Variety is the Spice of Life

| October 18, 2013 | 22 Replies

“Variety is the spice of life.” Ever heard that phrase? Of course, you have. I’ve heard it all my life. Well, guess what? There is NO variety in industrial agriculture, which is not sustainable.

Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.

William Cowper – The Task (1785)–‘The Timepiece’ (Book II, lines 606-7)

I wonder what the English poet, William Cowper, who wrote some of the greatest Christian hymns, would think about genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). The whole point of industrial agriculture, and genetic engineering specifically, and from which BigAg profits depend, is for corporations to develop single strains of plants, or breeds of animals, which they can reproduce by the millions, and patent the genes (85% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified and nearly all of that goes to animal feed and biofuels, the rest into processed food). Farmers have to buy the seeds each year, cutting into their already thin profit line, and then corporate giants like Monsanto take over the land when farmers, indebted, throw in their cards and give up.

Simply, BigAg wants to control the world’s food supply, for profit. These limited breeds of livestock are grown in CAFO’s, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, which is a nice name for growing animals in cages too small to turn around, or spread their wings, in. And they are injected with drug cocktails of hormones and antibiotics, but that’s another story. Consumers, who do not raise their own livestock, get to eat, from market to restaurant, a single breed of chicken, turkey, pig or cow, over and over and over again. Biodiversity, on the other hand, is sustainable.

In India, according to seed advocate and author of “Earth Democracy,” Dr. Vandana Shiva, over 200,000 farmers in the so-called “Suicide Belt” have committed suicide because they were hopelessly in debt to Monsanto who sold them on planting Bt cotton seeds. When they found that their fields needed MORE chemicals, not less, they fell into debt. One of the big promises of BigAg is that fields planted with GMO seed, which has been genetically modified by injecting a pesticide into the seed, will require less chemicals. All over the world where GM crops are grown, this has proven to be false. GE agriculture is creating super weeds and super bugs.

Some farmers swallowed the very pesticide they could no longer afford to buy to end their lives. Rather than being punished with crimes against humanity, and nature, Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer and and BASF are given a free pass by the U.S. Government with laws to protect them, just like pharmaceutical companies are protected against lawsuits if any individual becomes sick from a vaccine. More importantly, these companies are given huge subsidies. If they did not receive subsidies, organic food would not cost more than commercial food.

One good thing that came out of the recent U.S. Government shutdown, perhaps the only, was, the so-dubbed “Monsanto Protection Act” was stripped from the funding bill. “Jon Tester, a farmer and Democratic senator from Montana, removed the measure from the bill yesterday. ‘All [the Farmer Assurance Provision] really assures is a lack of corporate liability,’ Tester argued in March. ‘It…lets genetically modified crops take hold across the country—even when a judge finds it violates the law.’ Striking the rider from the continuing resolution probably won’t do much to limit Monsanto’s influence in Washington, unfortunately.” – The Nation – Read more here.

Variety is the spice of life-Hogwash in MIchigan & Food Security

Dr. Vandana Shiva – (Original photographer retains all rights.)

Dr. Vandana Shiva opened her remarks at The National Heirloom Expo that she’d rather be in India on the farm helping farmers save seeds (she does that, too, with Navdanya), but she travels the world (and writes books) for food security and Earth Democracy. I really don’t want to get political, I’d like to just be in the garden, planting and learning more about growing food (and combating aphids!), but, it comes down to this: Food is political. Try going without healthy food and your body will break down. Go without food for a month and you die. “The duration of survival without food is greatly influenced by factors such as body weight, genetic variation, other health considerations and, most importantly, the presence or absence of dehydration. At the age of 74 and already slight of build, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous nonviolent campaigner for India’s independence, survived 21 days of total starvation while only allowing himself sips of water.” – Scientific American 

I don’t choose to starve myself, but I must speak out, and inform whoever will listen, that we must protect our natural resources not pollute them, or use them up, so our children, and their children, have a fit place to live. And we must save heirloom seeds, because that gives us power. And our world must be biodiverse.

Variety is the Spice of Life-Hogwash in Michigan&Food Security


Mark Baker said “No.” A retired Air Force veteran, and Michigan farmer, who had carefully selected heritage pig breeds that would do well in the cold climate of Michigan, disobeyed an order from a state agency, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), to massacre his managed herd. Many of his fellow Michigan farmers gave in and destroyed their livelihoods by shooting their herds of healthy pigs. Mark Baker defied the order. I published a post last October about this case, “Hogwash in Michigan!” Read the latest about the legal proceedings here.

