Search This Blog


19 September, 2014

A GMO Free Los Angeles Is Imperative

Proving once again that money trumps truth in the pages of LA Times, there is an editorial against the proposed new ordinance to prevent growing of GMO plants in the City of Los Angeles,  Afraid of losing their advertising revenue from purveyors of genetically engineered foods offered to the public without any labeling (which they also opposed, even though the majority of Angeleno's demonstratively support labeling and strive to avoid GMO foods), the LA Times comes down opposing reason yet again - and their arguments are so specious and unsupportable, it leads one to wonder why they even bothered to make an attempt.

Squash display at this year's
Heritage Expo in Santa Rosa  -
all non-GMO! 

Every single argument they represent as 'our side' are secondary or are not even really one of our talking points.  I'll postulate all their stipulations as accepted truth.  (They are not, by  the way, but all their points are trivial in the scheme of things.)  There is one overarching reason to ban these plants in the city of Los Angeles:
The state and Federal governments have failed us as gardeners and consumers of food by not requiring proper segregation of GMO crops from organic crops, allowing GMO pollen to cross with the crops of those gardeners who want nothing to do with any plant that has been genetically tinkered with.  And once contaminated with GMOs, there is no way to get it back out - that plant and all of its progeny are GMOed. 
Is this a problem?  YES!  Everyone knows, from looking at the family tree,  a child inherits traits from both the father and the mother.  Specifically, 50% of the genetic make up comes from 'dad' and 50% from 'mom.'  The same is true for plants.  Pollen is the plant equivalent of sperm and provides the male genetic contribution to the next generation. 

In plants that are wind pollinated (corn, alfalfa and beets), this pollen can be spread quite a long ways.  Monsanto, in its ever continuing lack of forthrightness and honesty, with their original application to the USDA, stated corn pollen could be viable up to five miles from the point of origin.  That wasn't true - in fact, it had not yet even been studied, so the five mile figure was, at best, a guess someone pulled out of the air.  In subsequent studies the actual figure seems to be 25 miles. NO ONE HAS DISTANCE FIGURES FOR BEET POLLEN - and beet pollen is more copious and significantly lighter than corn pollen.  Beet pollen will cross with chard and mangles as well as beets.  Mangles are not so popular today, but chard sure is!  How far will that pollen be viable?  

Gardeners, growing their own food at home or in community gardens, teachers with their school gardens, will tell you that one of their most important reasons for growing gardens is TO AVOID GMO PRODUCE.  If the seeds they save from their own gardens have become contaminated with genetically engineered pollen, then their efforts are for naught.  If LA continues to endorse the idea of LA Grown food, we must stop the cross of pollen because GMO growers will not grow their plants in greenhouses.

It is up to us - the citizens of LA - to join with other municipalities that have already declared themselves to be GMO free areas.  We want to protect our own crops from becoming genetically modified by the pollen of crops grown nearby.  Yes, it's true, right now GMO crops are not grown by gardeners - only in larger farming operations - however, we believe it's only a matter of time before Monsanto wishes to expand their presence in the homegrown vegetable garden.  

Let's own up, LA Times.  Monsanto is the largest SEED dealer in the US.  Monsanto is very present in our home gardens, selling their non-GMO hybrids already. Sooner or later, they will want to increase their sales of GMOs as those sales begin to tank with farmers. Whoever paid for your editorial knows the GMO gig is coming to endgame already in our farmers' fields where the environmental degradation is palpable, the promises of higher yields largely discredited and the cost to profit ratio is dooming GMO crops to dustbins while the 'feeding the world' slogans no longer ring in headlines. The obvious truth now becomes illumined:  GMOs exist only to sell the chemical products of the company behind them.

We are not fooled by your pandering to those wishing to keep the truth from our citizens. Better you keep quiet and not besmirch your journalistic integrity any further.  You shame yourself and your heritage by treating your reading public as no-nothing sheep.

That's why many LA citizens are concerned about GMOs and that's why some forward-thinking councilmembers have moved for the citizens of Los Angeles against the behemoths of monopoly over our food supply. You would do well to take note.


03 September, 2014

Class This Saturday!

Yup, looks like a dog day to me!

