Kucinich on GMOs

On June 21, 2010, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced he would introduce three bills to comprehensively regulate all genetically engineered products, including a bill that would require all foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled.

Kucinich on GMOs: “Why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?”

“Today the Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to genetically modified organisms, we as consumers have to wait until the damage is done and obvious before we can act to protect health and the environment, even if that damage could be irreversible.”

“Haven’t we learned from the catastrophe in the Gulf of the dangers of technological arrogance, of proceeding ahead with technologies without worrying about the consequences? Why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?

“Tomorrow I will introduce three bills that will provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered (GE) plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms. To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all GE products. Structured as a common-sense precaution to ensure GE foods do no harm, these bills will ensure that consumers are protected, food safety measures are strengthened, farmers’ rights are better protected and biotech companies are responsible for their products.”

– Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a long-time advocate of family farmers and organic foods, on June 21, 2010, after the Supreme Court voted 7-1 to allow the experimental planting of genetically modified alfalfa seed before an environmental review is completed


The Second Green Revolution

Des Moines, Iowa, USA – In October 2009, the Borlaug Dialogue and the World Food Prize Foundation hosted the annual World Food Prize.  The World Food Prize Laureate is Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia for his discovery of a hybrid species of sorghum that is resistant to drought. 

Windfarm in Iowa equals alternative energy

 Happy Tonics was attending the 13th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Confernce in Iowa in 2009 around the time this event took place. 

The other side of the food issue.  CFSC Confenerce
Sustainabile Food Security Issue CFSC Conference attendees

Bill Gates spoke at the Borlaug Dialogue event.  Bill and Linda Gates Foundation donated a grant of $120 million to the “Second Green Revolution.”

The money is being given to Africa in part to grow drought hardy corn that 300 million Africans are dependent upon.  Gates said the grant will be used in part to train African growers in the science of biotechnology.   You can listen to Bill Gates speech at http://www.worldfoodprize.org/symposium/2009/video/gates.html   

Collaborative efforts are ongoing between Monsanto and the Federal Government and the decision is to allow genetic engineered crops to combat world hunger in developing poor countries.

 Monsanto, with approval of governmental partners including the White House, USDA Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Rajiv Shah, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will seek to plant genetically modified wheat in Africa.  Africa is besieged with environmental threats to their wheat crop due of drought and disease.  Wheat is one of the four most important crops in the world. 

Happy Tonics supports local grown and organic crops.  None the less, the public needs to be aware that GMOs are on the rise in the Global Food System.


Lacinto kale.  Italian heirloom from 18th century.
Lacinto kale. Italian heirloom from 18th century.

Just when we thought the global food battle was lost to genetic engineering (GE) in Washington, DC, along comes hope.  I am thrilled to speak about the Good Food Movement.

 The movie FRESH will be out this spring.  Watch the movie trailer at  http://www.freshthemovie.com/

Happy Tonics promotes the importance of local grown and organic crops and grass fed animals for dairy, poultry and meat.

FRESH the film is already marching forward in Wisconsin.  You can view the film in Hayward, on January 31, at 2 p.m. at the Park Theatre.  The film features Joel Salatin from Polyface farm, Shenandoah, Virginia, and Will Allen, of California’s Growing Power.  Both of these extraordinary people have been instrumental in the Good Food Movement.  Allen says,
“The Good Food Movement is now a Revolution.”

If each and every one of us can take this message home and practice it, we can change the global food marketplace one plate at a time.  Remember Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Visit Will Allen at www.growingpower.org/blog

Visit Joel Salatin at http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

Let us know how we can work together to promote food sustainability in our own neighborhoods right where we live.  Home is where the heart is.  Let’s hear from yours. 

Good day, Mary Ellen 

Honoring the Foot Soldiers

This post is written in memory of Craig Winters and Schuyler Houser.

Say No to GMO!

In 2008, I talked with Craig Winters (1951 – 2009).  We discussed The Campaign’s goal of wanting to establish Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods.  Winters passed away on 3 July 2009 after a long bout against cancer.  He was the founder and principal driving force behind The Campaign that worked with Congressman Kucinich to introduce a Food Labeling Bill.

Say No to GMO
Say No to GMO!

Now the work is being carried forward by Jeffrey M. Smith, Institute for Responsible Technology.  Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette.  Learn more about the the fight to stop GMOs in the food suppy at http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/MediaCenter/Videos/index.cfm  

Visit the Web site at http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm

Climate Change

Schuyler Houser (1943 -2009) was a champion for climate change education.  Sky as he was known, was the President of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College in 2003 when I graduated.  I was privileged to hear him speak on Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for Native Peoples and Homelands (Chapter 12).   His talk gave a lasting impression of how serious climate change may be for all of us.  I have been paying attention ever since.  The book title is Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change.  You can view a PDF file of the book and Chapter 12 at http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/00Intro.pdf

Thanks to Winters and Houser we have a road map to follow.  We walk into the future with our eyes open and ready to teach others about sustainability.

