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Richard Wiswall: GMOs Are A Dark Cloud For Organic Farmers

Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, has high hopes for farmers. In a recent interview with Laura Klein from TriplePundit, Wiswall spoke about organic farming, and the future of food. From TriplePundit:
Sustainable agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. On the other hand, less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically. In light of this conundrum, what keeps the organic farmer going? I spoke with Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, to find out more about what it’s like to be an organic farmer in these tough economic times. “The future of organic is very, very solid in spite of level sales,” says Wiswall.  A farmer first and author second, Wiswall is seeing a groundswell of new organic farmers entering the marketplace, which he and others attribute to the writings of Michael Pollan, films like Food Inc., and the increased concern surrounding food safety issues in general. However, there are big speed bumps in the way of an organic farmer’s success. GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, provide what Wiswall dubs as a “very dark cloud” for the organic farmer. Not only do GMOs operate outside the boundaries of nature, they are the source of expensive lawsuits for farmers. Companies like Monsanto regularly accuse farmers of “stealing” their seeds, even though GMO-tainted pollen often lands in an organic farmer’s land unknowingly via mother nature. Other issues with GMO foods include:
  • GMO seeds are costly to patent and by law, can’t be saved for replanting. This is a far cry from the claims that GMOs help poor farmers from around the world
  • GMOs need increased levels of toxins to control weeds, an unsafe option both ecologically and from a human health standpoint.
  • GMOs are artificially injected with foreign proteins. Check out Robyn O’Brien’s book The Unhealthy Truth How Our Food is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It to learn how foreign proteins are negatively affecting human health.
GMO “developers have not failed at making huge profits in a system where farmers are forced to market on volume, and have no market rewards for nutritional quality or penalties for ecological impact,” according to Timothy J. LaSalle. Another huge challenge for organic farmers are Good Agricultural Practices or GAP, which audits food growers for safety standards (see the debate about one such GAP program, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which is raging on OrganicAuthority.com).  While the premise is solid – to ensure food is safe – GAP certification can be cost-prohibitive for small organic farmers, ranging from $5,000-$10,000.  Plus, the strict standards of sanitization required by GAP are geared for big corporate agriculture – not organic farmers. With food safety issues on the rise, insurance companies are also heavily involved. “Insurers are pressuring retailers for GAP certifications, and retailers are pressuring farmers,” says Wiswall. […]
Read the entire interview here.


Sow Seeds: Stop Walking Around Doing Nothing

“In the last one hundred years, 94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.”That’s one of the key takeaways in award-winning author and activist Janisse Ray’s book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. In her book, Ray […] Read More

True or false? Figs contain dead wasps

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers tells their amazing story.Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

Eight Seed-Saving Myths

You don’t have to move to Svalbard, Norway in order to have access to a seed bank.Author and plant breeder Carol Deppe believes that every gardener should have her own seed bank. Even if you aren’t a seed saver, you should have your own seed bank. Even if you never experience any disaster beyond the […] Read More

Skills: The Gateway to True Homesteading Freedom

There are numerous skills that a homesteader needs to use on any given day; some are learned and others are passed down from homesteader to homesteader.In this excerpt from The Nourishing Homestead, author Ben Hewitt talks about why these skills are important to pass down to each generation, perhaps even if you’re not a hardcore […] Read More
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