BSC2009 – Seeds, Science and Sustainability – Claire Hope Cummings

Frosted Flakes previous designed box

Image via Wikipedia

The author of “Uncertain Peril – Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds”, and former USDA lawyer, Claire Hope Cummings discusses the necessity of farm security.

Claire uses the prop of a box of Kellogg’s frosted flakes to point out that the box of cereal has mostly genetically modified, chemical laden, nutritionally inferior products – and that she used to say that it would be better to eat the box, but a recent study now points out that the packaging of many products contain toxic chemicals. Also, the farmer gets about 5 cents of the $3.00 per box.


  • Dramatic Changes to the food system
  • For every one calory of food, an average of 10 calories of energy used to create
  • GMOs
    • Artificial organisms made by agrochemical corporations, crossing species boundaries
    • Process is unstable and unpredictable
    • Used for weed and pest control
    • Industrial Agriculture
    • 65+ studies show potential health products
    • “Superweeds”
    • Farmer Lawsuits and loss of autonomy
    • Facts
      • Higher costs
      • lower yield
      • limited markets
      • chemically dependent
      • restrictions on use and risk of farmer lawsuits
    • Agrobusiness is buying up all commercial seed business Top ten owns almost 70% of seed supply in the world.
    • Patented and bypassed the agricultural evaluations of previous generations.
    • Not a sustainable process or the answer to our problems
  • Reduced diversity of crops
    • 85,000 sub-varieties of corn existed in Mexico adapted to local conditions and problems
    • 50,000 edible crops worldwide – 150 grown commercially, with 3 grown to provide most of our caloric needs
    • The US used to have 8000 varieties of apples, now we have about 800.
  • Use of Food Crops for pharmaceutical and Industrial purposes
    • Biofuels means growing more commodity crops and turning agriculture into an industrial machine.
  • Climate ready crops
    • Monsanto, Dupont, BASF, Bayer & Syngenta
    • 532 patents on climate ready genes
    • posing as our saviours when drought and other problems threaten a food group – these are often naturally occuring crops that have now been patented.

Knowledge of crops have become privatized and commoditized

This is a political problem, GMO is not saving the world and is taking away independence from farmers to look after their own crops.

How do we take back control?


“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them” – Einstein.

Before the iraq war 90% of seed was saved by farmers – now, after America “saved” them, no seed saving is occuring and a Cargil executive is heading up the initiative. (Also America destroyed Iraq’s seed saving efforts during the war, the seed bank was located in a place now infamous Abu Grabi –where prisoners were tortured.

IAASTD undertook a study that gave credance to the role of women in agriculture, local systems, and communities.

Seed saving needs to happen in the fields, not just in seed banks.

We need to protect community, generosity and reduce individualism and greed.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.