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.
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.
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?
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.