The Fight of Our Lives

I grew up in the agricultural heartland of America. My parents were farmers, as were their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Farming is my legacy.  And, even though I am not a farmer today, I am still proud to call myself a farm girl.

Over the years, I became well aware of the controversy surrounding what was basically referred to as a continuum of the farming revolution. New farming methods and production practices were marketed in a positive manner, creating vast changes in agriculture. Buzz phrases like “labor-saving”, “economic benefits”, and “higher production” were widely used to promote and propel advances in the agricultural industry.

Saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer in 1997 after several decades of intensive withdrawals: The breadth and depth of the aquifer generally decrease from north to south. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer in 1997 after several decades of intensive withdrawals: The breadth and depth of the aquifer generally decrease from north to south. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

For me, however, it was not until I was studying American History in high school that I paid much attention to farm talk. Each Friday, our teacher, Mr. Rasmussen, hosted a current events class. Sometimes heated discussions erupted over controversial subjects or happenings. There always seemed to be a division in the class; farm kids vs. town kids. These debates grew fairly heated at times.

One of the most passionate discussions was about a newspaper clipping one of my classmates brought to the current events class. It was news of yet another large parcel of land being purchased by the multinational corporation, Cargill. ConAgra and Kellogg had also been gobbling up large tracts of farm ground in Nebraska. Both the farm and the town kids knew the arrival of big companies and corporations would bring change. What would happen to the local farmers? What would it mean for small towns and businesses? The discussion was anything but positive. None of us liked the idea of big companies and corporations pushing out the local farmers. All of us agreed that any gain that might benefit the surrounding communities, would come at a price.

Though I moved from Nebraska twenty-three years ago, I have not had to keep up with the local newspapers to know what was happening in my home state.  My brother, who I stay in frequent communication with, often speaks of various agricultural companies hoping to purchase large tracts of land in the county we grew up in, and in the surrounding counties as well. Through these purchases, communities saw monetary benefit from the establishment of large, commercial agricultural operations in the area. Some farmers fought to keep these giants out, while others saw opportunity and profit. Seed corn companies; Pioneer, DeKalb, and Northrup King, built huge facilities within twenty miles of my home town. Now, it is impossible to travel very far through Nebraska without driving past the big, ugly ethanol plants that have popped up all over the state. Billowing clouds of stinking exhaust from these facilities litter the skies. And, back in 2009, the controversial giant, Monsanto, built a monstrous seed corn production facility just a few miles from my home town. There are nine other Monsanto locations throughout Nebraska.

Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Data courtesy of the USGS
Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Data courtesy of the USGS

One newspaper boasted that seed corn production has become a big part of the farm revenue picture in Nebraska since a 1988 drought farther east brought a new sense of appreciation for the state’s irrigation resources. The major water resource for the area is the Ogallala Aquifer – a vast underground lake that lies beneath most of Nebraska, and portions of seven other states, including my now home state, Oklahoma. The Ogallala Aquifer provides more than 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater and 90 percent of the state of Nebraska’s drinking water.

And, the newspaper also noted, over that same period of time (since about 1989), a series of biotechnology breakthroughs has provided a way to endow seed with insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.  Like many people living in the Midwestern United States, I have long been familiar with Genetically Modified Organism’s (GMO’s), or GM crops. And, I admit, like most Americans, I haven’t wanted to face the magnitude of the problem. It is overwhelming. But then, this weekend, I read the post, “The Seeds of Death” Watch And Pass On!!” by The Belmont Rooster.  The link provided took me to a 90-minute video.  How, I wondered, was I going to watch a 90-minute video when I had my usual long list of projects lined up for the day? But something kept bugging me about not watching the video and, after brewing another cup of coffee, I resolved I would just have to sit down and watch it right then. It was time for me to face what I had avoided for a long time. My weekend projects could wait.

