Moms and Pops: Feed for the Whole Farm
When we founded our intentional community farm in Centralia, we knew we were going to raise both plants and animals to provide our children with a complete alternative to the petroleum-soaked box food at the grocery store. Growing vegetables was pretty straightforward, but the animals presented a sticky situation: you can feed plants healthy compost, but what can you feed your animals?
As a student, I had written a research paper on waste vegetable oil in 2008 that became a frightening trip down the rabbit hole of the rendering industry. Coupled with research I had analyzed regarding monoculture agribusiness and the hazy world of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), I knew I could not feed my livestock the unsourceable rations offered at the local feed store.
Experiments with homemade feeds resulted in healthy animals but poor meat and egg production. Despite my best efforts, something important was missing from our chickens diet, and the cost of homemade feed was prohibitive. I knew it was time to seek out a feed producer that satisfied their needs and my conscience. Living in such an amazingly productive agricultural state, I hoped I would be able to find such a business in Washington. I was not disappointed.
Half Moon Feeds is a producer-owned feed mill in Deer Park, WA. In response to their customers concerns about the murky science surrounding GMO crops and their impacts on our health and our greater ecosystems, Half Moon decided to go GMO-free. This wasnt enough to satisfy their burgeoning awareness of food quality and rising standards of accountability; Half Moon now sources all of their feed ingredients, purchasing from Washington suppliers whenever possible and subjecting all of their suppliers to the rigorous standards of quality and integrity that their business represents.
In the wake of GMO contamination issues regarding soy and canola, they are working hard to eliminate these ingredients completely from their feed line. The gentlemen of Half Moon grow barley, oats, wheat, camellina, and triticale; they contract with other local farmers to grow their corn far from potentially contaminating GMO crops, and their alfalfa comes from a family farm that does not spray their fields. It is a long trip from Centralia to Deer Park., but it is worth it to me and my family to provide the best clean, nutritious, and regionally-produced food possible to our animals.
Whats a GMO and why should I care?
GMOs are plants or animals that have had their genetic information altered with DNA inputs from other species. This is done not only plant-to-plant, but also animal-to-plant. While GMOs could be created in a transparent, conscientious manner, with public oversight and respect to the creatures being manipulated, that is generally not the case. GMOs are the jealously guarded intellectual property of multinational chemical and biotechnology firms with a long history of neglect, violation, and intimidation of the planet and its people.
Most GMOs have been designed by pesticide and herbicide manufacturers to encourage sales of these toxic chemicals. By promising increased yields and reduced labor inputs, companies like Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, and Monsanto have convinced farmers to buy their seeds, their chemical fertilizers, and their herbicides. These unsubstantiated benefits come at a high cost: farmers are legally forbidden to save last years seeds for the next years crops, to conduct field trials of the GMO crops versus conventional varieties, and from providing seed to third parties who want to investigate GMO performance themselves. This shackles the farmer to the whims of the biotechnology market while preventing any independent research into the claims made by these manufacturers.
The prohibition of independent analysis of these crops has many implications. First, it flies in the face of scientific inquiry and experimental reproduction; the public must rely on the manufacturers opinions on safety and nutrient value, which may not be reproduced by outside researchers. Second, the lack of research into long-term health outcomes of creatures consuming these crops means that the entire population is participating, unwittingly, in an experiment with potentially hazardous results. One of the primary methods for marking GMO cells is by including antibiotics in the DNA material used to alter the conventional seeds. While easy to identify in the lab, it also places trace amounts of antibiotics in every single seed planted, antibiotics that manifest in the seeds produced by the mature plant. It is very possible that the rise of antibiotic-resistant pathogens has less to do with people failing to complete the course of a prescription than it does the vast amount of antibiotic residue silently entering every aspect of the American food supply. Finally, the analysis of the limited information available of these companies own experimental data suggests that organ failure, reproductive disorders, and cancer are directly linked to the ingestion of GMO food. These experiments, of course, were conducted using animal subjects.
But I eat organic. How do GMOs affect me?
Indeed, by definition Organic means GMO-free. However, in the past fifteen years, as the FDA has moved into the organic regulatory field, standards for organic production have been slowly compromised. The same agribusiness giants that produce the vast monocultures of corn, soy, cotton, and canola have decided to Go Organic! to improve their bottom line. So even if you dont want to buy their products, many times, you are still supporting their companies. Furthermore, since some food stabilizers are not naturally occurring, the FDA now permits these ingredients to be included in foods labeled Organic even though they may be derived from the GMO foods you are trying to avoid.
Every new GMO crop that is approved for US markets by the FDA threatens the standard of integrity assumed by the organic label. Plants behave in unpredictable ways at the whim of weather, wind, and wildlife. Pollen drift, where the pollen from GMO crops migrates to conventional fields, consistently pollutes those crops to where they can no longer be marketed as organic, or even non-GMO. A glaring example of this is how canola from western Canada can no longer be defined organic, so heavy is the GMO pollen contamination. Meanwhile, more than 90% of the soy grown in the US carries Monsantos GMO genes. How long do you think organic standards for soybeans can be upheld before they are compromised the same way as canola? Do you know how much soy is present in your organic diet?
It doesnt stop there.
