Thursday, 26 November 2009

Genetically Engineered Crops = Increased Pesticide Use

November 2009 - Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. 
Chief Scientist - 
The Organic Center

Genetically-engineered corn, soybeans, and cotton now account for...

Millions of indigenous people continue to farm and raise animals the ancient way, the organic way.

Nov. 26 -'09 - Organic Consumers' Asn.

4,200 Years of Farming on the Colorado Plateau

On the Colorado Plateau farming has been an unbroken cultural tradition for at least 4200 years. The Navajo, Zuni, Apache, Hopi, Paiute and Tewa have cultivated the most diverse annual crop assemblage in the New World north of the Tropic of Cancer.

The Wayana's Cultivated Eden

The farming system of the Wayana society of French Guyana is based on diverse and flexible cultivation, with characteristically high biodiversity. Organic agriculture and permaculture form a rich, biologically complex system of food production, complimented by wildcrafting, fishing, and hunting. In Wayana, there is no artificial separation between cultivated and wild areas, which is the basis for what we call permaculture.

The Milpa System and 20,000 Varieties of Corn

Few regions in the world have an organic farming system as sustainable and productive as the traditional milpa or "three sisters" organic corn fields of Mexico and Central America. The Mayan milpa tradition is the planting of heirloom varieties of corn in mounds or raised beds, intercropped with biologically complimentary species such as beans and squash, fertilized through natural processes, weeded, harvested and hulled by hand and tended individually. The ancient milpa tradition, in fact, has produced traditional varieties that are healthier and more pest-resistant than modern chemical and water-intensive hybrid and GMO varieties. There are over 20,000 varieties of corn in Mexico and Central America. In southern and central Mexico approximately 5,000 varieties have been identified. In one village in Oaxaca, researchers have identified 17 different micro-environments where 26 varieties of corn are growing. Each variety has been cultivated to adapt to elevation levels, soil acidity, sun exposure, soil type, and rainfall. Unfortunately Monsanto's genetically engineered corn - forced on Mexico by the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations - has begun to contaminate traditional Mexican corn varieties, while industry and consumer-induced global warming has spawned drought, pestilence, flooding, and killer hurricanes.

Andean Terraced Potatoes, With Thousands of Varieties

In the Andean region of South America, generations of farmers have domesticated thousands of potato varieties. Today, farmers cultivate up to 50 varieties on their farms. In the biodiversity reserve of the Chiloé archipelago in Chile, local people cultivate about 200 varieties of native potato. They use farming practices transmitted orally by generations of mainly women farmers. A long list of cultural and agriculture treasures from the Inca civilization has been carefully preserved and improved over centuries to guarantee living conditions over 4000 meters above sea level. Although grassroots opposition has stopped Monsanto's attempted invasion on the Andes and other regions of the Americas with its genetically engineered potatoes, constant vigilance and struggle will be required.

One of the most important and sustainable features of Andean agriculture is the terracing system used to capture water and prevent soil erosion. Terraces allow cultivation on steep slopes and in different altitudes. From a range of 2800 to 4500 meters, three main agricultural systems can be found: maize is cultivated in the lower areas, potato mainly at medium altitudes. Above 4,000 meters the areas are mostly used as rangeland, but can still be cultivated with high altitude varieties as well. In the high plateau, around Lake Titicaca, farmers dig trenches (called "sukakollos") around their fields. These trenches are filled with water, which is warmed by sunlight. When temperatures drop at night, the water gives off warm steam that serves as frost protection for several varieties of potato and other native crops, such as quinoa.

Learn more about indigenous peoples in the Americas and their contribution to sustainable agriculture here!