Ostrich or Turkey?

Before I raised a batch of White Midget turkeys I wondered why Benjamin Franklin wanted our national bird to be the turkey instead of the eagle, now I know.  Turkeys are friendly, smart, curious birds. They come when called, follow me about the yard, stand companionably around munching on bugs and converse with a semblance of intelligence in peeps, chirps and trills.

The ostrich, a large bird originating in Africa, is now found world wide because it is good eating and tastes more like beef than the ubiquitous chicken. This large bird captures the imagination because of its size, its inability to fly, its great speed and the myth that they dig their heads into the earth thinking they cannot be seen giving rise to our phrase: “Hiding ones head in the sand”, denoting a deliberate ignorance of the facts.

So…..I happen to be 100% turkey and I’m proud of it!  There is not one fact that I will avoid because it makes me uncomfortable or, in certain cases, scares me silly.  It is not my intention to scare all you good people who take the time to read this blog but I will also be writing about things that are, shall we say, unpleasant facts about the world we live in.

Since Rachael Carson (Silent Spring Sept. 1962) told us all about the dangers of pesticides in the environment there have been a number of prophets trying to get our attention about the degradation of our planet by our own efforts.  Bill McKibben wrote The End of  Nature in 1989 in which he theorized that there is no ‘nature’ left because the entire earth is blanketed with the chemicals and effluvia of humankind.  The very air we breathe is no longer the pure produce of natural photosynthesis but a conglomeration of exhaust from a million cars, smoke stacks, feed lots and what all else.   I read this book when it came out and I remember that some of the comments at the time were angry denials of his theory.  People could not get their minds around the idea that we had that much impact on the natural world. Sadly, Mr. McKibben was correct.  Now there is no place on earth, no air we can breathe, that is not tainted by our work. Mr McKibben made the point that our tendency will always be to try to engineer our way out of our troubles but, as has been said many times, when you find  yourself in a hole, stop digging…We cannot solve our problems by doing more of what caused them in the first place. This idea was put forth by yet another prophet,  Albert Einstein who said: “We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used in creating them.”

Yet, here we are, twenty-three years after The Death of Nature and we have even more toxic substances in our bodies than ever before, and we ate them and breathed them and fed them to our children and, gentle readers, we did not have a choice.  GMO, genetically modified organisms,  were introduced to our world in 1994 with the FlavrSavr by Calgene which later became a part of Monsanto.    This Wikipedia site has a chart showing the extent of GMO crops in the USA and elsewhere.  Notice that almost all the soy available in this country is GMO.  You can buy organic but— the latest research shows that the modified genes in these crops can easily move into natural crops growing near by and these modified genes can move through the soil and can be transported by livestock eating GMO feeds. This fact has been asserted by John Kempf, of Advancing Eco-Agriculture,  at the  recent conference on soil, jointly hosted by the Northeastern Organic Farming Association and the Bionutrient Food Association in Northampton, MA.

The ostriches of the world would like to ignore the fact of worldwide contamination of the food supply with GMO and the people who are making truck loads of money from it would like the rest of us turkeys to ignore it, too. There is no reason for these shortsighted people to stop screwing around with our food supply: they are making money, they won’t personally live to see the worst of their machinations and, in a blaze of utter venality, our government, which should be protecting us all from harm, has allowed these criminals free rein. As ‘they’ say, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

The best thing you can do, if you are looking for an action item, is support the movement to have GMO foods labeled on the package so you know what you are buying. Californians are working to get this on the ballot there, some 90% of people there want GMO labeled. Write your congressman.

There is a buy local movement in this country and it should be well supported by everyone. Much of our food is imported, especially fruits and vegetables in our winter time. Some are even labeled ‘organic’ but we have to wonder if something can possibly be organic of it is flown in from New Zealand or Chile at the cost of all that petroleum and air pollution from the jumbo jet that carries it here?  Buying local products trumps buying organic. You have some control over the people who serve you locally.  You can even offer to pay more if they will switch to organic practices.

Florida orange juice would seem to be the quintessentially American product but in fact,  the Coca-Cola company and PepsiCo use Brazilian orange juice in their products and together these companies have upwards of 60% of the orange juice market in the USA.  And…the highly toxic fungicide, carbendezim, which is banned many places is used on oranges in Brazil.  Over 50% of our orange juice is contaminated with this hormone disrupting chemical. To add to our woes, 85% of apple juice sold in the USA is from China where anything goes.  We used to be a world class apple producer. What happened?

I could go on and on but all this information and much more is available on the internet.  The choice we are really making is if we are going to be aware of the source of our foods and the problems of contamination rife in the foreign sourced goods or are we going to take steps to insure that clean, proper, unadulterated, nutritious food is grown and available here?

Ostrich or turkey?

P.S. My husband insisted that I mention Bill McKibben’s recent work. He is the founder of 350.org which works to keep carbon content of the atmosphere below 350ppm, the level considered safe. Read more about him on Wikipedia.

P.P.S. Is this blog post too long? Too short?

About Clio

I am an organic gardener with thirty years experience, a former minister, a former home-schooler, (they grew up), a current clarinet and flute player, knitter and spinner, and swimmer. I am interested in food security issues, food and policy issues, food preservation and encouraging people to become more aware and pro-active about their own food supply. I teach home food preservation, especially water bath and pressure canning, beginning organic gardening using bio-intensive methods, and give talks on food and food security for groups.
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4 Responses to Ostrich or Turkey?

  1. Becky says:

    I’m really concerned about this but I have no idea what to do. I have a sort of low level panic in my stomach and a hopeless feeling in my heart. I’ll write my congressman, because you mentioned specifically, but I have no faith that it will do any good. Once something is Modified Genetically, there’s no way to go back. The damage is done. Period. It would be impossible to “unengineer” the plants and animals affected. I feel I am an ostrich because there is no alternative. Is there a third category, perhaps turkeys with their wings clipped?

  2. Clio says:

    That feeling of low level panic is quite common in people who are actually paying attention. Taking any action, however small, writing to legislators, supporting local growers, lowering one’s carbon footprint, will help. We are going to need many solutions, on many levels, to solve our environmental problems. The real, personal challenge is to not give in to despair.

  3. i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

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