Watch Out for GMO Seeds, Veggies This Spring

We, as a rule, stay away from genetically modified organisms (GMO) in both our growing and our eating.  Yes, it’s impossible to stay away from them completely in any processed foods unless you are purchasing 100% organic food at all times.  I read so many labels and ingredients when shopping, I’m about blind by the time I get to checkout.  But you do what you can, when you can.  I think it’s even more important when buying fresh, unprocessed foods.  That’s part of the reason we started growing our own food to begin with.

Seed catalogsIf you’re anything like me you get super excited when all those seed catalogs start rolling in.  As professional growers (I use that term lightly) we get a ton of catalogs from all kinds of places, including those we’ve never ordered from.  Some of these are strictly for commercial growers – those who order in large quantities not suitable for home growers.  This is where I found the horrible truth that our customers will have to watch out for this season.

Imagine my dismay when, in one of those shiny commercial grower catalogs, I came across three varieties of GMO zucchini, two GMO summer squash and four GMO sweet corn.  We knew these were out there, of course, but the options to purchase these seeds hadn’t yet been in front of my face.  Times they are a-changing.  While most of you won’t encounter these seeds, it’s important you know what to look for when ordering for your gardens this year…and what you’re buying at the farmers markets.

What to Watch for When Ordering Seeds

Any seed that says it’s “Roundup resistant” is GMO.  This will mainly apply to sweet corn (in addition to soy, cotton and a host of other items a home gardener wouldn’t plant).  These have been genetically engineered to be able to withstand having Roundup herbicide dumped on it (often heavily) without damaging the crop.  Ucka.

GMO Zucchini SeedsAny seed that lists “Transgenic” as one of its attributes is also genetically engineered.  These are the zucchini and yellow squash options.  They have had genes spliced into the seeds to make them resistant to specific viruses or plant diseases.  Depending on the type of seed, the gene spliced in may be from another plant or even an animal.  Weird science, folks.

Again, you probably won’t find these seeds in your home-grown garden selections and, if you do see them, they can only be ordered in mass quantities you more than likely wouldn’t order anyway.  It’s just good information to have.

What to Watch for at Market

GMO Sweet Corn SeedsHere’s the rub.  These seeds are being offered to us, a small-scale grower who sells mainly at farmers markets.  Which means any of the growers at any of the markets you attend could be growing these.  Plus, three of the varieties of sweet corn have the SAME NAME as three varieties that were previously not GMO!  If you’ve shopped  for sweet corn and asked the name of the corn you may have heard a farmer tell you “Obsession”, “Passion”, or “Temptation.”  If you hear any of those varieties you MUST ask the farmer if it’s “Obsession 2,” “Temptation 2,” etc.  The 2nd generation of these varieties are the modified ones.  When shopping for zucchini or yellow squash most customers don’t ask the name, so you’d never know if you’re buying GMO squash or not.

It’s important to know your grower and their growing practices.  Ask them if they use GMO seeds.  Visit the farm, if you can.  Ask what organizations they belong to.  If they’re part of groups that require grower agreements to not use GMOs (like the Kansas City Food Circle), it’s a good bet they’re not using them.

As a rule of thumb, always ask the seller if they are growing what they sell; never assume.  You may be surprised that many of them are not.  They may be purchasing from multiple other farms and reselling it.  That, in and of itself, is not bad.  They are simply distributing goods grown by other local farmers.  What’s important is whether they know these farmers personally and know of their growing practices.  Ask them the names of the farms they purchase from and whether they’ve confirmed the farms are not using GMO seeds.

Many sellers purchase their goods from local produce auctions.  Again, that isn’t a big deal as long as you as the buyer know that’s what they’re doing and are okay with it.  The buyer has access to the list of who is selling and can individually verify these farms aren’t (or are) growing GMO crops.  It’s getting a bit more tricky, though, with so many new options for fresh foods grown from genetically engineered seeds.  At the auctions now, they may announce the corn they’re selling is “Temptation.”  An uninformed wholesale buyer may not know to ask if it’s “Temptation 2” and the auctioneer (or seller) may not make the distinction.  It’s becoming an even more slippery slope, folks.

Bottom Line: Know Where It Comes From

If you’re ordering seeds for your own garden, start with companies that vow to never sell GMO seeds.  Two of our favorites are Baker Creek and Johnny’s.  And always read the entire description to look for keywords.

IMG_20130608_071758-1Now, I can’t stress this enough.  It’s time to get to know your grower or seller.  Make sure you’re asking questions of your farmer.  Know their growing practices and the types of seeds they’re using.  If the person you buy from regularly is a reseller, make sure you know them well enough to trust their purchases.  If staying away from GMO foods is important to you, don’t leave that decision to just anyone.  Know where it comes from, period.

