“The Land Has Feeling” GMOs and Their Effect on Farming

Elizabeth Doll, 2015

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are changing agriculture for the worse and if people do not act now, it may be too late in the future, according to Atina Diffley during her talk at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs last week.

While herbicide use is very common in large-scale farming, it is not allowed in organic farming.  Diffley, an organic farmer for most of her life, highlights her journey and struggles in the movie “Turn Here, Sweet Corn,” which was shown at the Little Art Theatre to raise awareness for the Tecumseh Land Trust, a local group which preserves “agricultural land, natural areas, water resources, and historic sites,” according to their website.

“This is a crisis that we really have to figure out how to deal with,” said Diffley of GMO growth.  “More than 50 percent of Americans don’t know what GMOs are.”

GMOs are seeds that are typically modified to increase production or change a trait about the food.  While many people see this as a positive move, GMOs increase herbicide usage and actually lower the nutrients in many healthy foods.

Herbicides, used to destroy weeds, bind the nutrients in the plants to kill weeds, which ultimately ends up in less healthy crops. These weed-killers don’t only affect the farm they are sprayed on either; they have an eight mile spread, so they can affect farms far away without either farmer knowing.  The herbicides can lead to large increases in human health problems in sprayed areas.  For example, there is a very high correlation between when herbicides were sprayed and when children were born with varied birth defects.

To fight the dangers to human health, Diffley encourages organic farming, but also would love to see more state labeling initiative, so consumers are aware that their food is being genetically modified. GMOs are currently labelled in 25 states, but Diffley wants that number to increase.

“The change is coming,” she said.

The current movement for organic foods and more sustainable farming is quickly becoming a popular social movement.  While the average age of farmers is about 60 years old, younger farmers are moving to farmlands from the city, and are growing organic.

“The farmers will change to some degree when we change what we ask them to do,” said Diffley of supply and demand of organic crops.

On a smaller scale, every person can write letters to their legislature encouraging more organic farming, as well as GMO labeling.

When the Diffley family faced legal troubles with the multi-billion dollar Koch Industry, 4,600 people in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota wrote letters on the importance of organic farming to local legislature.  Not only did the Diffleys win the case, they were also able to help create a state-wide Organic Mitigation Plan to protect organic farmers in future legal cases.

Diffley said the worst case scenario would be doing nothing now and having future generations wonder why organic and sustainable farming were not more widespread during the beginning of the 21st century.

While large industries are continuing to use more herbicides in their farming, the organic movement is growing rapidly.

“When food is ill, we become ill in many ways,” said one guest at the event.

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