Hello everyone. I rarely speak about “issues” in the horse world, but this is too big and too important to walk away from.
Our horse’s forages: alfalfa and hay – are in potential peril, and within a few years may be gone forever. Here’s the story:
All Alfalfa and Wheat may be Genetically Modified in North America in the next few years
GE corporations (Monsanto & others) are working hard to push their untested GMO alfalfa and wheat crops in the US and Canada. The US already has 5332 acres of RoundUp Ready alfalfa (since 2004). There is no wheat yet anywhere. Because the alfalfa was grown before it was approved, it was halted and is undergoing additional testing and environmental studies. No human or horse studies have been done to prove this is safe. No long term studies are ever done on any GMO foods. Many independent tests show serious health issues (Genetic Roulette).
Horses have evolved over thousands of years, naturally
Horses are sensitive to their environments and their feeds: any horse owner who has any level of awareness of their animal understands this. Their bodies have evolved slowly over time to adjust to changing plant types and feeds. However, along came man, and believed that he/she could do better than Mother Nature. As we asked more of our horse, we began to alter the feeds we give them.
The horse, though, has evolved for years, slowly, methodically, and if you look at the timeline to how many years we have been changing his natural diet, it’s really not that long (20-30 years). It has been a dramatic ride for the horse: from field to stalls: from hay to concentrates and feeds he would never find in the wild (soy, corn, heavy oils).
It’s not working. Horses are getting fatty liver diseases, insulin resistance, heart attacks, cancers and the same type of health issues humans have (that eat high fat and carb diets). And now there’s another issue to add to the mix: genetic modification. Thirty years ago this was unheard of. Last year 6 horses under the age of 10 died from cancer in my area.
What is Genetically Modified foods and why should you be concerned for your horse?
Genetic modification has many levels of concern attached to it, from health to environment and corporate control. We’ll take a look at each one so you have a good general knowledge of the problems horse owners may face.
First, to understand potential health issues, it’s important to learn how a plant is genetically altered. To keep it short, the DNA of the plant is changed. Scientists take a gene from foreign sources and add it to the DNA string.
DNA manipulation, through adding foreign genes, is an illiterate and unproven science. When scientists finally get a gene to align with a DNA strand (plant’s code to life) the plant does not know how to “use” the new gene, so additional genes and material is added to “wake” the plant up (promoter) to accept and activate the foreigner.
This is where it gets ugly
Corporations don’t have the luxury of finding natural promoters (time is money), so they use the next best thing: viruses. Viruses are highly active, are almost impossible to kill, and eventually eat their host or victim. Viruses can easily change their genetic information in the DNA of the host cell to multiply, mutate and infect. They are powerful promoters and a good choice to do the job. However, they may not be a good choice for our horses to consume.
Often the gene becomes ‘unstable’ so another gene is added, called a ‘marker gene’. These are often antibiotics. Other foreign substances are added as well, such as Bt toxins, fish/animal/human/rat and other odd genes become part of the plants DNA.
And so we now get to ingest all these wonderful contaminates that have nothing to do with a natural plant. We have no idea what the long term effects of these viruses, foreign genes, toxic bacteria and antibiotics will do to us or our animals.
Nature would never have used these: only man believes he/she can make plants better than Mother Nature.
Genetically Modified Alfalfa is a living pesticide factory and your horse gets to eat it
The GM alfalfa that’s about to be fed to your horse contains the pesticide ‘RoundUp Ready’. Every single cell of the alfalfa plant contains the pesticide – leaf and stalk and roots. The purpose is to make it easier for farmers to spray RoundUp pesticides without killing the alfalfa (since it’s already RR resistant). Also, any bugs that land on it and bite into it will also die. Lovely.
Again, your horse’s system is sensitive to man made chemicals. You wouldn’t spray a field right next to your horse. Yet we don’t realize our horse will be eating RoundUp Ready with every bite.
To date, all RoundUp Ready plants are grown for either commercial biofuel production or animal feeds. This is mainly cows and animals that will be slaughtered for processing. These animals will be fed for short periods of time to fatten them up. Our horses however will be eating RR alfalfa as a main diet for their lifetimes.
The question is, will the horse be able to endure eating RoundUp Ready pesticides for over 20 years, or will the horse succumb to the poisonous feeds?
We already have equine cancer rates on the increase in North America, and no one seems to know why. No one can do a study on whether or not it’s GMO feeds. Monsanto has a court injunction against any independent research on their products. You would be sued by them if you tried to investigate the problem.
If this smacks of corporate control, it gets far worse.
The regulatory agencies have given RR alfalfa a boundary area to grow in. This means every RR crop has to have a specific distance from other non-RR crops of the same species.
The problem lies in two things: the GMO genes can transfer within the same species. RR alfalfa can cross-contaminate Non-RR alfalfa within one season. Giving RR alfalfa a border of a kilometer or a mile means nothing: eventually wind will prevail. You may find RR alfalfa growing in your hay fields within a year or two.
And if you’re caught, Monsanto will sue you. They process millions of dollars of lawsuits yearly. After all, RR alfalfa is THEIR patent, and you’re growing it without their consent.
