Tag Archive for environment

The “Cheerio Seeds” Scandal

PlantViewI’m sure most of you have seen that General Mills has been giving out free wild flower seeds in order to help save the bees. The long and the short of the issue is this: Handing out free seeds doesn’t make up for the refusal to stop using the chemicals that are killing bees in the first place.

Let’s back up and look at what glyphosate is. Otherwise known as RoundUp, glyphosate is an herbicide created by a Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970 and was marked in 1974. Glyphosate is such a strong herbicide that it was also harming crops. This stemmed the research and funding for genetically modified plants that could tolerate the chemical in order for farmers to spread massive amounts of the toxin on their crops, killing weeds and not harming the crops at the same time. Eventually bio-engineers began designing “RoundUp Ready” crops which are now used extensively in the US and in a few other countries.

The severe drenching of fields with glyphosate and the engineering of glyphosate into crops has not been studied in full, but the amount of glyphosate “leeching” into honey is alarming, especially given that glyphosate itself has yet to be cleared of possibly be a carcinogen.  The EPA is currently researching this risk, but results won’t be available until sometimes this spring, at the earliest. Coincidentally (or not so), studies have also shown that glyphosate has drastically impacted bees’ memory abilities, hampering the ability to find food and return to the hive, and their appetite, leaving them starving while producing low amounts of honey and with no drive to collect pollen, which in turn means low pollination levels and poor crop yields.

(None of this post takes into account the other environmental impacts of glyphosate of the potential cancer risk, but we’re sticking to the topic of Cheerios and bees here.)

Cheerios has tested higher for glyphosate (RoundUp) than any recently tested food article, with levels over 1,100 parts per billion. Which means that the fields in which the wheat is grown for the cereal is drenched in the chemical. (The oats themselves do not contain glyphosate as there are currently no RoundUp Ready oats. However, General Mills does still produce other cereals with RoundUp Ready wheat.)

So what does the Cheerios branch of General Mills do? They launch a feel-good campaign, which is timed right in parallel with unsealed documents that have been discovered and which raise the question as to whether glyphosate is safe for use. Cheerios decides to give out packages of free wild flower seeds that consumers can plant to help the bee population. There are a few problems with these seeds:

1. The seeds are not marked as non-GMO/organic, which means there is a very good chance that they also contain glyphosate. Planting poison not marked as poison is still poison.

2. Seeds listed in the package are considered invasive in certain areas. The company’s response to this essentially equated to, “There’s still pollen, and that’s what the bees need.” Introducing invasive species only presents other problems. Please check the label carefully to make sure you’re not causing more harm! (For example, Forget-me-nots and California poppies – both in the mixture – are very invasive weeds in certain growing zones.

3. These seeds are not a promise from the company to end the usage of glyphosate. Anyone who has taken Advertising 101 or a comparable course can tell you that this is a “feel-good” campaign in order to raise customer satisfaction and to distract from the new information surrounding the weed killer General Mills uses on the grains that eventually become their cereal, which we in turn feed to our families.

If you would like to plant flowers for the bees, by all means, do so!

Fantastic lists of native plants to grow that will help increase pollination and bee populations can be found at The Xerces Society. Make sure that the seeds you are buying are from a reputable dealer who does not sell GMO seeds, or if they do, make sure it is from a seed company that clearly labels what seeds are GMO and are non-GMO. One great example of a company practising such transparency is FedCo Seeds here in Maine. Everything is clearly labelled in their catalogue and online.

Buy from local seed dealers who will know what will grow well in your area.

Aim for native plants if you are planting only wild flowers.

Grow non-GMO, organic crops if you are gardening.

Do good, but don’t by into the “feel-good” of a company trying to undermine you.

Politics and Marriage

Before anyone begins reading this assuming that it is an blog post focusing on the gay marriage issue in Maine, let me state that it’s nothing of the sort. (For one, that’s nothing that concerns how we run the homesteading portion of our lives, but it’s also something Joe and I agree on and are both in favor for.)

This post deals with the issue of two very like minded people who are married to one another having a difference in opinion about an environment impacting decision that will be made in our town. Currently there is a plan in the works to see a natural gas pipeline go from Kittery up through the Kennebec Valley and eventually up into Canada. This pipeline would be directly effecting towns like Augusta, Farmingdale, Fairfield, Oakland, Norridgewock, Madison, and Skowhegan.

While both we are both environmentally conscious people, we each have very different views on the pipeline. To help others see how different these views really are, we’ve decided to share them.

Tasha: I’m not happy about the gas line coming through because, instead of wasting more money by creating temporary relief to the fuel issue, that money should be used to looking at sustainable, long term fuel solutions and subsidies for those that are already using/converting to long term solutions, such as algae based bio-fuel, wood, and solar. Tax credits for curbing fuel usage would also be a bonus as well, as it would hopefully teach more people to look at their own consumption and not simply keep swapping from one form of another.

My other concerns include the environmental impact that the construction of the line will have along the Kennebec River and how the pipeline will effect the river at the crossing points. None of this information has been readily made to the public as far as the environmental impact is concerned. It’s unfortunate that so many of those for this massive project are only thinking of the monetary aspect and not the damage that might be incurred on the Kennebec Valley.  What about when this gas line is no longer usable? What good does all that damage do for the next generations? I’m not asking these questions in order to get an answer, per say, but asking them to get others thinking about the “what ifs.”

 

Joe: I’m always happy to see cleaner fuel methods moving forward and becoming available to the public.  It’s true that Natural Gas is not a permanent solution, but it IS much cleaner than fuel oil which many in the Northeast burn as their primary source of heat.  It is also more abundant in North America than oil, reducing our foreign oil needs as well as putting money into our local economies.  Natural Gas is also less expensive than current alternative heating options, excluding cord wood of course.

We all know we need to shift from our current fuel usages.  I think that this process is best to be done in baby steps gradually moving towards more sustainable practices.  Currently we are no where near close to using sustainable and safe energy sources as our primary fuels, so we need to use the best we have.  If we always use the best we have, and are always striving towards the “next generation” fuel source, we will eventually get there and we will keep our planet as clean as possible.  If we try to make the jump to fully sustainable practices too quickly, only the rich will be able to afford to do it and the mass populace won’t catch on – in fact, it could attach a stigma to the technology keeping it from ever catching on fully.  We want to make sure solar, geothermal, heat pumps, hydrogen cars, ethanol (algae and cellulose based) are ready for the big time before they are pushed as “the way to go.”  In the mean time, Natural Gas is a great stop gap – and it’s cheap to boot.  I don’t want to see us continue on with our wasteful ways simply hoping that eventually we’ll have the perfect solution when it may never come.  At a minimum it may come at a much later time and meanwhile we are destroying the world around us.  So, just like everything else, we should do the best with what we have.

As you can see, while we have two very different views on the current situation, our long-term view is the same. That being said, this shouldn’t be romanticized in any fashion. Our ability to discuss these differences is something that has taken these past eight years to build to, and as with everything, will never reach perfection. How do we do this? Simple enough: we agree to disagree, which is easy when the overall outcome that both people want to see happen is the same. Right now this is severely easy to do in the case of natural gas because it’s not something that effects our home right now and most likely won’t even be made available to us because of where we live in town. If it was to effect us directly, we would be looking at hours of research and soul searching on both our parts regarding the topic, along with some very lengthy conversations about whether or not we would utilize the product available.