Why is it so important to feed organic feed? Isn’t non-GMO almost as good?

This pig is smiling. Life in the dirt is great. It’s better with organic whole food. Our pigs’ food is truly chemical free, which means a whole lot more than just “non-GMO.”

What’s so special about our pasture-raised eggs and pork? In addition to living life outside, where 9-10 months a year we give them a fresh swath of pasture to graze every few days, our hens and pigs are also fed a ration of locally milled, certified organic feed from Reedy Fork Organic Farm. Why does organic matter if you can get non-GMO-fed and pastured eggs and pork, isn’t that just as good?

In a word, NO! The chemicals that are used to raise non-GMO grains are no joke, and it was actually the marketplace’s desire to avoid them that GMOs used to justify their own inception. Basically, it went like this: “These chemicals are really bad, so you need glyphosate, aka RoundUp, which is as safe to drink as water…” We now know, of course, that that’s not true. And now everyone is all up in arms about glyphosate and acting like non-GMO solves all those problems. Sorry, it’s not that simple, folks.

DDT can still be in non-GMO grains

If you don’t believe me, just look up chemicals like atrazine, acetoclor and metaolachor, which are known and suspected carcinogens. Even our good ol’ friend DDT is not totally banned from use in the U.S., as it it still used as a constituent element in the formulation of more complex chemicals.

“Believe it or not, a chemical company can manufacture a product in which DDT is a component, but since it’s only part of the whole formula, DDT is neither listed on the label nor identified in any way as the product.” Beyond Labels by Sina McCullough, PhD and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, p. 238

Do you know how that I know that I know that these non-GMO chemicals are really bad news? Because many of my friends who have applied them for their whole lives are now slowing dying of cancer. Just for the privilege of feeding the world the way the USDA told them to do it. These farmers are my friends. And they are dying.

Are you still okay with “non-GMO” poultry and pork? I’m not. We use organic feed because these are the eggs I would produce for my only family if I only had five chickens living off the back porch. And I cannot in good conscious buy a feed by the ton that I know was grown in a way that is destructive to our shared water supply when there’s an alternative that grows soil and gives our kids a future.

This is one of our two egg mobiles, which provide the nighttime housing and nest boxes for 300 free-range laying hens. The green buckets on the tractor forks are full of Reedy Fork feed.

Big organic is sometimes subject to big fraud, but compromising with pre-GMO chemicals isn’t the answer…

Certified organic isn’t perfect, by any means. If you want details, become a member of the Cornucopia Institute, an organization well-deserving of your money, as they hold the organic industry accountable. A few years ago the U.S. purchased more “organic” grain from Turkey than the country can produce, so shipments of conventional grain somehow became “organic” as they crossed the ocean.

I’m the first to say that local economies are always better because they have inherent integrity. If we had a local feed mill that that purchased all grain locally and wasn’t certified organic but tested all of the grains for all pesticide residues — and not just obtained a commitment from the farmers to not use GMO seeds — that would be a really good option.

But non-GMO feed in our area means merely no GMO seeds were used and glyphosate wasn’t used. It doesn’t mean chemical free. This is still conventional grain with conventional chemicals, just not that particular one (glyphosate). This is an excerpt from a corn-growing guide for farmers about growing non-GMO corn:

Remember, herbicides containing glyphosate and glufosinate should not be sprayed over the top of conventional corn, but nearly all other corn herbicides can be used on conventional corn.Conventional Corn Production Guide by the the Farmers Business Network

Even non-GMOs are contaminated with GMOs

Organic already accounts for non-GMO. Although there can certainly be GMO drift into organic fields because of pollination, GMO seeds are not allowed to be used in certified organic production. Even the Non-GMO project allows contamination of ingredients to some degree (read the fine print) because the truth is that GMOs are so pervasive and their effects so permanent in the gene pool for each plant that there’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube.

GMOs are here with us, and our only recourse is to stop making it worse and build sufficient organic matter back into our soils that the immune system of the earth’s surface — which is in living soil — is better able to metabolize and remediate the effects of our collective destructive choices.

If we want to live, we have to support an agriculture that supports living soil. It’s really that simple, and willful ignorance about what is in “non-GMO” feeds isn’t going to get us there.

However imperfect, organic affirms life

As a guiding philosophy, organic agriculture — for all of its challenges and dilemmas related to scale and integrity — is focused on growing crops with healthy soil.

Non-GMO is simply limiting a certain chemical, glyphosate, and the GMO seeds that are designed to withstand its repeated application. Non-GMO is an important movement, but it’s not sufficient to account for all of the other chemicals that came before GMOs, which are hugely destructive to our internal microflora and the ecological web of which we are inextricably a part.

I am not willing to go backwards. The next Silent Spring we may not recover from. We must go forward by deliberately growing food on living, healthy soils. Any chemicals (“-cides” mean death) that are designed to kill and destroy part of that soil life — even the parts we futilely war against as “weeds,” which are really just plants out of balance in an ecosystem — are antithetical to our ability to sustain life. 

The grain we choose to provide for our laying hens and pigs is our very best effort to support life — including yours.

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