September brings the heat of Dog Days and Drought - September's Garden... With summer's dog days all hot and dry, we'll explore our options of dealing with drought and growing food. It's time to get our winter crops planted for a wonderful winter harvest on into 2015. We have some transplants to work with and maybe take a few home and, as always, your questions answered. Sometime truthfully. 

 $20 at the gate, dress to get dirty (in the garden sense)! 

Some of winter's stars, left to right,
Fava bean, lettuces, and a cabbage 

See you in the garden!


26 August, 2014

UCLA Extension Course This Fall

Modern Backyard Food Production: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Save
Teaching plant propagation, that is an apple scion
in my mouth, I did not take up smoking.

An elective in UCLA Extension's Gardening and Horticulture Certificated Program, this is one of my favorite courses to teach.  We discuss the production, packaging, and transportation of food as large contributors to our global carbon emissions. We look at the current phenomena blossoming throughout the Los Angeles Basin, food gardens springing up to produce local healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables and contributing energy and financial savings in difficult economic times. You can register through UCLA Extension's website.

With a throwback to the idea of 'Victory Gardens' in World War II, we use the history of growing food in the city in times of need as a template, and explore how homegrown food can reduce our food budgets while addressing these environmental concerns. Students are each given a small plot for growing food where they can experiment with new ideas and enjoy their harvest. 

Topics include, at minimum, fruit trees, vegetables, and berries that do well in our climate as well as often overlooked food-producing perennials and how to grow food in modern city lots where the "back 40" describes square feet and not acres.

One of my favorite courses to teach in the Gardening and Horticulture series, we meet on Sunday afternoons at The Learning Garden, starting October 5, through December 14. Students are allowed to return to the garden after the term is over to continue to harvest from their plants.  

Typically, because there are no sources of food or drink near us at the Learning Garden, I usually make some sort of snack from local sources and something in season to serve.  Coffee and hot tea are provided.  Students are asked to bring their own service ware to keep our class meetings waste free.

Hope you can join me.


22 July, 2014

Perfect Mesquite Cornbread

This last of the cornbread was consumed
right after the photo was shot.  Too good to leave behind!

It is not just the ingredients but the process that makes this such a good cornbread. Use another oil if you dare, but still heat the oil and the pan in the oven before adding to the dry ingredients. Use another pan if you dare, but the best results will be with cast iron. Take time to meticulously mix all your ingredients together if you absolutely must, but do not expect a fluffy, springy cornbread.

Lay your inner rebel aside and follow the damn recipe the way it's written.

¾ cup cornmeal
¾ cup flour (white or a combination of white and whole wheat with white predominating)
½ cup mesquite flour*
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 Tablespoons melted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 scant Tablespoon sugar (you may use honey if you like)
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350ยบF, put the butter in your cast iron skillet and allow it to melt while the oven is heating and you are combining the dry ingredients. The hot skillet and melted butter are keys to the quality of the cornbread. Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mix wet ingredients into dry mixture until just combined, add the hot melted butter first, the milk second and the egg last. Quickly blend the ingredients but do not overmix! Pour the mixed ingredients into the hot skillet and place in the oven. From the time the butter is added to the time it goes in the oven must be as brief as you can make it. Bake 20 to 25 minutes - the top should be browning and a knife inserted in the middle of the cornbread should come out clean.

I did not make this up whole. I got help from reading about mesquite and morphed all I learned into my Grandfather's cornbread recipe. The method I learned from him and over 40 some odd years have proved that any improvement to it is not an improvement. Cornbread is comfort food for me. I could make it with my eyes closed except for the hot skillet part.

*The mesquite flour in this case is native North American mesquite flour (Prosopis velutina)  came from The Mesquitery. Thank you, Jeau Allen, for this wonderfully smooth flour to add to my family recipe to nourish my heart and soul!  


13 July, 2014

Some Salient Facts About GMOs: Addendum

It dawned on me this morning that I had missed one of the most important points that could have appeared in the first post on GMOs.  

Often we hear supporters of GMOs saying things like "What we are doing is no different than what mankind has been doing since the beginning of agriculture."  There is no difference between GMOs and simply hybridizing that anyone has done in the past." 

