One of the biggest lies we’ve been told about genetically modified organisms is that they’re the only solution to feed the ever growing world population. We all know this is a problem, one of the biggest our humanity has ever faced, so we gobble up any solution brought forth.
A compassionate heart is forced to choose between changing the system or finding a new way. I encourage you to look outside of the existing system, to thrive on this earth we need to create a new model that doesn’t revolve around exploiting it. In a world run by the almighty dollar, think of your dollar as a vote. Why should we vote for a company who refuses to even label their product, if there was nothing to worry about, they wouldn’t be so shy as to put a little sticker on our food declaring its genetically modified nature.
Why GMO’s Will Never Feed the World
The guise that we can get away with using less chemicals to grow GM foods is a joke. If anything, this type of organism actually creates super bugs, resistant to roundup and any other conventional agricultural chemical. Of course the mainstream solution is to create new, better, stronger chemicals to kill this new breed of insects. But what of our environment?
GMO Fiction #1: GMO crops don’t need pesticides and herbicides to thrive, so they’re better for the environment.
Monsanto would have us believe that if we buy their infertile toxic seeds, we needn’t worry about spraying as many pesticides. This may be true the first year, or even the second, but overall the long term sustainability of GM crops is really quite pathetic.
Yields decrease, the soil becomes infertile (1), insects become resistant to the chemicals and thus more chemicals are needed to produce less and less food.
We see this example in the case of Argentina, a nation who embraced biotechnology when it first entered the scene, and whose population now reaps the consequences. In 1990 Argentine farmers used 34 million litres (9 million gallons) of agrochemicals, by 2013 that number increased nine-fold to more than 317 million litres (84 million gallons) of pesticides. A visual representation of the devastating effects caused by a rapidly expanding export economy can be seen here, but be warned, it’s not pretty (2).
Feeding the world isn’t such a concern when there is no world left to feed. The harsh reality of these agro chemicals is seen far more in third world countries where the regulations aren’t as strict. Consider the chemicals we are talking about are serious endocrine disruptors, known carcinogens, that need to be handled with the utmost caution. Farmers in poor countries aren’t given proper training, governments aren’t regulating whether crops are sprayed 50 ft away from a school yard or hospital. Everyone becomes susceptible to the deleterious effects of these agrochemicals and the results are far from a table full of food at dinner every night.
If the goal of Monsanto’s GMO crops is to feed the world, it’s clear they are doing the direct opposite.
GMO Fiction #2: Glyphosate is completely safe, why else would the FDA raise allowable residual levels in our food in May 2013?
It’s become perfectly normal in our society for the corporations backed by government, to fund their very own biased studies of their products. Good thing these corporations are all completely honest and have our best interests at heart…right?
Lets be real, this is a farce that for some reason has grown legitimate acceptance by the mainstream. Independent research has even come so far as to be nearly outlawed. How are scientist supposed to do research when they have no monetary support? It all boils down to the money, so the researchers that are looking into the devastating effects of glyphosate are doing so with limited access to funding. Nonetheless there is still valuable independent research being done which points to a worrisome conclusion.
To point out just a few cases of direct evidence against the safety of glyphosate…
A study published in the International Journal of Toxicology (3) “Glyphosate Commercial Formulation Causes Cytotoxicity, Oxidative Effects, and Apoptosis on Human Cells: Differences With its Active Ingredient”
Researchers showed that glyphosate, in combination with the other chemicals in roundup has a particularly destructive effect, resulting in cell death and damage to DNA.
Another study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology titled “Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors”, showed that even in minute doses, glyphosate can cause estrogen receptor mediated breast cancer cell growth.
Breast cancer has become the most common cancer in women, affecting 1 in 8 during their lifetime.
Green Med Info has in their database 78 other studies which prove the toxic effects of glyphosate and other roundup ready chemicals. Researchers have shown that glyphosate contamination in the food supply can lead to non-hodgkin lymphoma (4), cancer (5), hormonal disruption(6), alteration of normal testosterone levels in pre-pubescent youth (7) and a multitude of other problems which could easily be avoided with a better, more earth centric philosophy and action plan.
GMO Fiction #3: Organic farms are free to grow their food as they choose and GMO crops don’t affect their sovereignty to grow food without chemicals.
