Monsanto Hide And Seek?

Today, sweaty from the gym, I wasn’t quite in the mood to cook just yet, so after ordering a simple meal at my local Thai restaurant with my sous-chef, we began to wonder about where all of the vegetables came from. Not just what supplier or farmer, but where the seeds originate: from the rice to the veggies to the soy sauce.

Before we even finished our meal, we began doing some research on the topic, which included internet research as well as asking my master gardener and farmer friends, and (although we are still researching), our findings are quite unsettling.

Turns out, a company Seminis, (established in 1994 – a conglomeration of a number of Dutch seed companies) sells over 3,500 seed varietals and controls about 40% of the US vegetable market and 20% of the world market. In the US, they supply 55% of the lettuce, 75% of the tomatoes, and 85% of the peppers supplied in supermarkets. Basically, if you have ever eaten a salad, you are eating the produce from Seminis seeds.

The unsettling part? Monsanto bought this company for 1.4 billion dollars (cash!) in 2005. Now that’s a lot of Lattes…

I am a big supporter of small farms, family farms, organics, non-GMO’s. It has been easy for me to stay away from the Monsanto GMO crops like corn and wheat since I buy organic flours and corn and stay away from processed food which contains things like GMO canola oil and high fructose corn syrup. However, this new discovery made me realize that by the mere fact that Monsanto controls so many seeds (albeit non-GMO), that through the simple act of enjoying a meal (in fact most meals) – I have probably still been supporting Monsanto!

Are there ways to farm conventionally without using these seeds that have been bred and grafted for conventional farming? Do farmers really have options? Do consumers who garden have options? And, how will consumers ever really know what they are eating or not if GMO labeling is not mandated and varietals are not labelled?

For a list of Monsanto/Seminis varietals, you can look at their website. As I teach people, farmers markets are so great because you can ask your farmers all about their produce. I know I’ll be asking my farmer friends about varietals this Sunday when I visit the Hollywood Farmers Market.

I’m on the search to find out. With Monsanto buying up world seed companies… is Monsanto really avoidable?

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About Chef Nathan Lyon

Chef Nathan Lyon is known to television viewers across the country for his simple, innovative cuisine featuring fresh, seasonal, local ingredients. Chef and co-host of Growing A Greener World (PBS), Nathan was the creator and host of A Lyon in the Kitchen (Discovery Health and Fit TV), among the final four on the second season of The Next Food Network Star, and appeared as a guest chef and expert on Home Made Simple (TLC) and Real Simple Real Life (TLC). After graduating from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and a minor in Public Health, Nathan backpacked his way across Europe, learning about local customs, culture, and cuisine. Although every town and country along Nathan’s journey provided its own culinary lesson, the watershed moment occurred in an outdoor market just outside of Florence, Italy: an old woman, agog at the massive amount of produce Nathan was stockpiling, eagerly asked, “Why are you buying so much food? Why not just buy fresh every day?” Nathan immediately dumped out half his basket and began pondering those two simple questions. It was in that market, clutching a wheel of cheese, that Nathan discovered his truth: great food starts fresh. Laden with ideas and information, Nathan headed home, eventually opting for culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles, where he earned a Culinary Arts degree. Since that time, Nathan has worked in many restaurants, both in and out of the kitchen, and has also worked with local growers in California farmers markets for over a decade. Nathan recently (December 2011) came out with his very first cookbook, Great Food Starts Fresh, which has been quoted by Alice Waters and Graham Kerr, in addition to other esteemed chefs. Great Food Starts Fresh is a seasonal cookbook featuring 135 recipes broken down into the 5 seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter, and... chocolate! Nathan has cooked for the Inspector General, cooked and spoken at numerous charity functions, is one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2011 Sustainable Seafood Ambassadors, and has even written and co-illustrated (with his older brother, Craig) a children’s adventure book, Sam the Clam.
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10 Responses to Monsanto Hide And Seek?

  1. Hello Nathan… you have finally hit the nail on the head! It can be done if we share information promote seed houses that specialize in heirlooms/non GMO verities and ban together to see that Monsanto and it affiliates stand accountable. To me it’s also bringing awareness to the decades old problem of Toxic Green Waste being sold as organic compost (yes, it’s organic) it’s just not toxic free! But consumers have been sold on organic being healthy… This is were we all need to come together with an understand of what’s healthy and then share that information so the consumer understands. It does no good to raise heirloom or non-GMO seeds if you are growing them in toxic soil…. I look forward to following you on your journey of discovery and I am here if you have any questions Annie Haven

    • Thanks, Annie. I agree – we, as consumers, are often very misinformed or not told the whole story. I would love to hear more about the organic compost. Thanks for bringing this to light, and thanks for your support!

  2. fernanda beccaglia says:

    Great post, chef! I’d love to run it on one of the food online publications i manage (voxxi.com/culinary) Let me know if i have your OK to do so.
    Besos, Fernanda

  3. Tamara says:

    Buy from local farmers who get their seeds from either seed banks or companies that are not supplied by Seminis. AND, for those of us who grow our own food, the best way is to save your seeds from year to year. Most are pretty easy to save and as long as they are not hybrids, that is open pollinated, you’ll get the same great quality from non-GMO seeds from your own crops.

  4. Laura LaFleur says:

    I’m glad to have discovered you, via a post a friend made with this link in it. She and I are both members of a local county Facebook network of small farmers (me the smallest of all I think, since I’m “farming” in containers on the balcony of my small one-bedroom apartment). Thank you for sharing your findings here. I’m always glad to know there are concerned chefs who feel the same concerns about the environment and about issues like GMOs. Sometimes it seems like one more part of some cosmic battle between good and evil, but I try to remember that even if some nice guys finish last, good eventually prevails. My hope in this case is that the human race prevails! Thank you again for sharing, and kudos to you for being concerned enough to find out!

  5. Bob Yoho says:

    Ok, this is going to sound bad, but I swear it’s a compliment. I, umm, kinda figured that if you had hair, it would be blonde. Glad to see that I had misjudged you. My bad. Thank you for an enlightening and interesting article. Love the Greener world show, Keep up the good work.

  6. martin says:

    Glad to see you investigating the insidious reach Monsanto has in our food supply chain. Complete transparency would mean even knowing which seeds your farm has planted. That’s a bit intimidating but we didn’t get into this mess overnight, so we need to understand it will take time for us to get out. Education is the cornerstone so thank you for this, Chef!

  7. Exactly Nathan! Scary, right?!

    Listen, there is a great big push to label GMO’s. Here is a website with some info:
    http://www.labelGMOs.org/

    And here is blog post on the subject thru Baker Seeds:
    https://rareseeds.com/blog/bakersville/label-gmos-its-our-right-to-know/

    And you should definitely watch the movie: The Future of Our Food
    http://www.thefutureoffood.com/

    This is something we all need to be talking about. Thanks for posting on it.

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