To say this is so ludicrous it does an injustice to the word.  When proponents of GMOs say this, they will eventually admit that previous generations did not have the technology to do this.  So how, in fact, did our ancestors "genetically engineer" plants?

They didn't.  

The technology used before genetic engineering is so totally different from genetic engineering that no one with a slice of understanding of the two technologies would ever suggest they are similar let alone the same.

If you had any doubts, look at the process.  In traditional breeding, normally there is a mother plant and a father plant.  In plants, there is also the phenomena where the mother and father are the same plant.  To clarify, pollen comes from the father plant parts and must pollinate the female plant parts - and some flowers have both male and female parts. Many of those having both male and female plant parts in their flowers will pollinate themselves - others may have both male and female parts but not be able to pollinate themselves.  It sometimes makes animal sexuality look dull.  

In the GMO process, the combining of DNA is done without a mother or a father.  Genes from species totally unrelated are inserted into the victim plant.  The very definition of 'species' is plants that can interbreed -  a corn's silk will accept pollen from any other corn, but will not accept pollen from related species - like wheat, rice or barley - they are all grasses and in that similar.  However, in nature you cannot get a corn silk to accept pollen from a beet.  In genetic engineering, genes from a fish can be inserted into a plant.  There is nothing in nature that would allow that to happen.  

Furthermore, the genetic information from the fish will be in every cell of that plant.  That doesn't happen in regular breeding.  Remember from your 8th grade biology class that each individual is born with two sets of genes - one from Mom, one from Dad.  And that is the way it works in nature - of each pair, one is dominant and one is recessive.  In GMO's, each plant is a clone of the original single cell that was engineered in a laboratory. This is not the way we've always done it!  And anyone who tries to tell you genetic engineering is "normal" or is "just like what we've always done" is either making money of GMOs or just doesn't understand what really is involved.  

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, natural about genetic engineering (GE), also called Genetic Modification (GM).  However you slice it, it's not a 'natural' process whichever way you look at it.

NB:  There is a process in traditional plant breeding where cloning is used.  However, it only happens inside a given genus - or in two very similar genuses. There are instances of hybridizing between oak species and apricots and plums will sexually cooperate plus a few others examples.  These are not the freaks of GMO work!  No fish has ever become a plant and no plant can, in nature, accept genes from species as different as those from a fish. The ones that cross species must be very similar to begin with and these are not all that common.  The resultant DNA, from this cross, is not usually reproducible, but a GMO plant will produce GMO plants in succeeding generations. 

I hope I have shed more light than dark! I have tried to explain simply and forthrightly.  If you need clarification, write a note and I'll answer your concern specifically.  


09 July, 2014

Some Salient Facts On GMO's; Part II, The Human Gut and GMOs

We established in the last post on GMOs that every single cell of a GMO plant has the GMO trait - in other words, every single cell of a GMO plant includes GMO DNA.  When an organic gardener uses Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis don't worry, I can't say it either!) to combat pests, the solution is spayed on the plant in response to insect attacks.  The water soluble solution is washed off when irrigated or rained on and is washed off before consuming the food (you wash your veggies, right?).  The toxin is not in the cell - a very huge difference from a GMO plant where Bt is implanted in the cell making every single cell of the plant loaded with the toxin.  

Initially I actually thought Monsanto had used Bt in order to remove it from the organic gardeners' tool box, a safe and selective pesticide that only went after targeted species. If the GMOed Bt plants were planted throughout the nation enough, eventually (like we see with Round Up and so-called 'Super Weeds') insects will evolve and render Bt useless.  That will happen sooner or later, because insects do evolve and they do so quickly under enough pressure - like thousands of acres of Bt GMOed plants.  

The heinous use of Bt as a GMO trait hurts organic gardeners and farmers and will eventually ruin the use of Bt.  Bt used by the organic grower is not in any way harmful to the human consuming the broccoli or any vegetable sprayed with Bt.  In the organic case, the Bt is not introduced into your stomach.  In the GMO case, it becomes a part of what you eat.  And a part of you.

GMO scientists said from the beginning this was safe because the human body does not metabolize Bt like an insect - Bt eaten by an insect causes their stomachs to 'freeze' and the insect dies.  This does not happen in humans.