GM crops affect everyone, there’s really no escaping this bleak reality. Organic farmers worldwide are doing their best to protect their crops and their livelihood from contamination of GMO seeds, but the results are dismal. As the demand for organic food rises, our access to it is plummeting, all because of the way that natures design transports seeds. We can’t send a message to the birds and the wind to stop transporting transgenic seeds from one farm to another. Unfortunately this is the case that many farmers are faced with, once their crops are contaminated with the round up ready seeds, there’s little they can do to stop their proliferation. To be certified organic means to be free from GMO’s, this leaves many farmers in a very fragile situation, susceptible to factors beyond their control.
Most of the time these farmers are humble people with good ethics, simply trying to grow food without toxic chemicals. It’s completely unjust that should a neighbouring farm use GMO seeds which happen to plant themselves in their fields, they could lose everything.
This is happening already in Europe.
“The European Parliament has voted to give member states authority over cultivating GMO crops. But environmental groups have criticized an opt-out measure.” (8)
This means there will be no fund for farmers whose crops become contaminated. The risk of cross pollination across borders is high and could force countries who voted against growing GMO’s to adopt them as they would then not have much choice.
A Permaculture Model to Feed the Planet
Now that we’ve brought to light the darkness rapidly spreading throughout the world, how about focusing on some solutions! It’s become a commonplace opinion, that the world is overpopulated and there simply isn’t enough to go around. While I won’t get in to the economic reasons for the discrepancy of wealth in this article, I would like to state that the evidence proves otherwise. This is an abundant planet we live on and there are tools and techniques that our indigenous ancestors utilized for millennia with great success.
A permaculture model isn’t a hokey pokey new technique that some guy came up with out of the blue, its a compilation of the indigenous techniques to grow food, create a non-destructive shelter and work together with nature to create abundance. The principles of permaculture are directly descended from the principles of our native ancestors. This wisdom cannot be lost, for it holds the key to saving the planet from certain demise.
Bill Mollison was the first to coin the term ‘permaculture’ he’s written various books on the topic and the veritable guru of permaculture design.
Today his ideas have spread and taken root in almost every country on the globe. Permaculture is now being practiced in the rainforests of South America, in the Kalahari desert, in the arctic north of Scandinavia, and in communities all over North America. In New Mexico, for example, farmers have used permaculture to transform hard-packed dirt lots into lush gardens and tree orchards without using any heavy machinery. In Davis, California, one community uses bath and laundry water to flush toilets and irrigate gardens. In Toronto, a team of architects has created a design for an urban infill house that doesn’t tap into city water or sewage infrastructure and that costs only a few hundred dollars a year to operate.
The powers that be are on a glorified mission to depopulate and they don’t cover their tracks very well. It’s up to us, the people, to take back our sovereignty if we ever want the world to be at peace. No government is going to do that for us, and growing food is a fantastic first step.
Creating Self Sustaining Food Forests
What is a food forest? Within the permaculture model, we work with nature to create abundance. In nature there are no mono crops, lawns of one species don’t exist, empty weedless fields of grain are completely foreign. This model of growth hasn’t served us well, so taking a lesson straight out of natures design makes sense.
Forests have layers, they have healthy fertile soil home to billions of microbes and fungi, this supports the growth above the ground. A healthy forest is home to multitudes of species and there is an equilibrium, everybody eats. As the biomass of the forest floor grows over time, so does the health of the forest and its inhabitants. In the wild it’s survival of the fittest, but when humans step in we can play a part in who holds the strength in the forest.
Creating food forests is nothing new, this practice has been employed long before technology thought to plant mono crops using soil killing principles. Returning back to this way of life is inevitable for our survival and certainly more joyous! How wonderful to witness the web of life in such close proximity. How rewarding to invest time and energy into something which will live on for generations to come. The smart farmer knows that ultimately a mono crop won’t thrive, its simply an eventual outcome of modern farming practices. Like the man in this video who ripped out his apple orchard to re plant a food forest with a variety of perennials, fruit trees and nitrogen fixers. His farm will now only increase in bounty and that is a gift he can give to his children’s children.
The Basics of Food Forests
1.The first year consists of employing permaculture principles to rebuild the soil. There are various techniques utilized to capture as much water as possible so that you aren’t relying on external factors for success nearly as much.
Care is taken to ensure the first years new trees and perennials are protected from weeds, but as time goes on and the forest strengthens itself, weeds play of positive role in building greater biomass and adding to diversity.
