Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Here I stand, with seeds of a future meal in my hand, and theoretically the origins of the genes that crossed and changed to make this tiny potential life-form could be traced back hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of years to the first flowering plants on earth; really to the beginnings of life itself. Ice ages have come and gone as have the dinosaurs and many other ancient forms of life - both animal and plant - and still the genes that signify life have survived and changed and diversified until some human has recently picked the seeds I hold in my hand, from the parent plant. As I sow them into the warm, moist soil I am continuing in the footsteps of some people from as long ago as 7500BC who were the first to attempt to cultivate plants for their own use in what we now call the Middle East. The climate was just at that right combination of warmth and moisture for several peoples in the continents of Africa, South America and far eastern Asia to almost simultaneously sow the seeds of what was to be called 'civilisation'. At last people could make settlements, instead of being purely nomadic, they could domesticate animals and begin to build structures to live in.

The history of the civilisation of human life is something that I have become very interested in since I started growing food many years ago. Seed sowing is really at the heart of human-ness and every time I place those tiny grains of life into the soil I have that indescribable feeling of connection with the very core of our existence. When, finally, little green shoots emerge it is like I have never seen it before and some wonderful depth of understanding wordlessly flows through every part of me. Another generation of a crop begins in this simplest of all activities, linking the seed-sower to thousands and thousands of generations of previous seed-sowers and taking a tiny step forward towards future seed-sowers stretching far into distant millenia.

Why then are we allowing our very base of civilisation to be threatened with destruction by allowing multi-national companies to claim ownership of this ancient life-force? How dare someone say they own a certain variety of grain - grains predate humans, as stated previously, by hundreds of thousands of years. Peasants the world over are being coerced to sign papers that mean, invariably, that they must not save their own seed anymore but must, instead, buy other seed (or the same seed!) from seed companies, and are locked in to using chemicals (funnily enough also produced by the same companies) to grow them, under the agreements they have signed. Millions of poor farmers are committing suicide because they are failing to be able to provide for their families as they cannot afford the seeds or the chemicals that they unwittingly have agreed to use.

In India recently the widows of such failed men have risen up and taken on the multi-nationals, refusing to continue with the agreements and going back to their old ways, with government support. Why, then, are we stupid enough in some states of Australia, to refuse to see the writing on the wall and to agree to GM crops to begin to be planted? If the poorest women of India can get their way, we should all be doing what we can to stop anyone changing our gene-pool of the seeds of life and to stop anyone from claiming to own something so ancient as life itself.

So far in South Australia we are fairly free of GM foods and our state government has decided to continue the moratorium on GM crops for at least another 2 years but, and this is a big but, animals in feed-lots, where modern-day farming methods mean a lot of sheep and cows go 'for finishing off ', are fed GM grains. Beware of the brazen attempt of feed-lotters to advertise "grain-fed" meat as something you should seek out and pay more for - it is dreadful stuff that should be avoided at all cost! Sheep and cows were never meant to eat grain at all, never mind GM soy and other GM grains. As I have said before on this blog, look for feral meat - the ultimate way to source meat and help our environment at the same time.

I implore every reader of this blog to refuse to support, at every opportunity, any company or government that allows gene manipulation of anything to do with the food-chain. Only in rejecting it at every turn can we be confident in the future of human civilisation.


Will said...

You have my full support on that Kate! Last week I had this letter published in the Age:

Inconvenient indeed
THE article "The inconvenient truth about GM" (Epicure, 19/2) illustrates just how specious the reasoning behind genetically modified foods is. Organisms are complex entities, not machines — you simply can't manipulate one gene without incurring a chain of side effects. This has been proven by many cases of sickness and allergies in consumers of GM foods, as well as hundreds of deaths in livestock fed GM feed.

Corporations prevent independent scientists from accessing GM seeds under the pretence that they "don't need testing". Is there something that they don't want the general public to know?

Will Schmidt, Surrey Hills

Kate said...

Great to hear from you, Will and well done on your letter.

Pattie said...

Fabulous post, Kate. My favorite line of yours is this:

"If the poorest women of India can get their way, we should all be doing what we can to stop anyone changing our gene-pool of the seeds of life and to stop anyone from claiming to own something so ancient as life itself."


Maggie said...

Why are we letting multi national companies destroy us humans and our planet!!!

gardengal said...

Well the government said they continued the moratorium because Foodland don't want their generic brand contaminated (this isn't the ABC so I can say "Good for foodland!" can't I?) and stuff about Japanese importers not wanting beef fed on GM grain but I think it was really the email I sent to the Minister of Ag. telling him not to be so foolish!


Democracy rocks!

Greg W said...

Kate, timely post. Well said. This illustrates why heirloom seeds are so important to support.

No one has the right to claim ownership of any life-force and interfering with natures design though genetic modification is abominable.

Generally, people don't seem to stand up and fight for what is right any more but this is one area where we need to stand strong for what we choose to put into our bodies.

Thank-you for bringing up this issue.

Patrick said...


This was a great post!

It's interesting to see you are at about the same stage with GMOs in your food chain as we are in Europe. The large food companies are slowly chipping away at our access to GM free foods, and it's very scary to watch it happen.

Matron said...

I concur with your sentiments. I really hate what the big supermarkets are doing to our farmers, our landscape and our fruit and vegetable varieties. I heard yesterday that a farmer had his whole crop of traditional English cox apples rejected by the supermarket because the buyer insisted that they had 30%red on them... and his had more. We need to preserve our native orchards, farms, fields. I have given up supermarket shopping for Lent. It's hard work at the moment but I must do it to make a point.

Maggie said...

"English cox apples that are too red", how dare supermarkets control our lives, I am with you, lets stay away from them!