An ecosystem includes plants, insects, micro-organisms, and wildlife intermingled with their interdependent relationships with soil, water, air, sunlight. All work together to create an environment that maintains the ecosystem and providing the foundation for all living things. These help to purifify our air and water, produce oxygen, preserve soil, encourage pollination, and provide natural pest control.
The Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity includes socio-cultural, economic, and environmental elements. Genetic biodiversity provides not only healthy crops, it also allows for new plant and seed varieties, maintains soil fertility and its microorganisms, and makes soil and water conservation a priority.
Watch this Great Documentary on the Importance of Biodynamic/Organic/Sustainable Gardening
This movie will encourage you, inspire you, and restore your faith in the possibilities of one person's ability to change the world, one step at a time...buy it, support them, spread the word. This is one of the most important movies of our time if we are to sustain life on this planet.
Biodynamic farming enables real food security for thousands of local farmers and gardeners, and in the process, it restores the health of the soil and the community is no longer subject to pressures of globalised market forces that prevent them from keeping high ethical standards and farm commercially. Mega-industrial farming on a worldwide scale has no spiritual connection to the earth, no consideration for the people affected by the process, no respect for the environment, and no concept of social fairness or food equality for everyone. These mega-foods are made with layers of chemicals and genetic modifications and only benefit those "corporate farmers". Small farmers find themselves unable to compete and lose their farms. Local communities become dependent upon outside sources for their food, seed, and jobs.
Agricultural diversity maintains our bio-diverse plants, seeds, animal food sources, croplands, pastures, rangelands and encourages and maintains the microbial and fungal resources necessary for healthy soil. If the vitality, biodiversity, and health of our soil and crops can be improved, plants would be naturally resistant to pests and disease. We need to educate our farmers about the benefits of bio-diversity, soil sustainability, plant and animal health, natural pesticides, composting, and companion planting.
It has been estimated that only 1% of pesticides applied to crops reach the insects they are designed to kill; the other 99% pollutes the air, soil, food, water, kills wildlife, and depletes the soil’s vitality.
In the past it has been acceptable for farmers and gardeners to buy and spread chemicals and pesticides over their crops instead of understanding the mechanisms of sustainable organic growing methods, and the importance of biodiversity.
Hopefully, as consumers demand more organic foods and growing methods, governments, agribusinesses, giant chemical companies, farmers, and home gardeners will be motivated to eliminate the use of genetically altered seeds and plants, carcinogenic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Maybe this will grow to include the livestock and fisheries industries currently using antibiotics, chemical food additives, growth regulators, and hormones.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ORGANIC and HEIRLOOM SEED
Members of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Alliance (OSGATA) have signed onto a code of ethics and are engaged in preserving the integrity of seed above and beyond profit-market interest. OSGATA develops, protects and promotes the organic seed trade and its growers, and assures that the organic community has access to certified organic seed, free of contaminants and GMO'S.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are the result of laboratory processes which artificially insert foreign genes into the DNA of food crops or animals. Those genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. GMOs are not safe, but have been in the food supply since 1996. Most Americans say they would not eat GMOs if labeled, but the U.S. does not require labeling.
A plant is considered to be an heirloom (not a hybrid nor modified with GMO's) if it is an open-pollinated (able to reproduce true to variety under natural conditions) plant that with its original genetic material and unique reproductive and immune information intact. A hybridized plant is the result of a cross between 2 varieties of a plant, and when seeds are taken from a cross-pollinated plant, these seeds can not reproduce the parent plant and will revert back to one of the parents genetics.
If we keep using commercial genetically modified hybridized seeds and lose the geneitcs of the originals, one day we may be faced with seeds that will not be able to reproduce a healthy plant. This is happening now with GMO seeds. We are losing our heritage seeds and they are becoming extinct. We are seeing a worldwide disappearance of traditional plant varieties. If we cannot plant a seed and a healthy plant, we will not survive. Common food plants available today represent only 3% of those that were available in 1900. 75% of native crop varieties in the Western Hemisphere have disappeared because modern agribusiness hybridizes seed for commercial advantage without consideration of the value of heritage seed. Organic heritage seed is the only seed that will promote a sustainable food chain. Here are a few suppliers of organic and heirloom seeds - Organic Seed
Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Genetic Engineering is a process of artificially modifying plant or animal cells by cutting and splicing DNA from one cell into another for the purpose of transferring desirable qualities that will make a crop resistant to herbicides, insects, or to enhance food value. are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques.
When genetic engineers insert a new gene into any organism, there are “position effects”. These effects can lead to unpredictable changes in patterns of gene expressions and genetic functions. The protein product of the inserted gene may carry out unexpected reactions, producing potentially toxic products.
Living organisms are highly complex, and genetic engineers cannot predict all the effects of introducing these new genes. Problems may develop from this process: new toxins and allergens, loss of bio-diversity in seed and crops, or damaging health effects from manipulated food crops. When new genetic information is introduced into plants, bacteria, insects, or animals, it can then be passed into related organisms through naturally occurring processes such as cross-pollination.
