My friend, Sally (not her real name) dropped by for coffee on Saturday. She brought a box of squash that she had grown to share with me. Along with the squash there was a box of rutabagas, some carrots, beets and a story. The story caused alarm to this organic gardener.
The story is a warning to all of us. Beware of where you purchase your seeds. Sally ordered her seeds from a Canadian seed company, that cannot be named, for her annual vegetable garden. She purchased a new variety of sweet corn that was purported to have high yields and a sweet taste. No where was there any warning that this was genetically unusual sweet corn.
When the package arrived there was a contract on the package from a multinational corporation known to be involved in genetic manipulation of seed. The contract said that she could not save seeds from this corn variety
. The contract was in force if she opened the packaged of seed.
My friend had just paid hard cash for this seed package. It came just in time for Spring planting. To reject this contract would be to delay Spring planting until it was too late to plant sweet corn in our area. No where in the seed catalogue was there a warning that this was a genetically unusual type of seed. Canadian law does not require the labelling of genetically modified seed or genetically modified food.
Sally did not know that this was genetically unusual sweet corn — there was no warning from Agriculture Canada that genetically modified sweet corn was released for sale in Canada to home gardeners. There had already been serious adverse reactions to GM corn released for animal consumption in the US, creeping into the human food chain.
Sally planted the sweet corn in the spring of 2010. She grew the plants out and harvested the ears of corn. As the corn was harvested she prepared it for her freezer and froze the crop for winter use. Sally is dependent on her garden for her winter fruits and vegetables. She works all summer maximizing her yields and filling her freezer with organically grown vegetables and fruit. She also dehydrates and cans a good portion for winter use.
When Sally ate the sweet corn, that she grew organically in her back yard garden, she felt ill. Each time she ate this corn she felt ill. After a few meals, she cleaned out her freezer and chucked the whole winter corn supply in the garbage. End of story?
Grand Forks, BC, where Sally lives, is known as a hot bed of organic growing. In WW 2 Grand Forks was the seed saving repository for Canada and people today continue to save their own seed. Corn is wind pollinated and distances of 2 km or more are required between corn varieties to ensure purity.
The news reports say that multinational corporation’s herbicide-ready GM sweet corn was only released in the US in the fall of 2010 for planting in 2011. Other GM sweet corns have been grown in the US and Canada from Syngenta for the past 10 years. But seed sales are only to commercial producers in bags of 10 kg. or more of seed. There have been no sales to home gardeners. How did Sally end up with genetically unusual sweet corn, sold by a Canadian seed company that cannot be named, in the Spring of 2010? And why was it not labelled as a genetically unusual seed?
How many of Sally’s neighbours had their seed corn contaminated by her planting of genetically unusual sweet corn seed? We’ll never know.
Why was there no warning in the Canadian seed catalogue that would make it clear to Sally that her purchase was for genetically unusual seed that would not be owned by her but by the propriety seed geneticists?
Why was there no warning on the seed package that this was genetically unusual corn?
Sally’s garden space and efforts were wasted. She could not eat the corn that she so laboriously grew. Corn is not an easy crop to grow in our shorter season climate. Her garden space was wasted. Her efforts were wasted. And the food was wasted, too, because she couldn’t eat it without getting sick. This is irresponsible of the seed company. And irresponsible of the Canadian Government to allow the sale of GU seed to home gardeners without adequate labelling.
Even as she told me her story, Sally, had not realized that the contract on the seed package from the multinational corporation was evidence that she was planting Genetically unusual sweet corn, or that she had consumed bT, a potent insecticide in every bite of sweet corn. Nor that that insecticide would continue to reproduce in her stomach and affect her health. Don’t let this happen to you.
Avoid seed companies that sell GM seed. Some seed companies have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and promise to not sell GM seed. Support seed companies that specialize in open-pollinated, heritage and nonGM seeds. There are many Canadian and American seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and do not sell Genetically Modified seed. Support them.
Update: I was contacted on December 9, 2011 by the president of the seed company in question and was asked to remove their name from the article. They apparently do not sell GM seed. I will be researching this issue further and keep you informed. In the meantime, please be aware that the facts represented in this article are in question. I will offer an amendment once I have investigated it further.
In January I will be writing an article about Canadian seed companies that have signed on “Safe Seed Pledge”. If you know of a Canadian seed company that has, please let me know using the contact form and I will be sure to include them in the upcoming article. Interesting to note that the seed company in question has not signed the safe seed pledge. — Robin and Chris Dalziel on December 9, 2011.
If you’d like to know more about genetically-unusual sweet corn check out this well researched article by Dr. Mercola, MD – “The Health Hazards of GM Corn” and “Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food”
If you want to study this serious issue further: