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Are GMO’s infecting Six Nations crops?

While Sagoyehsahta was tending his cornfields this year he noticed something grotesque. His white corn crops were coming in deformed. The gnarly cobs have been described as ‘horrifying’ and ‘zombie corn’ by folks who have seen them. “Out of my corn field, especially going down the hill, I must have had at least two dozen

While Sagoyehsahta was tending his cornfields this year he noticed something grotesque. His white corn crops were coming in deformed.

Cases of malformed ears of white corn have become more prevalent at Six Nations in recent years, causing many to wonder if the purity of the white corn seed has been compromised by cross pollination with Genetically Modified Organisms growing nearby. The cob on the far right is a normal and healthy white corncob. The others are examples of deformed cobs now growing in fields that were once healthy. (Photo by Nahnda Garlow)

Cases of malformed ears of white corn have become more prevalent at Six Nations in recent years, causing many to wonder if the purity of the white corn seed has been compromised by cross pollination with Genetically Modified Organisms growing nearby. The cob on the far right is a normal and healthy white corncob. The others are examples of deformed cobs now growing in fields that were once healthy. (Photo by Nahnda Garlow)

The gnarly cobs have been described as ‘horrifying’ and ‘zombie corn’ by folks who have seen them. “Out of my corn field, especially going down the hill, I must have had at least two dozen that had multiple cobs on it,” Sagoyehsahta said.

“Some of the ears had two and three cobs coming off it. Rather than pulling them out I let them mature to see what would happen. When they matured and we opened them up you could see the obvious, that they were deformed.”

These abnormalities were not only in the ears. Sagoyehsahta said, “The corn was developing little cobs on the tassel. At the very bottom of the corn where it comes out of the ground, a little tassel started to form and a little cob started to form there.”

For over 30 years Sagoyehsahta has grown a traditional open pollinated Tuscarora long cob in the same fields. This is the characteristic Haudenosaune white corn used to make corn soup and mush. It is typically 12 inches in length with a red cob. The kernels are white, smooth, and do not shrink when dried. He patiently sorts out only the best kernels for his seed bank.

One year, Etinoha Oneha, also called mother corn showed up in his crop. This is a naturally occurring short cob variation of Tuscarora white corn set aside for use in ceremonies. Sagoyehsahta said, “We used to do ceremonies for that. It was for children that lost their parents at an early age. When I realized we don’t have the corn for the ceremony, I started planting this.”

The short cobs have a distinct rounded end with one kernel at the centre, and five kernels which surround the centre.

Sagoyehsahta said, “They say if you plant a field of the long cobs you will get one Etinoha Oneha. So when I got one, I kept it and started growing Etinoha Oneha from that, and kept growing it and now that is all that I plant.” He has exclusively planted this mother corn for about 12 years. The Etinoha Oneha are the ones that got deformed this year.

Around the same time he noticed the deformed corn, Sagoyehsahta watched the documentary “The World According to Monsanto” on television.

This film disclosed the issues Mexican corn farmers were facing, as GMO corn crops were cross-pollinating and contaminating traditional cornfields. Their described problems of corn deformity were exactly what Sagoyehsahta was seeing in his own crop this year.

“Based on what the Mexican [farmers] have said, its exactly the same. I’ve never had that before,” he said.

A Mexican court ruling just last week suspended the planting of genetically modified corn in the country citing “the risk of imminent harm to the environment”. This comes the same week the Hawaiian community in Kaua’i County passed a bill which requires farmers to disclose if they are using pesticides or growing genetically modified crops.

The county also now requires a pesticide free buffer zone of 500 feet near places such as medical facilities, schools and homes.

This is when Sagoyehsahta’s attention shifted to other fields in the neighborhood who could be cross pollinating his crop. He said, “What I thought might be happening is that the wind was carrying pollen from GM corn into my white corn. Or I thought maybe birds were bringing it in on their wings.”

Another red flag came up after the family pet, a black cat, mysteriously showed up sick this summer, not eating and losing its fur. The family spent weeks nursing the balding cat back to health.

Sagoyehsahta’s neighbor leased land last season to a commercial farmer who planted soybeans adjacent to his cornfields. He said, “When I walked back late summer/early fall when the soybeans were still green there wasn’t one weed within that field.”

His family now has concerns that possible pesticide use along with genetically modified crops in local fields is a logical explanation to both the corn deformities and the cat’s trauma.

Not everyone in the community feels GE crops are a concern. Barry Hill of the Six Nations Farmers Association says that “GMO crops bring a lot of value. If we’re going to feed all these people on less and less land, we have to find a way to get our crops up.” Hill says to rush out and blame genetically modified foods is not the answer.

Hill says local farmers take precautions to ensure that there is enough division between fields to prevent cross-pollinating. Hill wonders if the cactus-like deformities that have presented themselves may be a natural process of an old original stock coming through the genetic line. He says, “Sporadically, in a plant, it will express itself into the root stock from where it came.”

Currently there are no bylaws at Six Nations regarding pesticide use or regulations on what types of crops are grown. Hill says, “As far as the Six Nations Farmer’s Association goes, all of our farmers take courses and certificates for use and handling of pesticides and follow provincial guidelines.”

According to the Centre for Food Safety, over 60 countries worldwide ban or label GE foods and crops, excluding Canada and the USA.

[polldaddy poll=7522880] 13 comments

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13 Comments

  • Karen Smith
    November 16, 2013, 10:50 am

    Who gives you the authority to speak for my ancestors, and why do you think you presumably know what they are thinking?
    What does GMO pesticide and herbicides have to do with my ancestors breeding corn? 2 different sciences that do not have to cross. They bred corn for many without it. All this man is wanting is to grow uncontaminated corn in Six Nations teritory, especially for ceremonial purposes and he just wanted to know.

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  • Kevin Folta
    November 4, 2013, 3:00 am

    Phytoplasmas or viruses, contamination from other corn. Not GM. You know when you have GMO contamination when about 50% of your population grows well without pesticides. The non-GM half requires pesticides or it dies. GM field corn is pretty standard stuff. You would not get this amount of genetic variation.

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    • Karl Haro von Mogel@Kevin Folta
      November 4, 2013, 8:13 am

      I would also like to add, as someone who works with research corn in the field, that there are a great many other things that can explain these variations. First, there can be spontaneous mutations, and it sounds like this corn was the result of a lot of inbreeding, and that could have brought mutant alleles together so that you can see the phenotype (gnarly cobs). It can also be the result of combining two different varieties of corn – I have crossed two normal looking corn plants, only to see all the hybrids pop out secondary ears next to the main one.

      Second, it can be the result of injury to the plants, or the weather. Seriously! The growth of the ear is controlled by plant hormones such as gibberellins, which can be altered by different weather patterns. Also, injuring the plant can cause its development to change, sometimes resulting in multi-ear or split-ear characteristics.

      Third, it can be both natural genetics and weather combined. I’ve grown the same inbred corn plants one year, and then the next, but in only one year most of the ears (female flower) changed into tassels (male flower) halfway up the ear! There are all kinds of interesting things like this that can happen on their own.

      Genetic engineering is the LEAST likely to be the explanation for this. The traits that are out there in corn are very well known and characterized, and if they caused traits like this on the farm, it would easily have been seen during field trials.

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  • Pythia Renfield
    November 3, 2013, 6:20 pm

    A simple PCR screen at the closest university will confirm the cross pollination, until then, this is just speculation. Might as well blame chemtrails.

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  • cannedam
    November 2, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Your ancestors (who selectively bred corn from the inedible grass it originally was) are shaking their heads. They understood more than you do about genetics.

    http://www.plantgenomesecrets.org/story-corn/jumping-genes

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  • Karen Smith
    November 1, 2013, 1:30 am

    I am by no means an expert, who wants to take the risk on our very health to accept GMO’s when so many other countries have banned them. If Monstersanto were so proud of their product, you would think they would want to label them, and so I ask why don’t they want to label them, stand fully behind their monster crops? Also I think we should be concerned about other pesticide and fertilizer use on Six Nations. my understanding is that fertilizer has only NPK, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium minerals when other minerals vital to the health of the soil and our health are missing in fertilzer. Those limited minerals can run off and contaminate the water supply. Mono-cropping also has it’s problems to the soil and wildlife, which also requires greater pesticide use. We might need more awareness and education on these important issues, since our land base is dwindling and our population growing. The preferable is organic sustainable farming for Six Nations, I would think. Is that not what we are, stewards of the land?

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    • cannedam@Karen Smith
      November 2, 2013, 8:30 pm

      While it took early indigenous peoples hundreds of years to selectively breed corn to this edible plant that we now enjoy, with genetic engineering we can produce improvements in one generation. Those improvements can be greater nutrient density, or the ability to withstand drought or other extreme growing conditions. This technology should be embraced by all people instead of simply feared and ignored because it is not understood. This technology is one way we will be able to feed the world while reducing dependency on pesticides of every type.

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      • Karen Smith@cannedam
        November 16, 2013, 10:59 am

        How can people embrace a technology when the very inventors are trying to sneak it in under people’s noses. or should I say slamming it down their throats, not giving people a choice? There are valid reasons so many countries are banning it, seems to be not so technology-advantegeous with their scientific findings and I think they are understanding. You may think it will feed the world, others seem to think it is destroying the natural food chain, not just for humans but for all living entities

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    • Pythia Renfield@Karen Smith
      November 3, 2013, 6:31 pm

      1) Monsanto does not sell to the end consumer. Even if they agreed to labeling, you’d never see their product because you aren’t the consumer of their product.

      2) Fertilizers can contain much more than NPK, that is merely the macronutrients, if you read the whole package, you will find this to be true.

      3) Tying monoculture to GMOs is a red herring. If you are truly concerned with the use of monoculture, do not buy the products that require it’s practice (animal products).

      4) The idea that organic is sustainable is not panning out. If you want a life with income then you will have to make a compromise. That choice is yours to make. If you want people to make products for you, such as the electronics you use, then you cannot be for sustainability as a farming practice. They still need to eat, and with fewer people working the land, practices change. You are merely shifting the sins to someone else.

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      • Karen Smith@Pythia Renfield
        November 16, 2013, 10:32 am

        People are so the consumer of their product, if it is in the food chain, when it ends up on the shelves, Cereal, condiments, soups, basically any processed food on a shelf in a grocery store. and is not GMO sweet corn available in Canada on roadside stands? Simply, people have a right to decide what they want to eat, and to make that decision, a right to know where the ingredients come from seed to end product.

        Oh and my question was not answered, if they are so proud of their product, why do they want to hide their product from the consumer, They want the patent but not the label. That to me is about power, greed and deception.

        I do buy organic and these farmers seemed to be sustaining themselves until some GMO cross contamination ruins their crops. I buy organic meat and use wild game

        And yes we certainly do need to be concerend about every aspect of production and invention that is destroying Mother Earth, electronics included.

        Monstersanto seems to be the only one profiting from their GMO’s then as if they don’t have enough money, they sue the hardworking farmers

        Six Nations people are the only ones that have a vested interest in what little land they have left, and I believe that they should be concerend aboout GMO’s this is the only land they have left.

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        • Pythia Renfield@Karen Smith
          November 18, 2013, 5:24 pm

          // if they are so proud of their product, why do they want to hide their product from the consumer, They want the patent but not the label//

          Because reactionary people like you have made it a Scarlet Letter. You have no direct experience on the science, yet you think you have enough information to make an informed decision.

          Instead of going through the long and tedious process of getting a degree in genetics, you jerked your knee as hard as you could.

          Now, because of rampant ignorance on the part of people crying “MonSatan” and “GMOs KILL”, they can’t get the information into the system.

          You lost in the realm of science and want to take it out in the court of public appeal. And, wouldn’t you know, ignorance has the high ground.

          People would rather be spoonfed this poorly researched anti-GMO drivel than actually read thousands of publications proving it wrong.

          If all the right wing/anti-gay people called for labeling on products made by companies employing homosexuals, would you expect companies to go along with it?

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        • Karen Smith@Pythia Renfield
          November 18, 2013, 8:53 pm

          Oh so they are not upfront with labels because they are afraid of people’s reaction? That reasoning right there is making their own scartlet letter, the letter D for Deception. Rather than being upfront and letting people decide, whether or not to by a product or not. People have a right to decide for themselves, Monsanto wants to take that right away from people and decide for them, as I said before by ramming it down people’s throats without their consent

          I don’t need a degree to decide which kind of corn I want to buy and eat. I do want to know the facts about the corn and decide for myself. If I want to buy a box of cereal, I want to know what is in it. Deception is just not good business.
          I also don’t need a degree to know what kind of bike I want to buy. Give me the facts and I will decide for myself, If I want to buy a Merida bike, and it is labelled a Merida, it better not be a Huffy or a MonSatan. I may not know how to fix a bike either, but I want to trust the experts. We all want trust and honesty. You might be a Geneticist, but there are many out there, and I want the right to decide for myself which Geneticist I will believe. When you want to deceive people, kinda a strike against ya right there.

          There is no comparision of Heterosexism to wanting upfront information about the food you are going to ingest or wanting accounatbility to how it impacts the environment.
          Being prejudiced against a group of people has nothing to do with Food Chain accountability.

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      • n joyn@Pythia Renfield
        June 7, 2014, 5:29 pm

        Actually, organic growing practices is “panning” out to be not only sustainable but regenerative as well. If you had done any studying on this, by accredited institutions, or research by renowned, non industry funded scientists, as I have, you would know this. Don’t believe the propaganda you read solely on the internet.

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