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By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Look for green living news on any given day and you can easily find doom or hope.

Today, I read stories about the widening dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the result of massive fertilizer run off; huge bee die-offs in Canada  and Oregon, linked respectively to neonicotinoids and a pesticide known as Safari.

dead bee shutterstock_94126963 -- Pollinator.CAThere was yet another story blaming the world’s best-selling herbicide, RoundUp, for cancers and fertility problems near soy bean fields in South America and a report about a soybean field that had turned brown where RoundUp had been used to kill off the chaff of the previous year’s crop of alfalfa.


Yes, I was researching the effects of pesticides, a topic that’s literally about zapping living things. Even so, the scope of this slow-motion disaster in which we’re killing our soil and possibly ourselves quickly became a muddy mire. The negative outcomes are overwhelming. It’s like a comically dark soap opera. Will Mary Jane get IBS, along with everyone else who eats genetically modified foods? Will GMOs trigger or worsen Jason’s autism? (or allergies? Parkinsons? MS? Kidney disease?). Tune over the next two decades while our friendly mega-corporations tinker around.

But there’s hope. The drumbeat to take back our food system from the corporations that many see as failing to protect our health is getting louder.

Grow Food, sign in London

Urban gardens are springing up everywhere. This hive of green activity is in London.

Several groups are working the battlefront, strategizing to push the Big Ag and Big Biotech companies into the open and force unbiased research on the effects of modern, industrial food growing methods. instead of taking the word of the manufacturer’s whose research has been kept secret.

(This is the absurd reality: Corporation X wants to make a pesticide and sell seeds that produce plants resistant to that pesticide. It submits a study showing that the pesticide and the associated seeds and the food produced are all A-OK, and the federal agencies overseeing Corp. X, say “Great!” go forth and prosper. Outside groups cannot see this study, however, because it would violate Corp. X’s patents.)

These groups bucking the system include a few large, established advocacies like Food & Water Watch and the Environmental Working Group, which work on Capitol Hill, educating lawmakers about how cleaner, healthier foods can “feed the world” and nurture (instead of destroying) the health of Americans.

They have been joined in recent years by dozens of farmer’s groups and even gardening associations that advocate for cleaner agriculture. To name just a couple: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, which famously sued Monsanto for threatening the purity of organic farms and the National Sustainable Agriculture Association  (which believes sustainable agriculture is in everyone’s best interest because it preserves arable land).

Others in the fight to retrieve a democratic seed and food system include several recently formed grassroots groups, like March Against Monsanto, Occupy Monsanto, Millions Against Monsanto (I’m picking up a trend), Babes Against Biotech and Grow Food Not Lawns. These groups represent an angry slice of U.S. citizenry that sees food choices slipping away. They’re also activist organizations that promote marching, calling policy makers or working to shift paradigms, like converting your unproductive turf yard to a productive garden.

They keep growing — MAM instigated a huge show of force prompting marches around the world in May. Grow Food Not Lawns has found a large following on Facebook in just the year since it formed.

Without actually dwelling on the rationale, many Americans seemingly see they must depend upon themselves to make changes. They cannot count on politicians to act on their behalf, but must rally the masses to the cause. This has always been the case, but social media may be hastening the coalescence.

The message appears to be spreading. Bills to label genetically modified foods have been proposed in several states (I’d say more than 20 but the numbers keep shifting and the bills are weirdly tentative, like the ones in New England that will start if other states start), which suggests that some local politicians are attuned to the issue.

Even as labeling (which will help consumers better choose safer foods) lurches forward uncertainly, the grow food movement is clearly blossoming, reverberating around the world, even, resonating with everyone from hobby growers to those who want to make a political statement or take their families “off line.”

It’s intuitive. People are repulsed by the packaged, nutritiously vacant food filling an increasingly larger proportion of the grocery shelves and they are seeking alternatives.

It’s why Farmer’s Markets have doubled in a decade in the U.S..

Even Aristotle knew food was the best medicine (and the best medicine was food), if we can believe that quote of his.

So we have the means to ameliorate the problem. If we can just stop the steamroller on the road, and I think we can, there’s reason to hope (or hope for reason).

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