If you would like to better educate yourself on the subject of GMO’s, I encourage you to watch, “The Seeds Of Death”, by Gary Null.  It is the most informational and reliable documentary I have seen on the subject. It is well-organized and concise.  This video made me realize I have been like an ostrich, burying my head in the sand because I did not want to face what I knew was happening… IS happening. I understand the clever marketing behind GMO’s, and I get why Monsanto, corn seed companies, and other agricultural giants are increasing their footprint in Nebraska and other areas of America’s Heartland.  I understand how even the agricultural community; farmers, ranchers, and rural towns and cities, readily accept and welcome these huge conglomerates to their areas. It does, after all, look pretty darned profitable on paper. But I wonder, what do they plan to do when they have exhausted the soil, used up the water resources, contaminated our environment with chemical and toxic waste, and ultimately turned the fertile Midwest into a desert? 

Groundwater withdrawal rates (fresh water, all sources) by county in 2000. The area in Southeastern Nebraska showing the greatest water usage, is the agricultural part of the state I grew up in. Image courtesy of National Atlas.
Groundwater withdrawal rates (fresh water, all sources) by county in 2000. The area in Southeastern Nebraska showing the greatest water usage, is the agricultural part of the state I grew up in. Image courtesy of National Atlas.

Demanding, at the least, growers provide proper GMO labeling is just a small part of the picture. Water conservation and preserving our natural resources is also at stake. Widespread chemical application and toxic dumping is yet another concern. What is happening in the Midwest US is happening in other areas of the world too. Please, find courage within, to educate yourself on these topics. Our lives, and the lives of all our animal friends, may very well depend on it!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

I’ve noticed on the video, you may have to drag the progression bar back to the starting point. For some reason the movie wants to start at the 7-minute point, rather than the beginning.


76 thoughts on “The Fight of Our Lives

  1. Very informative post and I am on board! My son works on organic farms. He told me it is a huge concern that cross pollination can bring these unwanted GMO’s to neighboring farms.
    I will have to make a big pot of tea and watch the video. At the very least I will be bookmarking this for my son to read. Thanks! 🙂

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    1. Thank you for commenting! I am glad I watched the video, though I noticed after trying to get the YouTube version to go on correctly, it started 7 minutes into the movie (it did the same on the link The Belmont Rooster posted). The cross pollination factor is interesting in that Monsanto apparently feels it is the organic farmer’s responsibility to provide the barrier to protect organic crops. This subject is so vast and controversial. Since we buy organic when it is available, it’s important to me that we still have that option and that GM foods are labeled as such.

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      1. Absolutely…and as far as barriers are concerned, Monsanto should tell that to the wind. In Canada, it has become a problem for corn, alfalfa and canola which are major crops here.

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  2. I’m very concerned about GMOs too, and I just responded to an Audubon questionnaire about GMOs and other environmental concerns today. I’ve been meaning to educate myself more about the whole issue, so thank you for this post. I’m going to watch the video tonight.

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    1. Thank you, Kim. There is a lot of information out there – so much that it can be overwhelming. I found the video to be very informative. Gary Null has produced many informative videos about concerns for today’s world.

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      1. Ok, I’ve watched the video. Very disturbing. Like one of the other commenters, I was curious about a “non-GMO” food label and found that there IS a voluntary label being used in some cases. Here’s the link to the Non-GMO Project where you can search for non-GMO retailers in your state, and get lots of other information about the whole issue: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal/
        I’m thinking I need to blog about this too….thanks again for raising the topic!

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        1. Thank you for providing that link, Kim! I checked it out and I will be looking for the “non-GMO” labels! I may have to drive further to acquire these products. Hopefully, this type of labeling will catch on!

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          1. You will have to vote in legislation to make non GMO labeling happen. Currently it is ‘optional’ on the part of the manufacturer of the food product. California tried to vote it in and Monsanto and surprisingly some of the ‘natural’ food brands put up big money for an add campaign to make it go away. It worked! The measure was not passed. I’m not certain if Washington state has held their elections yet, but they were trying to get mandatory GMO labeling passed in their state too. I doubt it will/has passed. “Bigchemicalfood Inc.” has deep pockets full of big money and also has placed some backstabbers from Monsanto into the USDA.

            I keep talking about it, but no longer feel like the “squeeky wheel”. I now feel more like a gnat screaming in the wind tunnel.

            Glad you are on board now, Lori!

