Friday, February 20, 2015

Montana Governor's Humanities Awards

On 19 February, I went to the Montana State Capitol for the Governor's Humanities Awards induction ceremony. It was held in the main rotunda, with plenty of support for the six inductees. Here they are on the rotunda steps.
Left to Right: Ken Eagan, Humanities Montana Executive Director; Inductees Dr. Richard Littlebear, Yvonne Gastineau Gritzner, Kirby Lambert, Philip Aaberg, Jack Gladstone, and William Rossiter; and Angela McLean, Montana's Lt. Governor.

My neighbor had invited me to join her for this event; she wanted to show support for her cousin (Jack Gladstone). So glad I went. I am part of the Humanities Montana (HM) Speakers Bureau, so I knew several of the honorees. I also managed to get in a hello to HM staff people I knew. An emotional part of the ceremony was the Songs of Honor, with drumming and singing of by Mike Jetty, and by a drum and singers who drove in from Lame Deer (Dr, Littlebear's home--about 300 miles away). I think the energy of the songs imbued in the audience pride and admiration for the six new award holders.  

The Governor's Humanities Awards were initiated twenty years ago by then-Governor Marc Racicot, and are given every two years. I like that the awards ceremony is held while legislation is in session so representatives from all over our vast state are in Helena to give support. From the program: "Humanities Montana will enrich the lives of all Montanans by fostering inquiry and stimulating civil and informed conversations about the human experience." I'm pleased to be part of this organization.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What am I growing?

I received my Gurney's seed catalog last week; I've used Gurneys to buy trees and shrubs, and thought maybe this year I'd grow some of my own veggies. Commercially-grown produce has been sprayed with so many chemicals to keep off bugs, to enhance the color, and so on; and root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, onions, beets, have been grown in soil many times fertilized with who knows what chemicals.

So I open the catalog at the front, not the back where the trees are, and there, on page 5 is a big spread for varieties of corn, with a lead headline "Sugar-Enhanced Hybrids" A little (se) is beside this, which I assume stands for sugar-enhanced. In the corner are all the treatments that have been added for better growth.
  • Seeds hard coating enhances germination and plant vigor
  • Allows for earlier planting of the see--coating protects the seed until soil reaches the proper temperature
  • Protects against disease and fungus
  • Flows more smoothly through a planter--allowing easy planting of large plots
OMG, this must be Gene Modified (GM) corn. There is also, a message:
"All Hybrid Sweet Corn varieties should be isolated from field corn, popcorn and ornamental corn."
No cross-pollination, please. Hmm, would it be harmful to which plants?

I hadn't planned to grow corn, but I was curious. I went to a search engine to get more information. At Natural News is that statement: "The question of whether or not genetically modified foods (GMO's) are safe for human consumption is an ongoing debate that does not seem to see any resolution except in the arena of public opinion. Due to lack of labeling, Americans are still left at a loss as to whether or not what is on the table is genetically modified."

Now we can't be certain about the food we grow, either.

On the Get-it-Together blog, I posted an article about Publisher Umbrellas, showing the controlling/parent companies of many of the big publishers. The seed companies are also under "umbrellas." I had already noticed the similarity of layout and products in Gurneys and Henry Field's catalogs, and assumed they were interconnected. I went to the Gurney's site intending to contact someone to ask about the corn, but first I checked the bottom of the page to see who really owned Gurneys. After a lot of hit and miss I learned Gurneys was part of Scarlet Tanager LLC. And then I found an informative article published in Countryside Magazine. It points out that most seed companies are under two umbrellas: Scarlet Tanager LLC, and J.W. Jung Seed Company. These companies have very close ties with Monsanto--the major GM seed producer.

The large company, Burpee, has been lumped into the Monsanto closet, but in a detailed article, the company refutes this and states it doesn't sell GM seeds.

It's not just the Genetically Modified question, but also the "ownership" of the seeds. The large companies are making changes in seeds and then patenting them, which means the strain or species of plant can't be farmed unless the seeds are bought from the originating company. Monsanto owns more than 10,000 patents. That controls a lot of big-industry-farming.

Fortunately, an increasing number of "heirloom" and preservation seed growers have established "banks" for seeds that aren't under patent, that aren't GM. I've decided this is the way to go and I'll buy only seeds that are not patented or genetically modified. I also plan to purchase them from companies that have taken a stance against GMOs and patents. So even though Gurney's has a few Heirloom products, they won't get my business this year. I want to be certain about what I'm growing.