Growing Food by Mary Ellen Ryall

Spider web after rain
Spider web after rain copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Take a look at Will Allen.  

He walked away from corporate America and sports sixteen years ago to head up a growing business.  His main goal is to grow soil at his working farm Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It is all about community gardens and we need to get growing in each community.  Visit http://www.growingpower.org/

When we realize that it takes nearly 1 gallon of fossil fuel and 5,200 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of conventionally fed beef (Mooallem, 2009), we might start to realize we need to support local farmers and grazers.  Meat taste like meat when it is wild harvested or grass fed.  Biofuels made from crops have been responsible for up to 75 percent of the 130 percent increase in global food prices in the past six years (Weltz, 2009).  Food is not fuel and should never be taken out of the mouths of people and diverted to another profit making purpose. 

 It is interesting to note that college campuses across the USA are starting to introduce local grown food right into the cafeteria.  Tim Galarneau, is cofounder of Real Feed Challenge, a national campaign, wants to introduce 1,000 universities and colleges to buy 20 percent of their food by 2020.  Tim will still be actively working long after I retire.  It is good to know that youth are stepping up to the issue now.  Communities need to learn how to grow their own food so they can feed themselves in the future.  Josh Viertel, the 31year-old president of Slow Food USA says, “It’s just this incredible outpouring of energy to do the right thing.”  I feel confident that Tim Galarneau and many other young activists will lead the way to sustainability.

 Are we too little too late?

At the same time we need to keep our eyes open and on global food security and climate stress now that climate change is knocking at Earth’s door.  Please take a few minutes to listen to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaking on Agriculture and Climate Change in the video at http://vimeo.com/8137485

He spoke at Agriculture and Rural Development Day, on 12 December, 2009, a day-long event at the University of Copenhagen with more than 300 policy makers, negotiators, producers and leaders from the agricultural and climate change scientific community.   Unfortunately many believe that genetically engineered crops are a possible solution to end world hunger and the second Green Revolution has begun.  By listening to this video, we are staying informed and hearing about the world’s challenges to these paramount issues.

 Mooallem, J. (2009, March-April).  Veg-o-might.  Mother Jones, 36-37.

Weltz, A. (2009, March-April).  Trouble on the Limpopo. Mother Jones, 44-47.

Viertel, J. (2009, March-April).  Tray chic, Mother Jones, 47.

GE thoughts for the day by Mary Ellen Ryall

Native serape corn
Native serape corn

Genetic engineering (GE) is the practice of altering or disrupting the genetic blueprints of living organisms.  Think of trees, plants, fish, animals, microorganisms and humans who are no more a true species but now bits and pieces of something else, outside of their own natural species line.

The Creator did not cross different species with each other.  Man is crossing the species line in the laboratory.  Fish genes are now in tomatoes, bananas have no seeds, a bacterium pesticide is in the DNA of corn and the list goes on and on.

What are these altered crops doing to the soil?  What are these crops doing to human health?  What is the consequence to the very crops and animals that have had their DNA changed forever?  Take the tiniest spider in his web, is there anything more beautiful?  Or corn pollen that scatters from silky hairs to wrapped corn kernels within a cob.  The pollen slides down the silks and pollinates each and every corn kernel.  Why would one poison a plant and let it fertilize itself with its own toxic pesticide pollen?  In turn we eat the toxic corn.  This was not the way it was intended.

German researchers have found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the guts of bees feeding on gene-altered rapeseed (canola) plants.  Wind, rain, birds, bees and insect pollinators have been carrying genetically altered pollen to adjoining fields, including organic and non-GE fields.

 In 1999, we learned from Cornell University that GE Bt corn killed the monarch butterfly.  According to Food, Inc. a must see film, there is a growing body of evidence that GE crops are also affecting other beneficial insects included ladybugs and lacewings, as well as beneficial soil microorganisms, bees, and possibly birds (Weber, 2009).

Scientists in Oregon found that GE soil microorganism, Klebsiella planticola, completely killed essential soil nutrients.

Source:  Weber, K. (2009).  Food, Inc. NY:  Public Affairs (84-86).          

Bumble Bee by Mary Ellen Ryall

bumble bee
Bumble bee gathering pollen from autumn sedium

Since 2001, I have longingly listened to bumble bees humming in honeysuckle bushes in my garden each spring.  They flower in May.  Two years ago I didn’t hear the symphony of bumble bees.  In 2009, there was only a slight hum among the yellow and white blossoms.

I love these bees that delight me with sight of pollen all over their faces, hairy bodies and legs.  The sheer sound of buzzing makes me happy.  This behavior happens when bumble bees grab a flower and shake it by vibrating their wing muscles to release pollen.  I took for granted that the bumble bee would come and bless my heart and garden each spring.