Today, I read about filmmakers Kyle Miron and Drew Allegre who have filmed the story HOGWASH: THE AMERICAN PIG TALE, the documentary-in-the-making of Mark’s defiance of DNR demands. Here’s what the director, Kyle Miron, has to say: “It is not too late to reverse this Hogwash and to hold those responsible for attempting to rob American citizens of their livelihoods. We are a video production group based out of the Midwest that specializes in producing documentary style videos for independent farmers from around the world. We also donate our time to working with non-profits in our community. For nearly two years, we have been filming this historical tale of corruption happening in the great state of Michigan. Over 150 hours of footage has been recorded so far and we are in need of 20+ more interviews, (coverage of) three more court cases, and miscellaneous (footage) to serve as glue to the film. The footage we have showcases only one side of the argument. Interviews with biologists, senators, lawyers, DNR officers, authors, and hunters will help to clarify the reasons why this has happened in the first place. Mark Baker and his family’s courage to stand up to tyranny has been inspirational and we will be by his side ’til the end.” The film needs additional funding and if you can donate, in any amount, you will be investing in family farmers, and for your own food security. Click here to donate. (I am not affiliated. I am only passing along information.)

For, as surely as it’s happening with heritage pigs, it is happening with raw dairy for consumption and it will happen with chickens, rabbits, fish, and of course, it’s already been happening, for decades, with plants. Try finding an Hawaiian papaya that isn’t genetically modified (GMO). In fact, it’s paradise no more in Maui with Monsanto deeply vested in developing genetically modified seeds there. Learn more about agriculture and biotechnology concerns in Hawaii at Hawaii Seed. Their motto: The future is seeded by the actions of today. 

The laws being set up are not set up for the people, but to protect corporate profits. In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, did it say, “government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations?” No, it said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” Ever stop to think that every chicken, every turkey, all the pork, all the beef that passes through the industrial food chain to arrive in a grocery store is only ONE BREED per animal? Back when farming ruled the country, people raised all sorts of breeds of livestock, depending on how well they suited the local climate – Mark Baker’s heritage pigs are well-suited to the harsh cold in Michigan – and other variables. Biological diversity is sustainable. Industrial agriculture, in which plants and animals are grown in a monoculture dependent on chemicals, is not sustainable.

Congress fears what corporations fear. Why do you think BigAg corporations don’t want to label their GMO’s, why do they fear a few farmers raising heritage pigs, why do they fear a few hundred dairy cows producing raw milk for consumption (compared to millions that produce milk for processing into a milk product)? They don’t want people to remember, recall, learn, relearn, experience, that whole, raw milk is good for you, that biodiversity doesn’t require millions of tons of chemicals, that toxic food causes disease. – If you shoot a toxic gene into a seed, does that not make a toxic plant, from which pollen drifts in the air and falls where it falls? GMO’s are impossible to contain. – And to insure that people won’t learn or relearn these basic facts, coporations line politicians’ pockets (who become lobbyists for corporations when their time in Washington is done) with lots of cash, so they will write the laws in their favor.

Spread the word so everyone is aware: Variety IS the very spice of life! It is the stuff of LIFE. Diversity IS life! Don’t wait for corporations to do the right thing, because they won’t. They aren’t individuals, in spite of what the U.S. Supreme Court says. They are companies in business to make a profit.

These issues affect us all, whether you are growing your own, or whether you rely on grocery stores to feed you. All creatures, animals and plants, especially bees, are affected by chemical pollutants, toxic air, unclean water and un-fertile soil. These are the results of industrial agriculture. Not to mention, it has driven a whole lot of people away from farming the land to look for work elsewhere.

