Monday, June 28, 2010

Update of GMOs in D.C.

Today I have been reading Anna Lappe's Diet for a Hot Planet - yes, it's a kind of sequel to her mother's 40 year old seminal book - and thinking especially about her chapter on greenwashing by food and agrochemical companies.

This reminded me that I wanted to write a bit about this June's Supreme Court decision regarding GMO's. It's been spun every which way.

The good news would seem to be that the ban on planting Round-up Ready alfalfa stands, at least for now. The ruling seems to recognize that transgenic contamination has the potential to be harmful to organic and conventional farmers. The original suit was about organic alfalfa. Clearly if organic alfalfa back crosses with genetically engineered alfalfa, it is no longer certifiable as organic, nor is the milk from cows that eat that feed. US alfalfa is sold around the globe - and, of course, many other countries have more restrictions on GMO's than we do. And gene flow is real - even the Supreme Court thinks so.

The decision also seems to leave the door open for other challenges to GMO contamination - but only after the damage is done.

Apparently Monsanto was all over the media with it's spin, that it had won the case and would have have Round-Up Ready alfalfa seed ready to go this fall. But the USDA's hope is to get the environmental impact statements done in time for selling and sewing of seed in spring 2011 - if there are no further legal challenges - which given the fact that the Center for Food Safety and other concerned groups are all over it, seems pretty unlikely.

As I look at Monsanto's web site, it seems their approach to the ruling has been under what Lappe suggests is strategy #2 - Spin the Story. Statements from execs are long on buzzwords, value-laden words and phrases, and very short on facts.

But here's one fact I can't resist sharing: Justice Breyer recused himself on the ruling because his brother was involved in the original case here in the 9th circuit. Justice Thomas, formerly employed by Monsanto, did not.

You can read a fuller balanced treatment on Grist:

I must say reviewing the spin and some of the blogging on this issue makes me wonder why I am adding to the hash and rehash of comment!

On a related issue: if you are concerned about labeling of foods containing GMO's, you can learn where your women and men in the Congress stand here:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Justice at the Table

Justice at the Table – A New MSA Resource

Christine Sine has announced that a new Mustard Seed Associates resource Justice at the Table by Ricci Kilmer has become available.
This resource is a collection of personal reflections and practical ideas to help us redeem “food” in all its dimensions from its mundane place as an annoying chore to a spiritual practice essential to a life of faith. This resource is designed for busy people and includes a mini-booklet for jotting notes on the go.

Ricci continues to challenge me and many of us in MSA about the importance of considering the decisions we make about what we eat and how we think about our food. Take a look and see how you can continue to redeem your relationship with food for the kingdom of God.

Christine Sine is teaching me a lot about the spirituality of gardens and of creation.


Ponderable quotation

I picked up David Mas Masumoto's latest book, Wisdom of the Last Farmer and want to share this quotation.

He's speaking of his father's "annual haircut" of the raisin grape vines.

"Good pruning is really the art of taking away, like a sculptor chiseling at a rock, working to uncover life inside. Dad paced around the grapevine, paused and clipped, leaning in and cutting; eyes darting back and forth, searching for the strong canes, locating spurs for next year's growth. He worked with the past and saw the future----adding to a living timeline."

Working with the past and seeing the future - this seems to me the essence of ministerial leadership, too - of prophetic leadership, if you will. We need to get that gestalt, that helps us work deftly to get rid of the non-essential, to get rid of what weakens, what draws our energy in an unhelpful, and eventually undermining direction. The strong canes of our life together are already there. The promising spurs are, too. We just need to uncover and free them.

Sometimes the landscape maintenance people here where I live say they are pruning - but they really aren't. They are hacking and cutting without any eye to the plant's history or the plant's promise - and often their work makes the next "pruning" more difficult, even less helpful.

We need to encourage the art of pruning - both in the life of plants and the life of organizations. But what pruning do we need to do to accomplish better pruning?

