GroundTruth Blog

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's blog

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Farmers, Indigenous people and rural communities around the world celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity last week. But casting a long shadow was the news that big funders and new NGOs are teaming up with the pesticide-biotech giant, Syngenta, in a renewed effort to push genetically engineered rice forward in Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Nicknamed “golden rice,” this untested, highly controversial GE crop threatens biodiversity across the region and risks bringing economic and ecological disaster to Asia’s farms. 

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My mom hackles are up. GE toxins are turning up in umbilical cordblood and the blood of pregnant women, according to a study by independent Canadian doctors. And what might be the effect of these toxins on developing fetuses? No one really knows. Let me tell you why this is big news.

All this time, Monsanto has based its assertion that crops engineered to contain the bacterial toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are harmless on an assumption that the toxin breaks down in the digestive system and so never enters the rest of the body. Regulators have been repeating this to us for over a generation. Now it turns out that the Bt toxin is not only surviving in our guts, but is making its way on into our bloodstreams — and if we’re pregnant, into the soon-to-be-babies in our bellies.

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With gas prices well over $4/gallon, conversation with my neighbors frequently turns to the vulnerability of our fossil-fuel-based economy and to the future of our planet. The good news I can share today is that organic farms — besides being good for the soil, environment and our health — are proving to be much more energy efficient than conventional systems.

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A big thanks to all who came out Monday night and joined us in what was a lively conversation on Growing Food Democracy: Connecting Global Lessons to Local Action. I was thrilled to see such interest and to meet so many people in the Bay Area so deeply engaged in the work of building a just and sustainable food system.

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As the sun crested the Berkeley hills early yesterday, I logged on to the Washington Post’s live feed of its daylong conference, The Future of Food. For the next 8 hours, I enjoyed a veritable feast of thoughtful, well-evidenced and deeply inspiring calls to embrace a new agriculture, rooted in community and ecological resilience. The messengers included the Prince of Wales — who seamlessly knitted together the challenges of our failing global food system with a clear vision for the future — Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva and many more.