I have seen Wendell Berry’s name repeatedly in my two decades of food activism, and my two years as an urban farmer, but I had never really known about the man who’s made it his life’s work to care for the Earth, in written word and deed, until I saw the splendid profile by, in my humble opinion, our country’s greatest living journalist, Bill Moyers: “Wendell Berry: Poet & Prophet” That hour and eighteen minutes just may change your life. One of his many profound quotes:

“There is no justification for the permanent destruction of the world. The world and our life in it are conditional gifts. We have the world to live in, and the use of it to live from, on the condition that we will take good care of it.” – Wendell Berry

Thanks for reading! I know it’s long, but I hope you will share this, go to the links and read. I have learned everything in this article since I started growing food two years ago. I have even met Dr. Shiva and heard her speak. What actions are you taking to make the world a better place for all living things? Late Bloomer Facebook page is chock full of links, articles and resources if you want to get started. Join a local seed bank, community garden, garden club, or as South Central Los Angeles urban guerrilla farmer Ron Finley says, “Plant some shit! – Kaye 


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Category: Community, Environment, Food Security, Seeds

Comments (22)

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  1. Randy says:

    Michigan used to have the strongest right to farm law in the nation. It was a model that other states followed. Until recently.
    There is a movement within MDARD (Mich. Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development) which seems to be actively working to deny small farm operations the ability to produce crops, eggs, milk, pork, wool and other farm products.

    What is supposed to be a law to protect ALL farm operations, the RTFA relies on Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs). The GAAMPs are supposed to rely on established, verified science when considering any potential changes. However, the sitting GAAMP committees are populated by people who serve the following industries;
    MSU Extension
    Michigan Township’s Association
    Michigan Pork Producers
    Michigan Milk Producers
    Michigan Farm Bureau
    Michigan DEQ

    The proposed changes for this year will be discussed on November 6, 2013 in Lansing at the Agriculture Commissioners meeting. The draft of the changes has nothing to do with sound science but rather follows an agenda seeking to outlaw nearly 80% of farming operations within the state of Michigan. Essentially the only farm operations allowed to remain will be the Big Ag and CAFO operations.

    Many farmers will lose their livelihood, some will be criminalized by their local government. This has already happened in Garden City (, Eastpointe, Shelby Township and other towns across the state.

    Anyone concerned about growing their own food or buying from local producers should know about what is about to take place in Michigan.

    • This is dreadful news, Randy. CRAZY to further drive farmers off the land. Only a farmer who cares about biodiversity and sustainable farming practices can take care of the land and has the right to be on it. Thanks for the information. I hope a lot of people DO something to stop it. – Kaye

      • Randy says:

        Thank you for sharing.
        While it might be difficult to obtain large tracts of land for traditional farming, anyone with a backyard can become a “farmer” and support sustainable farming practices.

        Anyone who eats food can grow some of their own and reconnect with where that food actually comes from. Here is a clue, it doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. Even though the growing season is pretty much over, I just had a light lunch of tomatoes right from the plant and gave a few to a friend. There are more goodies still in the garden and the honey bees are still working.

        • I was just trying to express this sentiment to a Facebook friend, that even if you live in an apartment, it is possible to grow edibles (assuming you are physically able), and he evidently took it personally and de-friended me. Maybe I was too persuasive…. Congrats on your fresh lunch. I tried that with late season corn on Sunday, but the corn was inedible…. All the rest of my corn got eaten raw standing in the garden. 🙂

    • I posted this on Late Bloomer Show Facebook page, just hope to make a few people aware. I’m in shock about what you have gone through, and that they don’t have the good sense to END the nasty business. It’s not like you were an outsider….but, maybe that’s what they want living in that town. Just when urban farming is becoming huge and offers real hope for the planet, Michigan goes the wrong-headed direction of lawns, not food. You can’t eat a lawn! I wish you luck and more stamina to see this through. Don’t let it break you.

  2. Muy bien, somos muchos los agricultores que en el mundo estamos contra la corrupcion , la biodiversidad es la sal de la vida, en SurAmerica tenemos la fuente de biodiversidad mas grande del mundo, pero tenemos que hacer un esfuerzo titatico para mantener los recursos, por cuanto el estado no ayuda en la conservacion de las especies que son fuentes de alimento.

    • “Well, we are many farmers in the world that we are against corruption, biodiversity is the spice of life, in South America we have the source of greatest biodiversity in the world, but we need to make an effort to maintain the titatico resources, as the state does not help in the conservation of the species that are sources of food.” – Thank you for writing!! Good luck in South America! Keep up the good work! – Kaye

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    • Thanks, Joyce, for reading and commenting! I hope you will subscribe to my YouTube Channel and watch “Late Bloomer” episodes. My goal is to inspire anyone to grow food by entertaining and informing. You can download my free ebook from my website, and share with friends. Happy gardening! – Kaye

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