As Jeffry Smith's film Genetic Roulette points out, your stomach is not the only actor in digesting your food.  In every healthy human there are more cells of bacteria digesting your food than your own body's cells and those bacteria are affected by the Bt in a negative way, either killing them off or making your food digesting track environmentally unfriendly to the beneficial bacteria.  

Smith's film also documented the phenomena called "Leaky Gut Syndrome" and that's about as nasty as the name itself.  Doctors and scientists are now looking at a new condition, in the last decade or so,  where the stomach and intestines of humans are being perforated resulting in leaks inside the body of the partially digested food. The indications point to GMO food - although no specific research has pinned GMOs as the culprit.  There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that GMOs might very well be involved (anecdotal evidence from farmers is plenteous and damning); enough to make one think twice about a diet full of GMO food.

But just now, recent research from two different teams have come up with some startling results.  As reported recently by PLOS ONE, entire strands of DNA may pass from our stomachs into our blood streams, included in their notes (note #4 specifically:  Rizzi A, Raddadi N, Sorlini C, Nordgrd L, Nielsen KM, et al. (2012) The stability and degradation of dietary DNA in the gastrointestinal tract of mammals: implications for horizontal gene transfer and the biosafety of GMOs. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 52: 142–161. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.499480) i=) indicates that GMOs transfer in mammals from the gastrointestinal tract to the blood stream and organs.  This does not make a rock solid case for the transfer of GMOs to human organs and blood, but it does make a very serious dent in the theory that GMOs are perfectly safe!  

In fact, with both these studies on hand and nothing else, I think a person who continues to consume GMO food would have to be called extremly careless with their own health. This shows one of the biggest flaws in the GMO camp's contention that GMOs are proven safe.  They have never been proven safe! There have been so few non-industry financed studies that it would be laughable if it were not our food.

Furthermore the honest truth is that a study must be relevant to the conditions under which the item in question is going to be used.  A study that purports to study the food a human will eat over a lifetime must go on for a much more significant time than six months or less.  The average human will live much longer than six months.  I would be happy if they could show me a 20 year study that proved their safety - until then, all we have are 'indications' at best.  

The studies done by the purveyors of GMOs have all been very short (and Lord knows they need to have results swing their way with the millions of dollars they've dumped into duping the world about GMOs) - the Seralini study about which there was so much recent press, took the protocols used by Monsanto and replicated the study, the only change was to carry the study out for longer than the original. (If they want to blame Seralini with 'bad science' they have to allow Monsanto is culpable as well.)
Rats from the Seralini study.

In the greater time allowed, changes in the lab animals were grotesque and horrifying. Monsanto's study did not show that because their study was considerably shorter, perhaps specifically shorter to avoid the findings of the Seralini work.  We live longer than lab rats!  The study needs to be much longer and rigorous.  Right now, you  and your children are the lab rats in the long term study, but it's not a controlled experiment.  

Not only is this risky - even if nothing were wrong with GMOs - but it defies logic.  If GMOs were introduced in a sane government, the government would have asked for several independent studies before allowing GMOs to be fed to the public.

The way GMOs were foisted onto the American public will go down in history as one of biggest gambles with human lives EVER.  Right or wrong in the end, it is a ridiculously foolish way to introduce new products to the marketplace, especially one as freaky GMOs. 

Next up, GMOs in practice. 


01 July, 2014

Coming Soon To A Mediterranean Climate Near You!

Southern California's First Completely Organic and
Totally Awesome Food Gardener's Bible!

David King, one of Southern California's most popular speakers and teachers, is finally finishing his long-awaited garden guide for our Mediterranean climates.

Calling on over 50 years of gardening experience, a good deal of that in Southern California, this transplanted Kansan has written a text that is 100% organic and practical in every way.

Never daunted and always funny, King gets his fingers into the dirt with you – beginners are not intimidated and experienced gardeners will find genuine gems of wisdom here.

Available in late 2014, the book will sold as an 8x10 paperback and as a Kindle download. Books will be available for order on Amazon as well as purchased from the author himself. The exact pricing is not yet available but be assured every attempt will be made to keep it below $25.00.

David King