Mimicking a natural forest, layers are created, there’s the forest floor, the understory, the mid-story and the upper story and in each layer lives different species. Fruit trees and hardwoods engross most of the upper story, while bushes and shrubs populate the middle ground, the lower forest floor level is planted with useful edible plants which also do the important task of fixing nitrogen.
Tools like mushrooms and worm castings are used to heal and rejuvenate soil, these techniques can take even the most deleterious of soils and bring them back to life.
2. As time goes on and the forest floor rebuilds, plants and trees really start to take root and grow strong. By the time the perennial plants are strong enough, you don’t have to pull weeds out at the root, you can just chop and drop allowing the biomass to grow. Animals start to come back to eat the seeds and any other remnants. The permaculture model encompasses the importance of sharing. We share with each other and we share with nature, there is more than enough to go around. The old paradigm of killing any organism which attempts to ‘steal’ your food, is done away with. Every creature in the forest has a purpose, including the ‘pests’.
3. The longer a food forest is able to grow and build biomass and healthy soil, the more food you get from it. This type of system only gets better and more manageable with time. As perennials and trees grow strong and resilient, less care is needed to get rid of weeds, fertilizer is unnecessary as the soil itself is so high in nutrients. The time investment significantly decreases, allowing you to pursue your passions or create more food forests!
What About Climate Change, Drought and Dead Soil?
Different permaculture principles apply to different climates. There are techniques which can repopulate the dry deserts of the Sahara with abundant vegetation. Pollution can be managed through the use of fungi and mycelium which have been shown to eat petroleum waste and render it inert. Certain plants can help to detoxify radiation, like gingko biloba which was used throughout Japan in WW2.
Food forests are resilient to climate change and hold water deep under the ground, these systems aren’t reliant on copious amounts of wasteful irrigation. As California suffers through the worst drought in history, people should be starting to build food forests to protect against the devastation.
With these permaculture principles, people are able to grow certain foods in places they never would’ve dreamed possible. Kiwis being grown in Quebec, Canada, greens grown all winter long in the dead of a Northern winter, It’s all possible.
Food forests aren’t just for vegetation either, they become a habitat for birds, insects and wildlife over time. There are also permaculture designs which employ fish, which create a self sustaining system and provide food to humans, wildlife and fertilizer to the forest.
Going Backwards is the New Going Forwards
While it’s comforting to think humanity is on the right track, in reality things have never looked so hopeless. Technology has fantastic implications, but only if we can figure the basics out, like how to feed everyone. What good is a world where most people are suffering and living without their basic needs being met. It doesn’t have to be this way, using permaculture models we go back in time to when humans were stewards, not dominators. It all starts with you, in your backyard, in an abandoned lot, in your community garden. Reintegrating ancestral skills is the only way to heal the damage we have caused on our planet of finite resources.
Real Life Examples
Clear Sky Farm in the East Kootenay of B.C. is on a mission.
“This one acre demonstration food forest model includes a wide variety of nut trees, fruit trees, medicinals, berries, vines, shrubs, timber, mulch & shelter trees, all grown together in a holistic ecosystem based design.”
The Living Centre Offers permaculture design courses. “The centre includes forest gardens, herb and vegetable gardens, orchards, and an edible medicine trail that are all grown veganically.”
Kootenay Permaculture Institute offers in-depth, hands on courses on permaculture design in B.C and Ontario. Taught by long time permaculture activist Gregoire Lamoureux.
Farm Food Fork is another local food movement taking place in the Kootenays which is really inspiring (I live here, lucky me)
The Permaculture Institute of New Mexico offers courses in permaculture design, bee keeping, landscape regeneration and more.
Food Forest Farm in Massachusetts sells their organically grown products online and also offers courses and weekend workshops. They also offer consultations in regards to your own unique situation.
Beacon Food Forest is a community powered example of how much food can be produced in a food forest design. As the nations largest food forest, they set the stage for the potential of community food forests all over America.
An example of permaculture design in Oxaca, Mexico, incorporating water saving techniques and implementation of native perennial plants.
Permaculture in Sayulita offers workshops and community potlucks.
Sustainable Mexico is an exciting blog highlighting the movement in Mexico to implement permaculture techniques.
Bio-construction in the Argentine Patagonia
The European Permaculture Association connects all the teachers and organizations practicing permaculture across Europe.