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          2. Oh my goodness, Lynda! I got cracked up over, “I keep talking about it, but no longer feel like the “squeeky wheel”. I now feel more like a gnat screaming in the wind tunnel.” You ROCK!! I’m glad I quit riding the fence on this.

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  3. Excellent post and I’m so glad that you have are able to inform more people.It is indeed a blight and a plight. I try to purchase nothing but organic but the expense is hard to handle sometimes. The last apples that I bought at HEB were not organic and the apples had no flavor and the textiure was odd. I’m sure the apples had been treated wtih all of the “cides” that are used by most growers. I hate what is happening to our country and our world. And yes big corps are “doing in” the small farmers and ranchers and it is happening in Texas too- not yet as much as the areas you have written about.

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    1. Thanks for responding, Yvonne. Mostly, I hope people take the time to know what is happening in their regions. I think it is more about making wise choices regarding conservation. I hope that people realize the importance of conserving our water resources.

      I buy organic when I can. When I can’t get that, I do the best I can to read labels. I want GMO labeling on foods. I’m with you on the organic expense being a little too much to handle at times. Where I live, there are not a lot of choices. Corporate food suppliers will stock what they can sell. Prices for organic are not made affordable for most of the public. Like most everything in this world, it always boils down to money.

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  4. So much information packed in a super fluent text that even I can read fast ;D nice writing! GMO’s can’t be healthy, no matter what way you look at it right.. it must mess with our cells and us humans have enough problems with that already. Not to mention little critters!

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    1. Thanks Anouchka. I feel GMO labeling should not be a problem if Monsanto and the food industry feel there are no health/environmental repercussions. Ethanol fuel must be notated at the fuel pumps. The more we know, the better choices we can make. Being aware is so important! Thanks for commenting!

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  5. I know, I know .. this is exactly why I grow my own food. When I arrived here in america I was shocked at the state of the food and appalled at the GM thing. So i have quietly gone about growing my own and feeding as many people as possible good clean food. DO NOT eat processed foods. Buy fresh. I know it takes time but We can make a difference. The only way to topple the giants is to not give them ONE dollar. And that includes bio fuel and many inks and fabrics by the way. It is not just food. Oh mercy don’t get me started. And as to the GM labelling, lets think about it another way. Why don’t the companies who are producing the good heritage food products with NON GM products label it that way. I would buy something with a NON-GMO label. I would look for it. Where are they? Are there any!?. We can fight back.. not by fighting dumb-ass monsanto but by circum-navigating them! Sorry, off I went! thank you for this post.. c

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    1. Celi, I love your passion! I actually had to rewrite this post a few times so that I did not come off offensive. I am very passionate about what is happening, and I’m very unhappy about what I see happening in Nebraska. The massive GMO corn production is completely justified when you talk to folks up there. People accept it. The video is really excellent, and I do hope people watch it and think about the repercussions. I did not know about the inks and fabrics… good heavens… that’s just more to add to the overwhelming list of GMO products. It’s like a huge domino effect!

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  6. As another heritage farm girl, it’s been a long, slow waking-up process for me. Buying organic came first, then supporting local farmers and becoming vegan. I’ve been hearing about GMOs a lot lately and just knew it was “bad.” I’m so glad to have a source for more information.

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    1. Thanks for your positive comment. I know it’s a lot more work to buy organic – seeking out what isn’t always plentiful or promoted in rural areas. I will probably have to shop out of town to attain more organic foods and non-GMO products. The good thing for me is, once I pulled my head out of the sand, there is no turning back. I’m going to continue researching and I will do what I can to make better choices!

      Have a great week! Enjoy the next leg of your adventure!

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  7. Pingback: Food For Thought
    1. Thank you for posting about this subject, Rachel. It is a real compliment to me, with your background and passion of science, to read the words in your recent blog post. It’s also refreshing to hear from so many people from other countries who address this issue of GMO’s and conservation of natural resources.

