A Call for Food Transparency

Mike Tabor of Licking Creek Bend Farm, asks Marylanders to contact their legislators to support bills SB0778 and HB1191, before March  2014 in support of GMO labeling.
MOFFA Member, Mike Tabor of Licking Creek Bend Farm, asks Marylanders to contact their legislators to support bills SB0778 and HB1191. Please call or email before March 11, 2014 in support of GMO labeling.

Regarding the March 11th hearings on GMO labeling legislation, Marylanders should contact their legislators to support bills SB0778 and HB1191.  As a farmer and consumer, I believe we should have the right to know if genetically modified organisms are in our food, just as we do with the amount of calories, preservatives and food coloring that consumers fought to have on food labels.  We’re intelligent enough to read, research and choose, if we have the information. Thus, we need to have GMO foods labeled.

Regarding the FDA’S role in protection of the public, FDA does no independent testing of GMOs.  They rely on short term tests conducted by the bio-tech industry!  And FDA’s Chief of Food Safety, Michael Taylor, has been a Monsanto Vice President.  Are these tests and individuals impartial?  You can’t blame the public for being skeptical.

On the argument of selective breeding of seeds, I do want the most disease and pest resistant varieties of seeds when I farm.  But, genetic engineering is a hit or miss, new and risky process of splicing genes from one species (usually animal) into the DNA of another (vegetable).  This is not “natural” and not what is meant by the age old practice of “selective breeding” within the same species.  GMOs are not an extension of “natural breeding”, but rather ultimately meant for company profit because bio-tech companies have received patents on these new life forms.

Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies want control of what seeds farmers use.  They have bought up the majority of the smaller seed companies in this country.  The purchase of their GMO seeds mandates the use of their exclusive chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and Atrazine, which have created super weeds that their chemicals can no longer kill.  These chemicals flow into our drinking water.  Syngenta recently lost a $100 million class action suit against many states and municipalities to clean the Atrazine out of the drinking water. Maryland has one of the nation’s highest amounts of Atrazine in its drinking water, but for some unknown reason it was not part of the suit and did not receive any money for the cleanup.

The issues of GMO health dangers have raised enough questions that 64 countries, including the European Union, require labeling.  The bio-tech industry cannot prove to them that GM foods are safe. In fact, we, the American public, never had that choice – and in the end we are really the bio-tech industry’s guinea pigs.

I am always saddened by the fact our governor, and our senate president, and most members of the
General Assembly turn to the MD Dept of Ag for guidance on these issues.  Its head, Buddy Hance, was the former president of the MD Farm Bureau.  The farming sector, which represents only 2% of the Maryland GNP, controls public policy when it comes to the health and safety of 100% of its citizenry, the environment, and health of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Farm Bureau, although composed of family farmers like myself, mostly represents the interests of large corporate farming including the multi-billion dollar profits of the biotechnology chemical companies.  They pour millions of dollars into state campaigns against the labeling of GMO foods because they believe it will cut down on company profits.  Our health and well-being are not a concern of theirs.

So, we, the citizens of Maryland, have the right to know, so we can make informed choices, which is the backbone of a democratic society.  We need to pass a GMO labeling law for ourselves, our children and the future.  Call your state delegates and let them know that!

Michael Tabor is a farmer, consumer and Maryland resident. For more information, visit needtoknowmaryland.org.

 Mike Tabor

Takoma Park, MD
240-505-6282 cell

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