By Wendy Elliott
About 80 per cent of the corn grown in Nova Scotia today is genetically modified (GM). In fact, it’s hard for farmers to find non-GM seed.
Av Singh, an organic and small-scale farming specialist in Nova Scotia, noted that corn is pretty much in everything processed. He gave a talk on GM foods at the Wolfville Farmers Market recently, indicating that for soybeans in North America, the figure is closer to 90 per cent.
“This is really detrimental to organic agriculture,” he said. “It’s very threatening because we’re starting to see contamination.”
A friend of food activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, Singh said that locating non-GM sugar beets and now non-GM alfalfa will become difficult in Eastern Canada.
“Alfalfa is the biggest threat,” he stated. “There’s no way to control GM spread.”
He refers to canola as the first industrial food, adding he will only purchase canola oil from Europe.
He explained how buying feed processed by a mill, which also handles GM crops, is a challenge. Singh described the approval of GM alfalfa as a big deal.
Potatoes, he said, are the only crop without a serious genetically modified version because of consumer feed back. Singh recommends consumers ask whether the sweet corn they’re purchasing has been genetically modified.
Chemical interventions, he suggested, only lead to more chemical applications due to herbicide and insecticide resistance and promotion by the huge pharmaceutical companies that create these chemicals.
These interventions, Singh contends, do not address the real problems in the field, such as reducing weeds. Furthermore, he believes, health impacts for humans are on the horizon.
Studies on rats and some livestock, Singh said, have suggested that GM feed causes distress, “but a lot is only anecdotal evidence.”
He also worries about the loss of organic farmers in Nova Scotia. Numbers are down over a decade from 75 to just over 50 farmers.
“We would expect to have more,” Singh said. “It’s a bit of a challenge. Will consumers pay more?”
Singh has visited over 800 farms across North American, a journey that shaped his work on holistic farm management and soil health.