Yesterday as I was driving home from taking my son to school, a report on NPR about the issues with the rising cost of feeding commercial cattle in today’s wavering economic market made my blood boil.
What I heard made me realize the issues we are having with GMOs in our food supply are compounding due to the fact that the industry which relies almost solely on corn, grain, and soy to feed cattle will stop at nothing to cut costs and convince the public at the same time that these methods and activities are not only safe but necessary to “feed the world”.
It also made me realize the industrial food industry will also stop at nothing to reassure the public that their far-fetched and wholly unsafe practices are not only just fine but somehow “better for the environment”… including, telling lie upon ludicrous lie to get it done with false science and bad political maneuvering.
“Alternatives” to corn, soy, and grain
The discussion went into how droughts and wildfires, which have ravaged range lands this season, are forcing farmers to look for more “efficient ways” to feed their cattle. According to the report, beef scientist Tim DelCurto from Oregon State University has alternatives for ranchers and feedlot owners that provide lower cost feed now that corn and soy prices are skyrocketing. These include:
“Grass seed straw, distillers grains leftover from ethanol production, cannery waste and potato processing byproducts such as misshapen green beans, carrots and even French fries.”
DelCurto believes that ruminants can easily adapt to other feed and it doesn’t affect their health. He said, “I think one of the unique attributes of beef cattle, and sheep fit this too, unique attributes of ruminant animals is that they can digest virtually anything.”
This month, DelCurto will speak at several University of Idaho Extension classes where he will be sharing these “cost saving tips” with cattle ranchers.
It is this twisted way of thinking which has ushered in the predominance of antibiotic and hormone use in commercial cattle farming today, which has greatly contributed to inflammatory disease in both cattle and humans, including digestive, endocrine, and auto-immune disorders, antibiotic resistance, and super bug bacteria which can’t be managed by normal medical care.
It is beyond shameful that we are allowing our universities to be used to support big agriculture’s agendas, which for decades have had negative consequences for our food system, health, and environment.
Other news reports have been flooding the wires over the couple of weeks about the use of even more unsavory substances for feeding cattle as a way to counter the effects of rising feed costs:
“cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries”
These substances are being used as alternatives to the starchy corn, soy, and grain feeds used by conventional farming facilities to put weight on cattle. All of these alternatives to soy, corn, and grain are highly processed and many are by-products of the commercial farming, food, and chemical industries…and many of these contain GMOs as well. Really? Cookies and gummy worms?
It should go without saying, but these “experts” and “scientists” have it all wrong. It’s absolutely unthinkable that anyone calling themselves a caretaker of the environment or steward of the land would even suggest the preposterous notion of feeding cattle these kinds of substances is acceptable. Does it really seem reasonable that animals being slaughtered for meat should be fed these substances? And if they are allowed to consume them, what affect might that have on their health, and our health when we eat the meat from these animals? Our ancestors would have never agreed to this practice.
These measures used by the food industry are not about taking care of the health and well-being of anything or anyone involved, they are about profits.
The GMO factor
Corn, soy, and grains are not healthy feed for cattle, which are ruminants and are intended to graze on green grass. Even without the GM component, these feeds cause health problems for animals consuming them. Cattle who eat this kind of feed develop acidity in the digestive tract, and because cattle become vulnerable to disease and sickness, farmers administrate antibiotics.
A recent study showing the results of a life-time of feeding rats a certain type of genetically engineered corn common in the U.S. food supply looks even more unfavorable. These findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, and showed the development of massive tumors in the bodies of rats and also included liver and kidney damage, and premature death. There have been over 30 additional studies showing the presence of toxic or allergic reactions in animals consuming GE foods.
It may seem like if these issues were such a threat, you’d see people dying of premature death everywhere. But consider that rats don’t live very long, their life span is at most 3-4 years. Human life spans are much longer, the average being about 75. The fact is, many people are experiencing chronic health issues that have not been seen before on the scale that degenerative disease is occurring, but are being allowed to continue living through the intervention of drugs, surgeries, and other medical procedures. Genetic engineering is a relatively new development, but GMOs have been in our food supply now since 1996. The long-term effects of consuming GE foods simply aren’t known yet.
