As I sat in one windowless room after another, I held my retreat sisters and our experiences in my heart while I listened to one presentation after another explaining how to create more sustainable practices by sparking social impact, engaging employees, assessing economic impact, enhancing leadership skills, implementing better technology, issuing more thorough reports, and shifting to more renewable energy sources. Throughout the weekend I came back to one question: Where was the natural world in this conversation?
by Guest Blogger Debbie Noyes
Welcome to my unofficial “What’s for Dinner?” campaign! I’ve posted a lot about GMO’s, palm oil and environmental/wildlife issues (see Lend a Hand to an Orangutan and Is there a Goblin hiding in your Halloween candy?) so I thought I’d backtrack and answer the question, Why does she keep talking about that? What’s the big deal? Well there is more than one answer to those questions but here is my story.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2012, I naturally became more curious about the food I was eating and all the chemicals in the products I used. Of course there are multiple factors affecting why anybody gets cancer, but certainly your environment plays a large role in turning on and off certain genes that can lead to cancer.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I eat a lot of things I shouldn’t. But I slowly realized it’s bigger than that. It’s not just about eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising and taking better care of myself. It’s a growing awareness of how sick the environment is as a whole, how out of balance we all are whether we have an illness or not. It’s a disconnect with our food and how it’s sourced. That’s the real disease. It’s the way we view animals used for food, how they live and what they eat. It’s how we treat the land and how we have adulterated our food supply (or what passes for food these days). This of course has ripple effects on the wildlife and the patch of land they are left to use. We no longer care for and honor our food and the earth that supplied it which means that we are not honoring and caring for ourselves.
This is not the legacy that I wish to leave. So I am slowly and sometimes painfully bringing my thoughts, my actions and my voice into alignment with a new and different way of being in the world. That means voting with my dollars, getting on my soap box once again and using social media and my ballot to insist that the companies that contribute to food and products that damage people, animals and the environment change their policies.
Yes, it means taking more time as I shop to read the labels, educating myself and paying a little more for organic and properly labeled and socially responsible items but just imagine the tradeoff if everybody could, and would do that! In this country, money talks so what do you want yours to say? The way to make changes, even small ones, is to make your voice heard and to change your habits so that the companies will follow your sought-after dollars. They get away with what they do because of our apathy and ignorance. So this is my small way of making a dent in those policies.
Why do I dislike genetically modified ingredients, as known as GMOs? One reason is because the companies that create them, particularly the Monsanto corporation, are also in the business of creating toxic pesticides that kill bees, butterflies and leave behind harmful substances that remain in the soil for decades. I am referring specifically to Round Up weed killer created by Monsanto.
Monsanto is also the company that created PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that are carcinogenic and were ultimately banned in 1976. Monsanto created Agent Orange and its carcinogenic byproduct Dioxin which was used in the Vietnam War and has led to cancer in countless soldiers. As Monsanto transitioned to agricultural products in the 1990s, the chemical plants it left behind are now superfund sites that still retain their toxicity.
And then in 1982 Monsanto created the first genetically modified plant. With their past history, I would not trust any products they create. The side effects and long-term health effects of genetically altered plants and animals is not well understood. Although there have been many genetic mapping projects completed, that does not mean we understand what all of these genes do or how they work together.
GMOs add and subtract genes from plants. Monsanto claims that they increase crop yield and require less pesticides. However there have been no reported increases in yield and they actually make the food better able to withstand the heavy chemical pesticides used to kill off insects. So there is no decrease in the use of pesticides. The consequences of accidental cross-contamination in nearby non-GMO fields is also not well understood. Some animals studies have been linked GMO diets with sterility and other health issues. It has created new amino acids never seen before in nature. And there is concern that the mutated genes might adversely affect bacteria. There are just so many unknowns. Combine that with a poor track record and it spells disaster.
Many countries in Europe and most recently Mexico have banned GMOs and their seeds. There is a ballot initiative in Washington state to require labeling of GMOs so that we can make informed choices. Monsanto is the top financial backer of the campaign to stop this required labeling. Dow Chemical is right behind them.
The other issue that I am passionately supporting is the boycott of palm oil. Palm oil is a vegetable oil used as an inexpensive replacement for cocoa butter, olive oil or other healthier fats. Palm oil itself is not known to cause health effects other than those associated with other saturated fats. But the problem as I have mentioned in previous articles is that most palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Large sections of rain forest are being slashed and burned to plant lucrative palm oil plantations. Until recently, there was no attempt to create sustainable plantations. Now there is a organization called the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) that is supposed to oversee and enforce the rules for sustainable use. However participation is voluntary and the RSPO is self-regulated by the very people that seek to benefit from destruction of the rain forest. It is not transparent or effective. This year there have been fires and smoke spotted in virgin rain forest as more is cut down illegally to plant more palm oil plantations.
In my opinion, it is best to avoid palm oil altogether. However this is a daunting task since the food labels often use generic words such as “vegetable oil” without naming the source. And there are many synonyms for palm oil, making it very hard for the average consumer to even become aware it exists in the products. It is ubiquitous and often goes hand in hand with GMOs. They are both found in processed foods and the majority of large, brand names that we all know and love. Change is slow.
So why am I so passionate about GMOs and palm oil? As you can see, they leave behind a legacy that I cannot support. It’s it wrong that species are going extinct just so we can butter our biscuits. Not on my watch!
That’s the story. That’s how a little cancer cell opened my eyes. So the next time you ask yourself, “What’s for Dinner?” please remember that your answer effects more than just you.
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Think Outside the Cage
In private practice since 1996, Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing, is a mesa carrier in the Peruvian shamanic tradition, animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, author and artist. As an animal shaman she views her mission as one of building bridges between people and animals through healing sessions, classes, ceremonies and events such as A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild, and Animals As Healers and Teachers.
Rose’s book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.
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