It is estimated that 70% of the current genetically modified (GM) harvest is made up of herbicide-resistant crops (HRCs) designed to tolerate high levels of exposure to broad-spectrum herbicides, enabling farmers to spray only one heavy dosage per year, but still this does not break the overall cycle of dependence upon chemical applications.
Genetically modified foods in U.S. markets include tomatoes, squash, yeast, corn, potatoes, canola and soybeans (which are used in 60 % of all processed foods, such as bread, pasta, candies, ice cream, pies, biscuits, margarine, meat products and vegetarian meat and cheese substitutes). Genetically engineered foods not tested nor labeled as genetically altered could jeopardize our health.
This process has already created some herbicide-resistant "super weeds" causing many farmers to have to spray even greater quantities of herbicides on their GM crops because the weed species have become even harder to control.
Cross-species transfers between fish and tomatoes, or other unrelated species that would not have happened in nature may create new toxins, diseases, and weaknesses that can spread across species barriers.
This new combination of host genes and introduced genes have unpredictable effects. These artificially induced characteristics can be passed on to subsequent generations and other related organisms. Transferring animal genes into plants also raises important ethical issues for vegetarians and religious groups.
Another form of genetic engineering is used to create "Bt crops" by inserting a genetically modified gene into a plant gene from a soil organism called Bacillus Thurengenisis (a pest-specific powder used, only when it is needed, by organic farmers and gardeners).
This inserted gene causes the plant to produce a substance that makes it toxic to certain insects (creating a built in pesticide) and in theory there shouldn’t be any need for chemical sprays. However, insects exposed to these transgenic crops over sustained periods of time may develop immunity to BT, and even harsher pesticides will be needed to control the problem.
A more cosmic concern is raised by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson in his book called “The Diversity of Life”. He estimates that we've only identified and named about 10 percent of the species that inhabit the earth. Knowing so little about our world, why are we in such a hurry to alter it?
Genetic engineering companies are carrying out a potentially dangerous global experiment by introducing large numbers of genetically engineered foods into agriculture and food supplies which may have unanticipated and harmful side effects leading to national and/or global food shortages.
More than 50% of the crops developed by biotech companies have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides. This could promote a rapid appearance of resistant insects, destroy the beneficial insects, or alter soil organisms and ecosystems. In addition, the pesticide produced by the plant may be harmful to the health of consumers.
There is no way of knowing the overall, long-term effects of genetically engineered foods on the health of those who eat them. Since most genetically modified foods are not be labeled, manufacturers have already introduced genetically modified ingredients into many of our foods.
Genetically Engineered TRAITS TRANSFER TO ANIMALS: For the first time, there is EVIDENCE of large concentrations of transgenic DNA from Genetically Engineered (GE) corn in animals. Scientists in Canada found the GE transgene from Roundup Ready corn in numerous soil-dwelling animals, demonstrating that GE transgenes do not degrade significantly within the food web. The transgene was found in ALL animals tested, including arthropods, nematodes, insects and earthworms. The findings suggest that there is opportunity for genetic transformation into non-GE plants and humans from GE-contaminated soil. (Miranda Hart, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada)
Labeling should be required for any food that contains a genetically engineered ingredient, or has been produced using GM organisms or enzymes. This would help scientists trace the source of health problems arising from eating these foods. Food scares and epidemics are increasingly commonplace, and in response, the demand for organic food is skyrocketing.
Greenpeace has launched a new version of their popular Shopper's Guide, which is an online resource to help you find out whether the food in your shopping basket is GM free. Hundreds of products are listed at:
Shopper's Guide to GM Foods
Genetically modified foods are linked to toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. (See summary in Genetic Roulette ) They are banned by food manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere, yet GMOs are present in the vast majority of processed foods in the US.
The carbon footprint of any food in the local supermarket is incredible. Some foods come half-way around the world before we see them in our grocery stores and the shipping has contributed to huge gasoline emission. Wouldn't be prudent to grow our own food or buy organic produce when it is in season from a locally grown organic farm, garden, or a local farmers market?
Do you want to know how to determine your impact on the environment? - Use The Nature Conservancy's carbon footprint calculator to measure your impact on our climate: or use this Footprint Calculator to calculate your eco print on the environment.
A UK supermarket chain Tesco announced in April 2009 that they were going to put carbon footprint labels on their products so that customers could make environmentally-based choices. What if there were a handheld scanner in every store so we could scan over an item to find out its carbon footprint and impact on the planet? This kind of tool would enable us to know what effect our buying choices have on our planet's environment and its limited resources.
"When the planes still swoop down and aerial spray a field in order to kill a predator insect with pesticides, we are in the Dark Ages of commerce. Maybe one thousandth of this aerial insecticide actually prevents the infestation. The balance goes to the leaves, into the soil, into the water, into all forms of wildlife, into our selves. What is good for the balance sheet is wasteful of resources and harmful to life.”
TED - Technology, Entertainment, Design - an annual conference bringing together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives - watch the best talks and performances.
Watch Paul MacCready: Nature vs. humans, and what we can do about it
Watch Juan Enriquez's - Why can't we grow new energy?
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