Genetically re-engineering myself

New Zealand anti-GM billboard

As ordinary Australian people are being so symbolically locked out of the APEC security zone (Australians Pushing Export Coal), John Howard and George Bush are busy making sure that “no billionaires are left behind”. It’s timely, then, as these billionaires gather, thinking they can determine our future, that the current Digger’s Club magazine focusses on Genetic Engineering and the multi-billion dollar Corporations Monsanto and Bayer who are pushing GM.

The Australian and US Governments do not require either of these companies to conduct or publish health studies on GM crops. Monsanto and the US Government also have patents on Terminator Technology that creates “sterile seeds by selectively programming the plants to kill their own embryos.”

One of

my heroes, Vandana Shiva, has said:

“The gradual spread of sterility in seedling plants, would result in global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet. Never before has man created such an insidiously dangerous plan to potentially control the livelihoods, food supply and even survival, of all humans on the planet.”

Genetic modification of crops is being disturbingly linked to immune system disturbances, nervous disorders, stunted growth, disability, kidney and liver disorders and now even, possibly, Colony Collapse Disorder in bee populations.

“Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honey bee to pollinate that food.” American Beekeeping Federation

The British Medical Association has cited, among other risks, the threat of antibiotic resistant marker genes combining with bacteria in the human gut.

The Royal Society has said, “GM could lead to unpredicted, harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods.”

We can no longer sit back and trust our governments to make decisions about this without our input. As questions concerning GM crops continue to build a disturbing argument against their use Mothers against Genetic Engineering are one of many groups rising up to demand that our governments don’t lift existing bans on GM crops.

Geneticist Professor Richard Lacey says:

“I am not aware of any peer reviewed scientific literature that establishes the safety of even one specific, genetically engineered food, let alone the safety of these foods as a general class.”

One of my political actions in the last few days has been to sign a petition calling for Australia to be kept GM free. It specifically asks to extend the ban on GM canola until 2013 and to support the ban on Terminator Technology. It gets sent to GeneEthics 79784, Carlton Vic 3053 Ph. 1300 133 868 or

I also visited the Greenpeace site on Genetic Engineering and submited an email there.

As a personal/political action I was inspired by Nada’s beautiful Grandiflora blog and spent an evening collecting and packaging seeds and organising them in a box with dividers so that I’ll be able to find all my seeds and plan my spring garden. Bill Mollison said that theoretically you can always squeeze in one more plant but, unless I’m organised and have seeds at my fingertips, I know I’ll just procrastinate and be an armchair permaculturalist looking at all my “permaculture porn” books but not actually doing anything. This is the first step to action … and this action is about as political as I could possibly get – I’m saving heritage seeds and joining with thousands of others around the world, building up a bank of them so that we have independence from Monsanto.


My second action was to ring Green Harvest and order 100 seed potatoes (a combination of Desiree, Kipfler, Nicola, Pontiac and Red La Soda), ‘Ever Red’ Rhubarb, Ginger, 20 Asparagus ‘Mary Washington’ and some Yacon or Peruvian Ground Apple … apparently the Yacon are delicious, sweet, juicy tubers, and you can eat them raw or cooked, make juice out of them etc. One set of tubers can produce 4 buckets of food! I also ordered some more seeds and a wooden tool that helps you to make your own pots out of newspaper …. would love to not have to buy plastic pots!

While I know mail order companies like Green Harvest survive because lots of people use them all the time, I’ve always had some procrastination gene working that meant I drooled over the catalogues but never actually got around to ordering anything. Yeeha – I’ve finally done it … and just in the nick of time. Diggers had sold out of most of what I wanted but I’m going through their catalogue tomorrow.

I’m determined to learn everything I can about seedsaving and gave some seeds to Anna today in exchange for some raspberry canes she gave me. I’m also looking forward to going to my first Seedsavers Group meeting next month.


7 thoughts on “Genetically re-engineering myself

  1. Rohesia

    Aha! Thanks for the Green Harvest link Lis, looks like they have all sorts of fascinating plants to try. I’ll be interested to hear how you do with the ginger, I’d always assumed it would be too cold for it here, although it sounds as if they get around the frost problem by treating it essentially like an annual. Wonder if the same thing would work with the vetiver they have (one of my all-time favorite scents.)

    Have you tried Jerusalem artichokes? Grow like weeds, stunning 2m spire of golden flowers and multiply like crazy with big yields. Only problem is, I don’t much like the taste except for throwing the odd one into stews and such.

  2. Lis

    Hi Rohesia! … where in the Central West are you? I lived in Orange for 14 years and the climate was very similar to Blackheath … the main difference was that the soil there was better for growing.
    I had a long talk to a very nice man at Green Harvest and everything has already arrived from them today. He thought I could have problems with ginger but it would be worth experimenting. He suggested a moist spot and I’ve been thinking of a place under a big tree next to the house … it gets sun, but also gets shelter from frost and warmth from the house. Now that the ginger has arrived I’m wondering whether I couldn’t simply have planted the ginger you buy in the shop?? It looks the same.
    I’m with you about Jerusalem artichokes … I had them in Orange and loved the look of them but only ate them a couple of times…. despite the fact that they took over the garden. Not to mention a rather indiscrete problem that they caused!!!! Nevertheless, I’ll probably try some again … I think anything that grows easily is worth a shot. I’m determined to get year round food one way or another and the hardier things are the better.

  3. Nada

    Ginger….you just plant the stuff from the shop. I grew it in a pot. In Blackheath I know people who grow the ornamental kind of ginger and in a sunny spot it does well and looks good. But you always take a chance with frost. Argh.

  4. Helen

    I just can’t help going back to the picture at the top,…wow, that is burnt into my mind forever! Images really do speak louder!
    Thanks Lis

  5. Rohesia

    I’m over at Portland Lis, so much the same climate as you, but with lime rather than acidic soils. Like you, I’m trying to produce some of my own food: vegetables, fruit and soon eggs. I find journals like yours and NIM ( very encouraging and full of ideas.

  6. Susan

    Over the years I have got lots of my seed material from the shops. And I am happy to experiment with lots of stuff. My first lot of home grown purple onions came via an onion that was sprouting at the green grocers and being thrown out and so I planted it out and waited for it to seed. Now days of course you can get seedlings at the Nursery. I got my purple potatoes and red carrot seeds the same way – planted rather than ate the produce. The world is your oyster Lis
    kumera and sweet potatoes for a very warm spot (if the rodents don’t eat it on you)
    different cultivars of hydroponic lettuce
    multi coloured beetroot
    and the great thing is that one plant gives you lots of seeds, many more than a pack of 30 and all for a bit of TLC.

  7. Steve

    When I grew up in the 50’s every backyard had a veggie garden, a few fruit trees, a few chooks & even a water tank.
    I still enjoy the sound of a rooster in the morning, although you’d have to visit the country to hear one nowdays.
    By the 70’s backyard gardens & chooks were getting scarce. It was so much easier to buy at the supermarket.
    I can even remember my parents receiving a Council letter demanding they remove the water tank. No money could be made if homes had an independant water supply.
    I’m now 55 & live on a small rural property. I’ve had backyard veggie gardens all my life & now have four chooks & an orchard of various fruit trees.
    Although there is town water available I installed water tanks & haven’t used town water for the last five years, even during drought times.
    Nobody has mentioned that home grown veggies taste so, so much better than from supermarkets.
    Fresh produce must be much better for our health too.
    It’s interesting to see backyard veggie gardens becoming popular once again.

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