignored the predictions from some university weed scientists, and our fields are now plagued with about two dozen superweeds that can’t be killed by RoundUp.

But don’t worry, the bio-tech companies are trying to license new seed that resists other stronger herbicides such as 2,4D.  Without the benefit of sophisticated technology, nature’s weeds began to out smart bio-tech in a mere half a dozen years.

And pesticide use has not gone down.  And insects? You guessed it, they are attacking the Bt crops that are supposed to repel them. Drought and heat resistance, well they are still working on that one.  And world hunger?  Don’t ask.

If bio-tech were a “silver bullet,” we would all know it by now.  Instead, consumers across the nation are demanding GMO labeling laws.  They want to know what they are eating.  They want a choice.  Just as farmers want a choice to buy non-GMO seeds and vaccines.

Our rights as farmers and consumers to know and chose is in danger of being lost.  As federal Judge Jeffrey White warned in a recent case involving RoundUp ready sugar beets, genetic engineering could mean the “potential elimination of farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food.”

Who is making the choice of how you farm or what you eat?  If you want the right to choose, support bills HB1191/SB0778 now in the Maryland legislature that would require GMO labeling for produce and most packaged food.

Once consumers know what they’re eating, their choices will expand and so will ours.  Get involved, go to NeedToKnowMaryland.org.

Nick Maravell,
organic farmer, Montgomery and Frederick Counties, MD
member, National Organic Standards Board

Cow Share and Raw Milk Legislation in Maryland

Liz Retzig will be presenting an update on cow share and raw milk legislation in Maryland at the 2014 MOFFA Winter Meeting.

In Maryland it is illegal to sell raw milk (as in unpasteurized, fresh-from-the-cow milk).

It is not illegal to drink fresh milk from the cow that you own, but it is illegal to even own a share of a cow in Maryland.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering lifting the ban on raw milk by reinstating cow shares which have been criminalized since 2006. This bill would do wonders for Maryland farmers who wish to engage directly with eager consumers wanting raw milk from their own animals. This legislation, once passed, would repeal the ban on cow shares (and goat) and allow people to contract directly with the farmers of their choice for raw milk.  http://nourishingliberty.com/raw-milk-could-be-legal-in-maryland/

Liz is a Mother, a MOFFA Board Member, and the Co-Founder, Farm Food Freedom Coalition. Liz has been working hard to realize the availability of raw milk in Maryland. She blogs about the right for food choice at Nourishing Liberty .

The Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association 23rd Annual Winter Meeting, is on Saturday February 15, 2014, from 8 am to 5:00 pm, at the Maryland Department of Agriculture Building, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway in Annapolis.

Registration is $20 for non-members and $5 for members. Membership is $25 for one year or $45 for two years. Registration is at the door.

Urban Farming in Baltimore

Tyler Brown, Farm Manager at Real Food Farm, Baltimore Maryland, will be presenting about the urban farming collective and The Farm Alliance of Baltimore, at the MOFFA Winter Meeting on February 15, 2014.

Real Food Farm is Civic Works’ innovative, multi-plot urban agricultural enterprise engaged in growing fresh produce on six acres of land in Clifton Park in northeast Baltimore. They broke ground in October 2009 and since then, have been busy growing food, educating youth, partnering with community organizations, and bringing more real food to Northeast Baltimore. Real Food Farm works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector.

Tyler Brown is the Farm Manager at  Real Food Farm, a project of Civic Works, Inc. engaged in growing fresh produce on six acres of land in Clifton Park in northeast Baltimore. Since October 2009, Tyler and Real Food Farm  have been busy growing food, educating youth, partnering with community organizations, and bringing more real food to Northeast Baltimore. He is a Baltimore City Master Gardener and an Urban Trainer in the Future Harvest Beginning Farmer Training Program; currently an advisory board member for the Baltimore City Food Policy Advisory Committee, and Community Greening Resource Network; and a founding member of The Farm Alliance of Baltimore City.

MOFFA, the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association 23rd Annual Winter Meeting, is on Saturday February 15, 2014, from 8 am to 5:00 pm, at the Maryland Department of Agriculture Building, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway in Annapolis.

Registration is $20 for non-members and $5 for members. Membership is $25 for one year or $45 for two years. Registration is at the door.

Meetings Planned to Discuss Contract Growing Opportunity

img_0997.jpgExperienced farmer and business woman plans to open 6 grocery stores in Maryland and is looking to partner with area fruit & vegetable growers that would be interested in contract growing a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables such as: tomatoes, onions, potatoes, beans, cabbage, beets, greens, leeks, garlic, watermelons, berries and tree fruits, as well as traditional African vegetables.

Opportunities exist for both conventional and organic crops. Two meetings to discuss plans and answer questions will be held on Wednesday February 27 and Wednesday March 6 at 9 am at the Prince Georges County Extension Office located at 6707 Groveton Drive, Clinton, MD 20735. In order to plan appropriately, please call by 4 pm on 2/26 or 3/5 to confirm your attendance.  301-868-9366.

Sincerely,

Candy
Candy Walter
Farm Management Agent
UMES, Small Farm Program
University of Maryland Extension
6707 Groveton Drive
Clinton, MD 20735
cjwalter@umes.edu
Phone:  301-868-9366
Fax:  301-599-6714