Originally posted at on December 21, 2011

As a Master Gardener, I often have volunteers reach out to me who want to help out in my garden and learn a few things.

Recently, a student at the local high school decided she needed and internship to learn “sustainable” practices, and now it is coming to the end of her senior year. She asked me the following questions for her project (I’m assuming the school put her up to it.)

1. What political problems do you think contribute to world hunger?

2. How do you think sustainable agriculture can be implemented in areas that struggle with food production?

3. How feasible do you think sustainable agriculture is in communities here and abroad?

4. What are your opinions on the attitudes toward sustainable agriculture in America?

5. What systems are available, that you know of, that can aid in irrigation?

Before I can answer any of these questions, I think I would have to do a significant amount of research because none of them have simple one-sentence answers.

If any of the above questions pique your interest, let me know and I’ll formulate a post to give you an answer to my best ability.

Big Ag

I just recently learned that scientists are breeding specialized long-rooted vegetables via gene splicing or gene manipulation. The long roots stay anchored in the soil, reaching water even under drought conditions and turning a regular annual crop into a perennial crop. That means no seed needs to get planted each year, because the “old” plant sends up new shoots the next year.

I am sure there will be ways of companies making a killing on the patents of these super veggie crops. I’m just not sure I want to see mono cultures of old raggedy plants that aren’t traditionally perennials coming up with substandard cuisine. But if you’re in the food manufacturing business, you probably know that if you can turn it into sucrose or add sugar to it, people will eat any darn thing.

People argue that if you can manipulate a gene to get the features you want out of a crop, it’s a good thing. I say that if mother nature creates new hybrids that have a genetic trait that has successful features (like withstanding extra hot temperatures or withstanding floods, or resisting a new disease that threatens to wipe out an entire crop), then she will do a much better job of it because there is no risk to us of developing strange side effects from eating questionable genes. We simply do not have enough research to prove that genetically modified foods are safe to eat, whereas mother nature has been hybridizing for millennia. Hybridizing is the “old” way of getting new genetic combinations, and it works fine for me.

Besides, the worst thing about genetic modification isn’t that a new food from these experiments might go rogue in the world or in our gastrointestinal tract/bloodstream. My main concern is that the manufacturer will create sterile plants, i.e. plants with no seeds. That way, they control the seed forever. You can’t plant their seeds without buying their seeds. Isn’t it already hard enough to do farming without having to spend a fortune buying seeds?

And woe be the farmer whose normal crop is sterilized by the pollen from a neighboring “genetically altered” crop.

GMO is not your friend. It’s big agribusiness.

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