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  8. Huge Multinational companies want complete control of our food supplies. To do that, they need to make sure that we are all completely reliant on their products. If you take over the food market, you rule the world. We all need food. Simple really. The inoccuous means that they have gone about using to get as far as they have without society noticing (until now) have been nothing short of nefarious. We ALL need to get on this bandwagon, stand on this soapbox and preach as loudly as we can because it’s OUR earth they are messing with, OUR lives, OUR children’s futures, OUR choices that they are taking away with each and every noxious, profit margin increasing, soul sapping decision that they make. Profit is everything and if it means you have to leave a carpet of “collateral damage” behind you “who cares…” It’s all about the money and the power and as I said, if you control the food, you control the population. A terrifying eventuality and one that we all need to be shouting from the rooftops!

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    1. I knew I could count on you, Fran, for a passionate comment! Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts! I know deep down, what will happen in decades to come with the Nebraska area. Back in the 1930’s, wind and dust storms eroded much of the topsoil from land in the Midwest, creating “The Great American Desert”. Shelterbelts or wind breaks were planted to stop the prairie wind from carrying away the topsoil. For more than 50 years it worked. But now, with the demand for more corn and bigger profits, many farmers and ranchers are tearing out these natural wind breaks. It is justified by saying today there are “farming techniques” deemed as “no till” that help manage erosion. That, coupled with center pivot irrigation and little conservation of the water supply, I feel we will be at risk for “The Great American Desert II”. I totally agree with all that you said. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? I often feel hopeless about what we have created on this planet.

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      1. That’s where permaculture comes in Lori. Reclaiming the desert is a specialty of many permaculture practitioners throughout the world. Imagine Nebraska on steroids and you have Africa… I guess when they have decided that it isn’t worth the effort any more we are all just going to have to pick up the pieces and make the jigsaw again.

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          1. Sad but we can all DO something. That’s the positive side…there is a positive and negative side to EVERYTHING…the world is always trying to balance itself out and we get to find ways to combat and heal what is happening and we learn to get the backbone to stand up for what we believe in and fight what we know is so much wrong with the world. I would consider this something worth fighting for and when you decide to believe in something and comit yourself to a course of action, surely it has been a good day 🙂

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          2. What a wonderful way to look at the situation. One thing that I have found in my life is, once I am cognizant of something, I can no longer avoid addressing the issue. I know now, it will come up again and again – not that it hasn’t been there all along, but because my eyes are opened. Balance is a lovely word. Thank you for wisely reminding me there is a positive side to all situations!

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  9. Dad came from Shannandowa Valley, Va. farming heritage and maternal grandfather from greenhouse owner/sales in Pa. and Holland. Rich heritage to cultivate desire to farrm/garden and live organic and Holistic. Studied much of what you presented in blog and feel the concerns. Great post to inform and hope facts are passed along to others. THANK YOU for real and common interests of concern.

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    1. Thanks so much, Rachel. After watching the video I felt compelled to pass on information about what I see happening in the Midwest US, especially my home state. I am glad you found it to be informational!

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  10. So far as I understand it: At this time we are the only big agro country to allow such blatant use of GMO crops and sprays. Few countries believe the cr@p that Big BIOchemical corporations are feeding us. Although there are many who have become caught up in the chemical quagmire and can’t find their way out.

    Monsanto, and the Roundup Ready GMOs are actually BANNED in many countries. In the US, nly the California counties of Mendocino, Trinity and Marin have successfully banned GM crops. (Three counties out of the whole United States! SAD.) Read more here in an article from 2011: http://www.examiner.com/article/what-countries-have-banned-gmo-crops . Very recently, Italy has become the 9th EU Nation To Ban Monsanto’s GMO Corn. Read more here: http://www.trueactivist.com/italy-becomes-the-9th-eu-nation-to-ban-monsantos-gmo-corn/

    Bless you for joining the revolution!

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    1. Thank you for posting these links, Lynda! I know you have been active on this subject for a long time. I’ve followed your posts. Our FDA is worthless. As a people, I believe we have become a “sleeping nation”, allowing others to make decisions for us and we’re too lazy to stand up and rebel what is happening.

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  11. A special mention for your very interesting post, which is very informative. This is the same problem with all of the multinational. According to them, people health is not as important as the profit; Personally, i don’t eat corn anymore and i look at the labels products. They have to mention “without GMO” Big hugs my friend.