Vote NO on Missouri Amendment 1 – “Right to Harm” not “Right to Farm”

Vote No on Missouri Amendment 1

Right to Farm should not include the Right to Harm

Several of you have asked about our opinion on Missouri Amendment 1, the “Right to Farm” amendment.  We know it sounds like something we would be supporting, but it’s exactly the opposite.  We are encouraging all of you to vote NO on Missouri Amendment 1.

At first glance, the wording of the amendment (and what will be on the ballot) sounds encouraging: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the  right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching  practices shall not be infringed?”  This does not tell you the true content of the amendment. Voters are simply asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the above language, which sounds like a good thing.

However, let’s look at the actual amendment, which contains two Resolutions, nos. 11 and 7.  Here is the verbatim wording from those Resolutions (I’ve bolded the passages that are most concerning to us):

Resolution 7:  “That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern livestock production and ranching practices.

Resolution 11:  “That agriculture, which provides food, energy, and security, is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, it shall be the right of persons to raise livestock in a humane manner without the state imposing an undue economic burden on animal owners. No law criminalizing the welfare of any livestock shall be valid unless based upon generally accepted scientific principles and enacted by the general assembly.”

There are no definitions provided in the language of these bills; “agricultural technology” usually means the biotech industry, including genetically modified plants and animals (they’ve already come up with spider goats… what’s next?).  “Modern livestock production” generally includes confined operations, including chickens in warehouses, pigs in farrowing crates, cattle in feedlots.

This does NOT protect family farms.  This does NOT protect sustainable farmers or those who believe in the welfare of their animals.  This allows corporate and large farms to use all the GMOs, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers they want without anyone being able to say anything against it.  This allows CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) to operate freely without the ability for anyone to argue against their practices or try to enact laws that restrict their harmful practices without getting a multitude of the scientific community to back them (And, if the state decided to have cats and dogs fall under the livestock category, puppy mills would be protected, too).  This protects producers of GMO technology (i.e. Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.) and destroys the ability of sustainable and organic growers to protect themselves against what they call “agricultural technology.”  This leads to air pollution, water pollution, and so much more.

This could allow the government to later mandate practices that are completely out of line with our growing ideals, like requiring the irradiation of our produce before we offer it for sale.  It could prevent our ability to save seed or preserve livestock bloodlines.  We would have no recourse against genetically altered crops that infiltrate our fields.  It will further jeopardize the ability of small farms to compete in an open market and lead to more of them going bankrupt.

The rights of Missouri farmers are already, inherently, protected.  It’s the corporations and big ag special interests that are taking that away from us.  This, from the Joplin Globe:

Darvin Bentlage, a Barton County farmer, made a compelling case in this newspaper that what’s threatening small, independent family farms is big ag — corporate ag — which is what some critics think this amendment is designed to protect.

“I remember our right to farm when we didn’t have to sign a grower’s contract to buy seed, a document telling us what we could and couldn’t do with what we grew on our farm,” Bentlage argued. “I remember when family farmers could load their own feeder pigs in their truck and go to the local auction and sell their livestock in an open and competitive market. So who’s taken this right to farm away from us? It is the same corporate factory farm supporters, corporations and organizations that have pushed this constitutional amendment through the Missouri Legislature.”


The ballot question asks, “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranging practices shall not be infringed?”

Infringed by whom? What practices? And who qualifies as a farmer in Missouri?

Smithfield Foods, for example, owner of Premium Standard Farms? How about Tyson Foods? Both of those are Fortune 500 companies that count their revenue in the billions.

Which Tyson practice “shall not be infringed,” the one that left more than 100,000 dead fish in Clear Creek this spring?

It’s Missouri that may need protection from big ag.

We can’t state it any more plainly.  Please, please, please, pass the word to your friends and neighbors.  Vote NO on Missouri Amendment 1.  The right to farm should not include the right to harm.

Karin and Arcenio Velez

Tell the USDA You Don’t Want a GMO Apple!

Say NO to GMO ApplesThe USDA is considering approving a genetically modified apple for the sole benefit of, wait for it … not turning brown when you slice it.  Seriously?  Why must we bioengineer produce to look “perfect?” Mother Nature did just fine without our help. What’s worse is, because the big corporations don’t want GMO labeling, if these apples are approved they will end up in our schools, restaurants and homes and we won’t have the right to choose NOT to eat them! Disgraceful…leave our food alone!

Click the link below to sign a petition to reject this monstrosity.  Hurry … the deadline is Dec. 9th.