The Tomato-Ness Of A Tomato: Talking GMOs & Backyard Farming With Joel Salatin
Hiland Naturals is committed to providing GMO-free feed to the masses, and we’re very proud to be a Non GMO Project verified brand, but not everyone feels the same way we do about GMOs. We wanted to hear from someone who really understands the debate from every angle, so we looked to a living, breathing example of successful sustainable farming in the United States—Polyface Farms.
The “farm of many faces” operated by the Salatin family, at the head of which sits third generation alternative farmer, Joel. He’s a highly-sought after speaker because of his deep insight and impassioned prose and the perfect person to weigh in on the GMO debate.
This is the first installment in a three-part series where Joel Salatin talks to Hiland Naturals about everything from his feelings on GMOs to the effects of a backyard farm on family. We started by discussing how Joel very often talks about getting back to our roots and farming with natural processes in mind. However, there’s nothing natural about GMOs. A lot of recent scientific studies claim that there’s nothing to fear here. We wanted to get Joel’s personal opinion on the GMO debate, and here’s what he had to say:
Well I’d say off the top that the people who say there’s nothing to fear from GMOs have the same credentials from the same academic institutions and run in the same circles as the folks who told us to dust our children’s heads with DDT; who told us that pesticides and herbicides where wonderful; who told us that chemical fertilizer was the same as compost; who gave us three legged salamanders, infertile frogs, and a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico; who told us to feed our cows dead cows and it would be fine (until we got mad cow disease). They’re the same people that created the food pyramid in the late 1970s to teach Americans how to eat, and so Americans began eating Twinkies and pretzels and suddenly came down with type-2 diabetes and obesity. They’re the same folks who told us to eat margarine instead of butter, the same folks who told us to use hydrogenated oil, and I could go on, but are you with me?
I think it’s really important when you start one of these discussions, that before you start arguing over the science and start trading data points, I think it’s really important to frame the question in this context because ultimately, we choose what to believe.
I’m a big believer that we are far more emotion-oriented, philosophically-oriented than we are science-oriented. I know our paradigm, our worldview, our faith, our trust, is what determines which scientists to believe. And so, I go very strongly on establishing who has the track record of credibility here when you have anything new—whether it’s GMOs, nanotechnology or whatever the new thing is that comes along. What is that tribe or it somebody else’s tribe? I think it’s important to establish the fraternity that is promoting GMOs as the fraternity that has promoted a lot of things that, in hindsight, we’ve looked back and wished they hadn’t been promoted.
At the outset, the crowd that’s saying it’s all just fine, has a huge credibility problem in my view.
That being said, let’s go into what it actually is. Nature has boundaries. Any parent who cares about their children is going to put boundaries around them. You don’t just turn your crawling infant loose to go crawl in the street, you know? So whether it’s boundaries of speech, boundaries of physical presence, boundaries of safety—the point is that nature has these boundaries. The cell wall is a boundary. It’s there to protect what is on the inside and keep out what’s on the outside. So when we start looking at nature’s boundaries of protection, the idea of moving DNA within different species, it moves through a boundary that nature has established as a natural template. The other side says, “Oh this is just the permutation of Mendel’s peas!” Yes, Mendel was hybridizing peas, but he was doing peas on peas on peas. He wasn’t doing peas on peppers on tomatoes on salmon on pigs on people. One of the ways I’ve described it is that if the sexual plumbing doesn’t match up, you need to assume that there’s some pretty major protective boundaries being circumvented.
The people like me who question GMOs are likened to the people who say , “If God had wanted us to fly, then he would have given us wings!” We are labeled as luddites and buffoons and neanderthals wanting to go back to the dark ages. But the other extreme is that there is no boundary. Whatever the human mind is capable of—and the mechanical ability of the human hand is able to do—is fair game. That’s a problem as well.
While we could agree that maybe I’m unnecessarily dubious of technology—I don’t think I am, but let’s assume I am—if that is one extreme, than the other extreme is to not offer any judgement or any concern about technology or whatever humans can do. The truth is that we are clever, we’re extremely capable, we’re very innovative, and we are clever enough to innovate things that we can’t physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually metabolize. So like my dad used to say, we’re overrunning our headlights.
We spend much of our time—and if you look at much of what we’re researching today in many spheres of life—it’s how to solve problems that we’ve created for ourselves. Problems that our own innovations have made possible. If we had stayed within a boundary, a natural template if you will, then we wouldn’t have had the problem to begin with.
Joel goes on to discuss how GMOs interfere with our fundamental rights as American citizens. Check it out!
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