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    1. I am glad to see there are some countries that are forthcoming with “non-GMO” labeling! I am convinced their are many entities out there who do not care about people’s health because there is too much money to be made by creating an unhealthy population. It is a sad state of affairs. Thanks for commenting! And, big hugs to you too… with a lot of love!

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  12. Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Here’s what a Green Revolution can look like from the inside. My fellow blogger Littlesundog has lived through great changes in America’s agricultural hearthland and she’s not very impressed. The biotech giants and their genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered, GE) seeds don’t please her. You can scroll down her article to watch a documentary about what, in one authors’ view, has gone wrong there.

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  13. What is happening in farming is so tragic. I think there is far more awareness in Europe, but eating non mass produced products is more expensive. Everything that is bad for our future always comes back to money.

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    1. I agree that the food industry does not make it easy nor affordable for us to eat well and healthy. And yes, sadly, most all decisions revolve around money. Thanks for your always welcome viewpoint! I appreciate you, my lovely friend!

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      1. It makes me feel warm all over when you ‘say’ my lovely friend. Years ago I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to really connect with people in a so called virtual world, which it isn’t really now that it’s become so normal. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

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        1. I feel the same! I am amazed at how many caring and loving people there are, who support and encourage one another. And it’s a wonderful thing to experience life in all parts of the world, learning from others and sharing. I really enjoy your views, photographs, and thoughts. You are my “lovely” friend, and I appreciate you! So glad we found each other!

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  14. I very much like seeing the activist within you, my friend.
    I wish it wasn’t necessary for you to step forward, but I’m glad you have. I’ll do my best to broaden my horizons soon. Promise!

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    1. Thanks Hook! I used to check labels for sugar and sodium only. Now I find myself looking for organic and non-GMO labeling as well. It’s like starting all over to eat healthy. It feels good to finally have gotten “on board” to protect nature and be a conservationist.

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  15. The post and the comments are so illuminating! Without meaning to be negative, somehow the message has to be sent in a video that is less than 90 minutes. The average person isn’t going to give 90 minutes to this issue – apathy reigns in so many issues today! I’ll look for non-GMO and thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I know… the video is very long. I made myself take the time to watch it because my gut told me to. I am glad I did. Watch it in segments if you can. It’s well worth the effort.

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  16. Sigh. The shortsightedness of the powerful, be it politicians or CEOs, is going to the ruin of all of us, Lori. I’m just as much an ostrich as you were – well, very likely more of one – but I do know enough to be angry and scared about what’s happening to farmable land. It’s tough to a positive spin on any of it.

    Despite my gloomy outlook, I thank you for using this forum to talk about this topic. Well done my friend!

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    1. I know, Sid. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. Now that I’m on board with this, I am purposefully looking at labels and trying to make wise choices with foods. My garden will be heirloom next year… that is, IF I plant a garden. What if I’m writing a book? I wish I was Wonder Woman sometimes!

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  17. Reblogged this on a north east ohio garden and commented:
    I have mentioned that this is an organic garden. Seeing this post about the GMO industry trying to buy up farmland in Nebraska is something we all need to be aware of the danger. The GMO industries are trying to do all they can so that GMO foods and seeds are the only choice available.

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    1. Thank you for commenting and for reblogging my post, John. The more we are aware of what is happening, the more we pay attention to the decisions and choices we make. I am much more cognizant about what I buy and am sure to look for organic and non-GMO labeling.

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      1. Littlesundog, The GMO industries make farmers sign away all their rights just for the privilege of growing a GMO crop. Everything becomes a secret. The farmer is not allowed to compare a GMO crop to a non GMO crop and definitely not allowed to tell anyone. Even when rodents refuse to eat GMO seed and only eat the non GMO seed right beside the GMO. Very scary and very sad.

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    1. Yes, Charlie, there is much to consider. There are strong arguments on both sides, but the thing is, we are just beginning to see the long-term effects of this agricultural “progress”. Conservation and a balance of sorts is the key. We should have a choice. The margin of having a choice is narrowing thanks to powerful entities like Monsanto.

