In recent years, heirloom vegetables have jumped in popularity. This spike in popularity has been due to several circumstances, including better flavor that is found with heirlooms, greater availability of seeds and plants, and the importance of organic gardening. What if I were to tell you that heirlooms could be a thing of the past 10 or 15 years down the road?
In a report written by Manjula V. Guru and James E. Horne of The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Mourning the Increasing Loss of Biodiversity, heirloom and agricultural diversity is becoming less and less prominent. Major biotechnology corporations, such as DuPont, are creating more engineered foods that could be the death of a diverse seed supply.
Farming is also becoming more and more a part of the corporate landscape. These corporations have no interest in heirloom varieties of produce – they care about growing a vegetable as quickly as possible, as cheap as possible. There is no concern for flavor nor visual interest. The only thing that matters is that it fills your belly, and they have made a profit.
Take a look at some of the stunning statistics according to Guru and Horne’s report. As you can see, having a diverse selection of foods, and plants is important not only for ecological reasons, but also for the sustainability of humans as well.
Humans benefit from biodiversity in many ways. Besides the animals and plants that we use for food, shelter, raw materials, and companionship, there are thousands of species whose natural products are literally life-saving – nearly 25% of the drugs used in the United States originally came from plants.
There are currently more than four dozen genetically engineered foods and crops being grown or sold in the U.S. These foods and crops are widely dispersed into the food chain and the environment. Over 70 million acres of genetically engineered crops are presently under cultivation in the U.S., while up to 500,000 dairy cows are being injected regularly with Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).
Most supermarkets’ processed food items now “test positive” for the presence of genetically engineered ingredients. In addition several dozen more genetically modified crops are in the final stages of development and will soon be released into the environment and sold in the marketplace.
Here is a very startling statistic.
According to the biotechnology industry almost 100% of U.S. food and fiber will be genetically engineered within the next five to ten years. The widespread commercial release of genetically engineered plants will continue the process of eroding the diversity of plant varieties that still exist in the world.
So according to the biotechnology industry, nearly every scrap of produce sold in a supermarket will be genetically engineered from a lab by 2019. That just amazes me, shocks me, and saddens me.
As gardeners what can we do to help preserve what goes on our dinner table?
We can grow more heirloom varieties, and practice organic gardening. We can encourage others to participate in growing their own foods – whether it is a container garden, a community garden, or plot sharing. We can pass the importance of home gardening down to future generations.
We can support local farmers that do not grow commercial produce, and buy from local farmer’s markets and produce stands. We can practice saving our own seeds, and participating in seed trades or exchanges. Last but not least, we can voice our feelings to our congress persons.
Gardeners may not be able to halt genetically engineered foods, but we can control what goes into our families meals. What is your take on this situation?
For more information about the report, Mourning the Increasing Loss of Biodiversity by Manjula V. Guru and James E. Horne, please visit The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.