Trafficking in tomato plants

I continue to try to connect the dots among church based community gardens and food distributions on this side of town.
We have a food drop by the Redwood Empire Food Bank at Thanksgiving Lutheran now, on Wednesday, as well as the Thursday food pantry at Knox Presbyterian, staffed by their volunteers as well as folks from Resurrection RC parish.
Last Friday I picked up some unneeded - but needy for attention - tomato plants and eggplant starts at Bayer Farm and took them over to the Stony Point Community Garden at First UMC. Not all their beds are spoken for this season, so they will have extra room to grow food
to share.
In another few weeks we'll all have summer produce coming in - two of us at TLC have summer squash already. The first one was a thrill - but soon there will be weeks when it is the dominant vegetable in my picking basket - and it will get tiresome. And there will be plenty to share with those coming for food bank staples.

Today's effort was going out to Shone Farm to get raspberry cane thinnings. We haven't got our berm plan yet, but if we have extras we can easily share them with Stony Point, where they have not begun to do their perennial fruit plantings yet.

One woman who was in the Santa Rosa Junior College class thinning the canes asked me all about our garden - because, she said, "I'm really interested in community."

And so are we all - nurturing the community in community gardening.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

another podcast

I'm listening right now to a relatively new (this spring) podcast, "The Queens of Green".
Deborah Koons Garcia and Temra Costa interview leaders of change in food, farming and related issue arenas.

Sometimes they interview one another, as in the one I'm listening to now, where Temra talks about her book "Farmer Jane" - about how her undergraduate studies in international agriculture and women's studies came together.

Women (30 are included in the book) are leaders in the sustainable food movement, they say - not just as concerned mothers, but as farmers, chefs, and so on. Temra excerpts her book, and both hosts manage to get in personal details and opinions ranging over a variety of related topics.

The interests reflected in the weekly 26 minute interviews are both regional (north and central Califorinia - it helps to know where the intersection of Ashby and San Pablo is) and global.

Here's their web site:

You can also download the podcasts through Itunes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

theology on the farm and range

I just finished taking notes on Deeply Rooted: unconventional farmers in an age of agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton so I can return it to the library tomorrow.

In doing so I realized how much theology is contained in the stories and quotations of these three farmers - theology of creation, theology of land, theology of work. Each - in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota - has his own way of expressing things, but the language of value and trust comes through with similar themes - of stewardship, respect, community, participation.

Besides that, it's just a well written book - personal narrative, observations and opinion interwoven. Enough about the author so you sense her presence - but not so much that you learn things about her you'd rather not - a recent trend in writing I abhor. Blame it on blogging.

But I digress. Whether you're interested in small scale organic dairy farming - pasturing as a way of life - in the context of historic African-American agricultural communities; or northern New Mexico cultures and landscape; or North Dakotans bucking the tide with organic farming and a gardening model, this book is well worth reading.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

coming attractions

Coming this fall to a computer near you:

A Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership on-line course
(Church Divinity School of the Pacific

Here's bit from the syllabus -
Food and Faith: the Spirituality of Sustainability
September 6 - October 22, 2010
The current "food movement" is really a cluster of movements and networks, such as organic food, slow food, food security, food sovereignty, food justice, public health concerns, food safety, small-scale farming, sustainable agriculture, relocalization, and on and on....
This course brings to that cluster of concerns a particular emphasis on social, cultural and environmental sustainability in dialogue with faith. The heart of the course moves beyond consumer concerns and choices to look at production, advocacy for change, and celebration, and to consider how they play out in the lives of our households and faith communities.
When they complete this course students will be equipped to:
1. Describe the key factors that make a food system sustainable and just.
2. Initiate changes in their own habits of consumption, production and preparation of food that contribute to a sustainable system.
3. Articulate to their communities of faith the theological and ecological reasons to work for change in food system policies and practices.

Please pass this along to anyone you think would be interested.