Meanwhile, Monsanto and other seed companies are working night and day trying to get more GM crops approved. Mounting evidence is showing that GE crops are failing to live up to the hype that has been propagated about their “benefits”.
Informed scientists such as Dr. Donald Huber have spoken and written about the dire consequences of chemical-based monoculture crops which degenerate soil integrity. His research shows that GE crops cause even more harm to the soil than conventional farming. GE farming uses the application of broad-spectrum herbicides on the genetically engineered mono-crops, resulting in herbicide-resistant super-weeds. These plants are just about impossible to destroy. Ronnie Cummins from The Organic Consumer’s Association stated: “Scientists estimate that herbicide-resistant crops planted around the globe will triple the amount of toxic broad-spectrum herbicides used in agriculture”.
It should be easy to see the failure of this chemical system in the destruction of vital soil for supporting life, the lack of diversity in continued monoculture crops, the loss of heirloom and indigenous seeds that have been traditionally saved and planted in successive seasons, and the massive debt piled upon tens of thousands of farmers who use these programs to grow their crops and support their families (and who are beholden to Monsanto and other seed companies due to strict contracts they sign).
The fact is, many countries such as Haiti and others have been bullied by Monsanto and other seed companies into using their seeds for farming. In 2010, Haiti rejected the seeds and burned them. In 2011, GM maize was ploughed under in Hungary, according to Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. It also happened in Zambia as well. All of these countries have food shortages, but also have serious doubts about the safety of GM seeds.
What’s the alternative?
Joel Salatin, grassfed beef farmer in Swope, VA has explained the virtues of grassfeeding ruminant animals, and pasture-raising other livestock such as pigs. Instead of mass-scale factory farming that pollutes the environment, soil, water, and harms human and animal health, he advocates for smaller-scale farming that utilizes nature to support the ecosystem of the farm. Salatin’s 100 acre organic spread thrives on the symbiotic relationship between the grazing cattle and roaming chickens to provide nourishment to the land and themselves. This type of farming can and does quite well without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and GMOs.
Stanley Fishman of Tender Grassfed Meat has an excellent post describing how properly managed grassfed farms can produce healthy meat for people to eat. Not only can the farms thrive, they can help with water supply issues which are becoming an increasing excuse for chemical and seed companies to engineer toxic alternatives to traditional farming.
“The world’s water supply can be greatly increased by increasing the number of grazing animals, and having them follow proper grazing practices. Not only will this greatly increase the water supply, but it will result in the creation of great amounts of new soil suitable for growing crops, and increase the size and richness of grasslands, allowing even more herds to graze. And the grassfed meat made available by following this path will provide the food that is far more nutrient-dense and nourishing than a plant-only diet.”
There are also other farmers who are finding ways to keep their stock on range lands and grazing, while preserving the ecology, as nature intended. In southeast Oregon, ranchers are embracing the natural landscapes and allowing their cattle to roam on desert areas, eating high-desert grasses.
In Simon Fairlie’s book, Meat: A Benign Extravagence, he devotes a considerable amount of discussion about small-scale, holistic meat farming and how we can continue to feed the growing populations of the world. This book so succinctly and profoundly lays out the methods and mechanisms by which we should undertake humane and smaller-scale meat production, George Monbiot, environmental activist and vegan, regarded this book as a life-changing read and discarded his support for veganism after reading it.
What can you do?
Supporting our local, grassfed meat farmers which contribute positively to the ecosystem and local economies instead of GMO and commercial farming is imperative. If we don’t abandon these toxic, modern systems of food production, we will wipe out our fertile soil and ability to produce food for the future.
- Be aware of the fact that 90 percent or more of foods you buy at the store probably contain GMOs. Read labels and avoid these products as best you can. Avoid buying grocery store meats from unhealthy animals, which are full of antibiotics, hormones, and residue from pesticides, GMOs, and other toxic chemicals.
- Shop at farmer’s markets, direct-from-farm, and know where your food comes from by asking important questions from the local farmers in your area.
- Get involved in local efforts in your home state to institute labeling on GMO foods.
- Educate others by spreading the word!
The grassfed beef challenge: Busting myths about meat - read about the great health benefits of grassfed meats and why the myths about meat being harmful to eat are untrue
Support the California Right to Know campaign and get involved in your state and local area to label GMOs and boycott GMO foods
Photo credit: TheInternational.org