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  18. Hi Lori, As I was reading this post, I was thinking about the challenges faced by the farmers and food producers here in Australia. We don’t have the giant agricultural companies mentioned in your post, but our local farmers are under pressure from cheap imports of fruit and fruit juice concentrates. So I read and hear about how orchardists in the Murray Valley, Shepparton region and Harcourt are ripping out trees because of the decline in demand for their produce.
    Food sovereignty is increasingly becoming an issue here.
    In the Castlemaine and Daylesford regions there are groups which support local food producers and encourage people to purchase food which has been grown or produced sustainably.

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    1. I think if people here knew the magnitude of the problem, they might make different choices. It does take paying attention to labels in stores and asking questions at local farmer’s markets. Even at that, the prices for organic and non-GMO products are often twice the price and not affordable for many people. Thanks for you comment and input, Margaret. I’m finding this is a subject that is really concerning to folks. Glad to hear your perspective from your region of Australia.

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      1. Your welcome! I hope they do too. I’ve been watching Dr. Mercola and Catherine Autin Fitts with The Solari Report. I have a video from her that I’m going to add to this post called “Who’s Your Farmer?” She was the Secretary of Housing under George W. Bush. She has been through a lot.

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  19. People are too busy worrying over the current celebrity crisis to pay attention. Like you say, there’s always divide between the townies/city folks detached from nature and the environment and the rural ranchers and farmers who must understand and work with it. People raised in square rooms consumed with video screens do not understand how it affects them.
    It is a crisis. Not only the GMO for health/human safety (which catches some attention) it’s the damage to the environment by large corporate farms must do to be profitable. Poisons, no rotation, and the wind spreading it all – even to those who area attempting to have natural farms.
    And then there’s the entirely stupid idea of using food to create fuel so Susie, Kenisha, Maria, and Mia can go to the mall and buy disposable junk made elsewhere. Corn is food! And they weep so many are hungry…in the TV commercials for charities. Ethanol is a curse. (have another post started if I can get the research time in)
    Please consider reposting this particular post every so often to help keep the issue in the public’s eye. It’s so important – you could just cut and paste stuff around(even from some of these comments – great stuff here) if you want it to look different…stick a cute deer pix/kitty pix on top to grab attention? Neither of those will fare well if the environment goes down. Thanks for all your efforts with this one!

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    1. Wow! What a bold and important comment! I couldn’t agree with you more. The concerns with our environment are immense and I often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of it. I am aghast at how easily people believe and accept whatever is fed to them. What I feel and know comes from observation and my gut feeling about what we’re doing as a nation/world. Just as an animal’s instinct and intuitive nature directs it away from danger, so we too need to tap into our inner gut and instinct. The sign’s are everywhere… but too many are concerned about the next face-lift, video game, new car purchase, bigger and more upscale home – vanity and materialism seem to rule. I’m afraid none of the environmental concerns will matter to people until reality serves a life with limited water sources, and a land that has become barren… a desert. Thanks for such a great comment!

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      1. You are in a unique position with location/actual observations – much more valid and more impact than me who can only cite research and suggest potential.
        But as you say, gut instinct is saying Food not fuel. And when the Feds are saying it’s acceptable and OK that eagles and birds of prey(which control rodent population for agriculture so poison isn’t necessary) are being killed by wind turbines – the Feds actually have an “allowable” number for GE and some wind farms – I have to think the inmates are running the asylum. Every bit of writing is important – each time another reader learns and can be enlisted to help fight.

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        1. Thank you and yes, I believe observation and gut instinct is so important. What I see in Nebraska is most concerning. For myself, I cannot trust much of the information out there. And, as far as the Feds go, or any other entity that is supposedly protecting us, those days are long gone. The greed of money and power has taken our country to a place I fear will, and has, crippled us. It is all overwhelming to me… and I have never really been an activist type person, but this is our planet. I am very passionate when it comes to nature. I will continue to write about these issues and I hope others open their eyes and take a more active role. I love your words, “Every bit of writing is important – each time another reader learns and can be enlisted to help fight.”

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    1. Thank you Simona! I just checked out your blog – it is very beautiful! I have not made the time to meet the criteria on so many awards, but some day I will! Thank you for your faith in my writing.

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