Why the issues about Wheat? Horses don’t eat Wheat.
GMO wheat will also be RoundUp Ready, meaning it too will be a living pesticide factory, only we humans get to eat this in every wheat product we will buy. However, one very, very big problem lies with GM wheat and horses.
Wheat is a grass. Remember the part about cross-contamination? GM wheat has the ability to contaminate every blade of grass on this planet.
That alone has the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Just envision this: what if our grasses become contaminated, and we find out that horses can’t eat them?
What is Monsanto comes after any and all people who have contaminated fields?
Corporate Control, Monoculture and “No Turning Back”
GMO crops have patents on the seeds. Monsanto has been able to patent life: the very thing humans need to survive. Our food system was not broke: we did not need to fix anything. This corporation and others like it believe they know how to create plants better than Nature. Problem is, these GM crops are monoculture: meaning they are singular are leave themselves exposed to failure. And failure of a monoculture means the elimination of the entire species.
GM contamination is very serious: once GM is out there, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. When it goes wrong (and many have already) it’s impossible to rid your fields of it, especially if it’s contaminated neighboring species.
Once we are in the GMO game, it’s all or nothing. You can’t go back. Ever. This will be your new planet, like it or not.
Why Would Farmers Even Consider Planting This?
Monsanto is really good at convincing farmers their yields will increase. While corn has increased significantly, many haven’t, such as soy, cotton and some canola. Those are the 4 big crops: corn, cotton, canola and soy. Over 90% of North American crops are these 4.
Another reason not to feed your horse soy and corn – it’s highly likely you are getting GMO. You are also feeding your horse the left overs: the bad stuff that humans won’t be eating. Lucky horses….
Once a farmer agrees to GM crops, he can’t change. He relinquishes his farm rights to a big corporation that has no intention of looking after the farmer. It’s all about profit.The farmer loses control over what he can plant each year. If those crops fail, it’s not Monsanto’s fault.
Farmers are in trouble: they are living on the edge of existence. Every dollar counts, and when you’re promised the moon, you’ll take it. Soon after, your seed prices and chemical prices increase yearly, and your bottom line disappears anyway; plus commodity crops fluctuate daily. Some years are good, many are not. Only the massive factory farms make any real money.
Often GM farmers are ostracized from the community. If their crops pollute organic fields, neighbors become enemies, and community splits are common. There is no compromise: GM crops can destroy the livelihoods of Non-GM farmers.
Monsanto is currently in Supreme Court to bring forward an injunction for farmers who sue them. They don’t want to be sued any more, so, just like big drug companies, if something goes wrong, you are out of luck and out of pocket. Your problem, not theirs. There is a class action suit filed by Organic farmers currently in the courts (as of this article). On April 27, 2010, Monsanto will ask for an injunction on being sued ever again. This is a crucial time: should Monsanto get this, no one will have any right to go after the company for damages.
Once the farmer pays big bucks for the seeds (which is every year: they can’t save seed any more) the farmer also has to buy Monsanto’s pesticides. Monsanto is really a chemical company (read more about Monsanto).
I’m not trying to scare anyone, I’m just keeping it real. 2010 is a “tipping point” year for GMO issues. This is the year that decides the fate of this beautiful planet.
Don’t Our Governments Protect Us?
Nope. Not at all. They are all “bought and paid for” by Monsanto. Corporate corruption at its finest.
It’s time to stop looking to your governments to save you.
They’re even letting these GMO companies to alter the brains of cows and meat animals so that they don’t suffer as much. It’s creepy out there and it’s out of control.
Here’s something to consider: the European Union (England, Ireland, Bulgaria etc) do not have any GM foods or crops. The GM foods in their stores are labeled. Yet in North America, our governments don’t see a problem. Why is the rest of the world against GMO technology but not us? Good question…
What Can We Do?
Horse owners need to become aware of this and decide for themselves if it means enough to them to initiate changes. It means every one of us will have to do some extra work, but if our horses are to remain healthy and stay alive, it may mean a small sacrifice from every one of us for a year or so.
First off, you need to write your governments. Letters by snail mail are most effective. Emails help as well. Petitions are less valuable but still influential.
CBAN (Canadian Biotechnology Action Network) has great links and information: cban.ca
Tell your local feed supplier you will not buy GMO alfalfa or hay. Educate them on the issues. Print out this brochure (coming) and give them at least one.
Email this link to every horse person you know. Get in on every Facebook page you know of. It’s up to every one of us to educate others to this issue.
Ask farmers not to grow GM alfalfa. Let them know you won’t be buying it. If no one buys it, they won’t grow it. No market; no profit.
If you quit buying into a program, there is no program.
Our horses deserve to eat what Nature intended them to. They need to be able to graze without fear of pesticide accumulation. They shouldn’t die needlessly from cancers and liver failure.
It’s in our hands. It’s up to us to take a stand and speak out. Take an action today. Save a horse tomorrow.
Thank you, everyone.
April Reeves, Steering Committee, GE Free BC