A 2000 year old food forest in Moracco “A Diverse, Self-Perpetuating Food Forest
From an overstorey of date palms to an understorey of olives, bananas, dates, grapes, guava, mulberries, carob and tamarind, it would be fascinating to compare the output of a system like this compared to the huge monocultures that industrial agriculture is pushing around the world.”
“The Chikukwa Ecological Land Trust (CELUCT) is a unique community permaculture organisation in the Chimanimani district of Zimbabwe. Set in the highlands bordering Mozambique, the region is heavily populated and has suffered from deforestation, serious erosion and soil degradation since the area was named a Tribal Trust Land in the colonial era. In this setting, the Chikukwa community has developed a successful permaculture program involving around 8,000 farmers in what Chan (2010) calls “one of the largest and relatively unknown permaculture sites in the world.”
Wadi Rum Desert Oasis food forest in 4 years in the middle of a desert
The Marda Permaculture farm in Palestine is a shining example of the possibilities of growing food in this region.
The permaculture movement is growing in the middle east, upcoming workshops in Jordan hosted by permaculture activist Nadia Lawson, whose made it her mission to spread permaculture throughout the Middle East.
The Himalayan Permaculture Centre is a grass roots NGO set up by trained and motivated farmers from the Surkhet district in Mid-Western Nepal in 2010, to implement sustainable rural development programs in Nepal.
Growing food has always been a high priority for Russian people, many city dwellers have whats called a dacha which serves as a rural ‘second home’ where they can escape to nature to grow food. (9)
The Ringing Cedars series of books has exploded in popularity and within it are many permaculture and sustainability principles.
This video is on the topic of implementing spiritual permaculture by Dr.Leonid Sharashkin who translated the Ringing Cedars series from Russian to English. http://vimeo.com/15708379
Hangzhou Permaculture Education Center is the first permaculture teaching facility in China.
“In a country that has completely bought and brought Industrial Style Agriculture to its farmers, it is wonderful to see Hangzhou Permaculture advance and provide an alternative answer to modern, resource-intensive farming in China. It is groups of individuals like these that I admire most. They provide hope in what sometimes seems like a hopeless situation. If you ever find yourself in China, I would encourage you to contact Hangzhou Permaculture to stay (minimum two weeks) and witness the focus that this group has.”
Masanobu Fukuoka is a pioneer in the permaculture movement, he transformed his land into a haven of lush abundance.
What is remarkable is that Fukuoka’s natural farming and permaculture should resemble each other so closely despite their nearly opposite approaches. Permaculture relies on the human intellect to devise a strategy to live abundantly and sustainably within nature. Fukuoka sees the human intellect as the culprit serving only to separate people from nature. The “one mountain top, many paths” adage seems to apply here.
The Permaculture Centre of Japan, teaches permaculture practices specific to the different regions.
The home of the permaculture movement, the scene in Australia and New Zealand is likely greater than anywhere else.
Even a magazine devoted solely to permaculture.
These are just a few examples of the permaculture movement all over the world, there are countless others. We’re just beginning to implement these strategies and the potential is vast. The yield from permaculture systems and food forests is astoundingly more abundant than conventional agriculture. Bill Mollison (the permaculture god father) has grown 8 acres worth of food on 1 acre of land using permaculture principles. Why would we need GMO’s when we could take our energy and put it into creating food forests in every country, every climate, it’s possible.
News, there’s no shortage of it, we’re bombarded with the latest happenings daily, yet we’re offered no solutions. At the heart of the GMO debate is a deeper burning question which resides in our subconscious minds. A world based on equality could be just around the corner. If we used even a fraction of the time and energy we devote to supporting conventionally grown foods, the world would be a different place. Creating wealth is more about food than most would anticipate. The economy thrives when we do, every human is driven to find a purpose in life, what if our purpose was to steward the Earth, instead of stand by and watch the destruction. The power is in our hands, the choice is ours. Start by supporting your local farmers, and grow from there.
photo credit:permaculture poster- http://www.pjchmiel.com/pdf/grow_food-final.pdf
photo credit: In his hand https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/
photo credit: fruits and vegetables https://www.flickr.com/photos/themeetingplacenorth/
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions, do you think the potential exists for such a drastic change to take place? Please share this amongst your friends and family, people need to know that the solutions already exist, it’s up to us to implement them!