Agricultural biotechnology companies actively engage in predatory practices to limit the publics access to clean food and unaltered seed. Especially in the Midwest, Monsanto has systematically bought out seed suppliers at all levels, used surveillance and intimidation to put farmers out of business or in a financial position where they cannot fight the companys allegations, and aggressively pursued legal action against farmers whose crops have been tainted by pollen drift. Worse yet, the US Supreme Court has consistently sided with these companies against the American farmer. Thats right. If you grow conventional crops, and these companies find even one seed in your field that contains one of their patented genes, the government will side with the biotech company. And you, the farmer, will pay.
Now, in 2010, these companies are working hard to get GM sugar beets and GM alfalfa approved by the FDA for US crops. GM sugar beets have already been planted in some states, and they potentially threaten the entire Willamette Valley with GM pollen contamination. Meanwhile, GM alfalfa is even worse: with the potential approval of this crop, the entire basis for the US organic dairy industry is at risk of drift contamination. The only reason these two crops havent swept the Northwest yet is because of the unflagging support and action of organic consumer groups and cooperative industry leaders. The FDA has already approved both of these, but they were forced to rescind and reconsider the applications in the wake of public outcry.
What about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
For generations now, there has been a revolving door policy between the FDA and Monsantos top executive offices. The back-and-forth has not been limited to any one administration or political party. While First Lady Obama has an organic garden on the White House lawn, and insists that organic food be served, her husband appointed the former top lobbyist for CropLife America, Big Agribusiness lobbying group, to serve as the US Agricultural Trade Negotiator. Islam Siddiqui has repeatedly come out in favor of GMO crops and their safety; he has consistently fought efforts to regulate or label GM foods. Michael Taylor, the Food Czar appointed as special advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA, is a former Monsanto executive. The list goes on.
This is the same FDA that has long permitted a steady flow of pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives to enter the American diet, relying largely on the research conducted in-house by these companies. This includes substances such as DDT, Agent Orange, and PCB. This is the same FDA that permitted the long-standing practice of recycling rendered animal parts into ruminant feeds (that is, serving up meat and bone meal to the cows it essentially came from), even after independent research drew the sharp line connecting such practices to the advent of Mad Cow Disease. Only when Mad Cow was discovered in the US did the FDA choose to act to stop this. Now, instead, we feed it to our pets, but only after we lace it with preservatives so toxic that they are permitted at only levels of 0-5 parts per million in finished meat and dairy products intended for human consumption (instead of the 75 ppm permitted in pet foods.) They have never asked the poultry industry to stop feeding chicken carcasses back to chickens.
Oh my. I almost forgot we were talking about animal feed!
Our food, and our animals food, is intrinsically related. If we care about what we feed our children, and we raise livestock for food and companionship, we owe it to them as good stewards of the living earth to provide them with food that is morally acceptable to all of us. GMOs threaten all of us with unpredictable health outcomes and a sharp decline in earths genetic diversity. These hazards are in no way mitigated by processing the GM crops through the body of an animal that may eventually be destined for your plate. In fact, the hazards may be multiplied; indeed the moral culpability is magnified.
No one really knows if non-GMO crops or livestock fed GMO-free feed are higher in specific nutrients, due to the inherent difficulty in identifying GMOs in the food supply. Research has demonstrated that eggs from hens on a pastured diet are higher in vitamin A, Omega 3s, and other valuable nutrients. Grass-fed beef is leaner and does not contain anywhere near the quantity of pesticide residues as feedlot meat. In the same way that eating healthy will improve your quality of life, the higher quality feed you serve your livestock will be reflected in higher quality nutrients in the products they return to you. Otherwise, the track records of the companies producing GMOs and the chemicals they are designed to tolerate speak for themselves. Can you trust the purveyor of Agent Orange to grow corn for your childrens dinner? Why would you let them grow the feed you serve your chickens?
What makes you so sure your feeds are better for my animals?
I distribute Half Moons feed because I can look the farmer in the eye and ask him Are you selling me toxic waste to feed my family? and Tom and Wade look me in the eye and say Absolutely not! While potential exists for pollen contamination in some of the feed stocks, I know that these gentlemen are actively working to provide the best food they can for my animals, and they are aware and vigilant against the encroachment of Agribusiness interests on their livelihood. They work with local butchers to ensure the final result of their husbandry is of the highest quality, and they refuse to compromise their standards for anyone.
Together, we can promote awareness of and respect for unmodified foodstuffs. Our responsible choices should not stop at the produce counter or the bulk foods aisle. Moms and Pops carries a full line of feeds from Half Moon, including vegetarian Chick Starter for your new layers, fishmeal-based starter for broilers, Developer for adolescent pullets, Pellets and Crumbles formulated for both free range or limited range mature hens, Rabbit pellets, and enriched Goat Pellets.
I am always happy to answer questions, and am not afraid to dig for answers that I dont have readily available. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-304-0948 if you would like more information. We provide monthly home delivery throughout Western Washington, sell direct at the Community Agricultural Market in Chehalis every Saturday from 8-3pm, and have chicken feeds available at Gardensphere in Tacoma and the Westside Olympia Food Co-op. Our website, www.feedforthewholefarm.com, is always open.
Thank you so much for your desire to become more informed about your food choices.
Moms and Pops
Moms and Pops
Feed for the Whole Farm!
a Coffee Creek Community enterprise