Something is happening to our native bees.  I know that colony collapse disorder is killing European honey bees.  It is a complicated science to unravel.  There are mites, overuse of pesticide and herbicides and loss of native habitat.  Scientific America has documented that the agricultural practice of monoculture is also playing havoc on pollinators.  Pollinators need biodiversity of natural environments for nectar source nutrition (Cox-Foster and van Engelsdorp 2009).

 Recently I met Elaine Evans, author of Befriending the Bumble Bees, and learned that some native bumble bee species are in trouble also.  After reading the book I realize that I may have seen the Bombus affinis the rusty patch bumble bee which is in decline.  I contacted The Xerces Foundation at http://www.xerces.org/rusty-patched-bumble-bee  According to Xerces Foundation, “A major threat to the survival of these wild bees is the spread of diseases from commercially produced bees that are transported throughout the country.”  Watch this video on the rusty patched bumble bee at http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/segments/view/1684

When did things go so terribly wrong?  Between 1940 and 1960, large-scale agricultural practices began to emerge and loss of prairie, forest and wetland habitats disappeared.    I live in a fairly remote area that to the best of my knowledge does not have beekeepers that are transporting commercially produced bees around the country.  Perhaps there is hope here for the survival of Bombus affinis.

In 2010 I am going to be vigilant in recording bumble bee species and their numbers.  We will invite citizen scientists to help us record bumble bees at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.  I will also record bumble bees at two other locations.  Digital photography will be used to record and report our findings to Xerces Foundation.  Citizen scientists are needed all over the USA to record and photograph the three different species that are in decline.  Please visit  http://www.xerces.org/bumblebees/ to learn more about the species in trouble and how you can assist us.

There are other ways to fight back too. “In 2008 for the first time the U.S. Congress modified its agricultural policy to include pollination protection measures.”  They are encouraging the setting aside of conservation land where wildflowers can grow and provide nectar.  Happy Tonics, Inc. implemented a Monarch Butterfly Habitat, a restored remnant native tall grass prairie, in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, where native bees are flourishing.

Anna Martineau Merritt, photographer and author of Life, through the window of my car, raised an alarming thought.  She mentioned that bees need a floral corridor of at least five miles away from genetic engineered crops. The United Kingdom suggests 3.75 miles between GE crops and non GE crop sources.  A looming problem may be that a bee can fly as far as it has to in order to gather pollen and bring it back to the nest.

Without native habitat readily available, the bee has to travel farther.  The connection here is that the precious bumble bee may unwittingly transport genetically engineered pollen into native habitat and non genetic engineered crop fields.  The scary scenario of this might be that precious life giving honey could become contaminated with GE pollen.  To counteract this it is best to plant a native plant corridor within a two mile radius of the nest.  This is quite possible where native bees don’t need to travel so far.  A perfect example of this is northwest Wisconsin where the Monarch Butterfly Habitat is located and where there is an abundance of native habitat and non GE crops.

It is going to take a native floral corridor across the country to help pollinators including the beloved bumble bee.  Each of us can let wildflowers grow where we live.  Happy Tonics has an online store at www.happytonics.org where we sell common milkweed seed for the monarch butterfly.  We have found that bumble bees love the sweet intoxicating nectar.  Buy our seed and help the pollinating monarch butterfly (a butterfly in crisis) and native bumble bees at the same time. 

This spring, I plan to leave some soil undisturbed to invite the bumble bee to come and live in the garden and I’m going to tempt them with native wildflower and herb nectar plants.


Evens, E., Burns, I., and Spivak, M. 2007, Befriending the Bumble Bees, University of Minnesota Extension.

Cox –Foster, D. and vanEngelsdrop, D. April 2009, Saving the Honeybee, Scientific America, 40 – 47.

Martineau Merritt, A. Misty Pine Photography http://www.mistypinephotography.com

What Are You Eating?

Food Safety News:  If you have the opportunity please read Food, Inc.  The book, edited by Karl Weber, teaches about “How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer – And What You Can Do About it.”  It is a participant guide to the movie Food, Inc. a must see film to comprehend why we need to talk about feeding ourselves with local grown produce and grass fed dairy, meat and poultry.     The exciting news is that Wal Mart is now getting involved in the organic movement.  When America buys “organic” the big box stores listen.   Thank goodness people vote with their pocket books.  In my mind, there is no sense in arguing with the multi-national industrialized food czars.  In the end the buying public decides.  Choose healthy naturally grown foods meaning non packaged foods to support health.      

Joel Salatin is featured in Food, Inc. He is the owner of Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Salatin is featured in Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Officers of Happy Tonics had the honor of speaking before Mr. Salatin at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College Sustainable Living Conference in Hayward, Wisconsin, on 25 September 2009.  Sandy Stein spoke about the Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans and squash).  I addressed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations of the Midwest and affect on migrating monarch butterflies. 

Sandy Stein saving seed
Seed saving break out session

Winona LaDuke Speaks About Food Sovereignty

Nick Vander Puy, News from Indan Country, interviewed Winona LaDuke recently.  Here is her video on Youtube.