A Poetic & Practical Inquiry Into the Destruction & Saving of Our Planet
By: Jack Adam Weber
First I’d like to give a brief overview of GMOs and genetic engineering. GMO is a Genetically Modified Organism, most of them foods. Several multinational corporations produce GMOs; a few of the largest are Monsanto, Dow Agrosicence, and Syngenta. These companies, among others, are collectively referred to as biotechnology companies, or simply “Biotech.”
Genetically engineering (GE) seeds is the process of microscopically splicing a gene or more into a seed’s DNA so that the plant can express traits not naturally found in the plant. An example of one GE trait is resistance to the toxic herbicide Roundup. Plants that resist Roundup are called “Roundup Ready,” as in Roundup Ready corn and Roundup Ready soy and alfalfa. Roundup Ready crops are resistant to Roundup because of a gene inserted into them that confers resistance to the herbicide. This means that farmers can spray the crop with Roundup and kill the weeds while not killing the GE plants. In short, it makes weeding easy. Or so it would seem.
Jeffrey Smith, a world expert on GMOs, recounts how some Monsanto employees noticed that certain bacteria were living in the chemical waste dump in the presence of the usually lethal Roundup. This birthed the brilliant (though twisted) idea to insert the Roundup resistant gene from the bacteria into food crops. And so was born Roundup Ready soya, corn and all the other GMO food crops.
GMO foods offer no better nutrition or shelf life than conventional foods. In fact, some studies show GMO foods are nutritionally inferior to organically grown counterparts, as are conventional non-GMO foods that use pesticides but are not GMO. In the words of Dr. Andrew Kimbrell, Head of the Center of Food Safety in Washington, GMO foods “offer no benefits, no more nutrition, no more flavor, no nothing; they only offer risks.” These risks include health risks to GMO food consumers (especially children), to our soils, to our water, to farm workers, to wildlife, to the whole planet. The only reason, then, for genetically engineering Roundup Ready crops is to better control the weeds that grow in the crop furrows.
I cannot help but ponder the metaphor of weeds. The symbolic meaning of the expression “weed your garden” means that we take responsibility for our shortcomings, that we correct our wrongdoings, our bad habits and abusive patterns, our missteps and injuries—that we clean up our act so that we can grow nutritious food and enjoy the “fruits of life,” while treating life and one another with respect. For an Earth-based spirituality that acknowledges humanity’s inseparability from the Earth, it means that we tend to our inner transformation to become agents of healing for our world.
Implicit to being a good gardener and taking care of one’s weeds, however, is that we deal with our proverbial “weeds” in a kind, sustainable, humble way. That we do not further injure life in the process of tending to our own problems and challenges. Monsanto and other Biotech companies do none of this. Not only are their GMO crops unnatural and toxic (at least most ordinary weeds are not inherently noxious) but they poison the planet in the process of trying to deal with their weed problems. But it is not just the Biotech companies that perpetuate the seeds of destruction. It is also the farmers who chose to plant GMO crops, who choose profits and pollution over the promise and protection of Nature.
Weeds the world over are metaphors for fertility and wildness. They represent what we cannot fully control; they demonstrate the exuberant proliferation of Mother Nature. Yes, we don’t want them in our garden sucking our soils of nutrients that we are trying to get into the food we grow, and weeding our gardens benefits the quality of food we grow. But weeding one’s garden, or farm, can be done while still respecting Nature. This is respectful living; safely removing in moderation unwanted organisms that detract from our health. We do the same when we take medicine to kill bacteria and viruses that cause illness. Removing weeds by sustainable means by no means detracts from our awe and the prolific, wild presence weeds can inspire. They just keep coming back to remind us of their unstoppable life force! In fact, living amongst the abundant weeds on my own farm has only enhanced my respect for Nature.
Weeds are also metaphorical for our own darkness, our own unconscious hurts and shortcomings, which, if we do not tend to working out and healing, result in our perpetrating others in the same ways we are hurt. In psychological terms this is called projection and transference. We defensively project our pain onto the innocent and then transfer our difficult, unpleasant, and hurtful shadow emotions onto them. When repressed and denied, the karmic (cause and effect) consequences of projection and transference employed by our ego to protect ourselves from feeling our own pain (which is a first step in emotional and spiritual maturity) is how our unhealed shadow sides come back to haunt us and those we love. Selfish behavior marked by lack of empathy and care for the greater good is not only childish but often the result of transferred emotional pain. Gross environmental destruction can be seen as gross denial and immaturity resulting in increased cruelty, abuse, and suffering for all.
When we have the courage and heart to face and deal with our own hurts—our original family issues as well as other circumstantial pains of our lives—we learn about pain and the damage caused by injustice. This way we develop deep compassion. We become less likely to inflict those wounds on others. On the other hand, when we do not deal with our historical pains—our “psychic weeds”—we live with an (often) unconscious desire to make others suffer with us. Again, I cannot help but see the likely connection between Biotech’s enemy weeds and the weeds of their own troubled psyche. This is an instance where metaphor offers a clue to holistic healing. It is what I have experienced first-hand in my own life and what legitimate spiritual teachers mean when they say that “to change the world we must change ourselves.” This is not psychobabble, but a look into the underlying mechanisms of planetary dysfunction and therefore, planetary healing.
What must be at stake, what fear grater than a living a death (i.e., the potential outcome of more rampant GMO development), would cause individuals and their companies to poison every single life support system on Earth in the name of weed control? It makes no sense. Unless we look deeper. It makes me wonder if the weeds the Biotech companies are trying to quell are really just outgrowths from their own hurt and deranged hearts and souls. Another poetic clue to this real possibility is Roundup’s failing strategy all across the world. Superbugs and superweeds are “cropping up” everywhere as a result of nature’s adaptation through mutation (more below). These superweeds are destroying farm equipment due to their mere size and strength and outcompeting the desired food crops.
Poetically, this demonstrates the real-life effects of denying, suppressing, or otherwise ignoring our own “weeds.” And doing so by unnatural, unsustainable, arrogant means. Ordinary weeds—like repressed pain—are coming back now with super-power, just as our own ordinary wounds (we all suffer the human condition) come back to bite us and those we love as “super-hurts” when we do not deal with them responsibly, sustainably, and “hands-on.” For our inner psyches this means that we acknowledge, embrace, and work through the hurts in our hearts. In our outer lives this means that we get down on our hands and knees and weed our gardens. It means (not intending to oversimplify) that on our farms we employ methods such as crop rotation, promote natural predator insects for pests, that we mulch and plant ground cover to keep weeds out in the first place. This way we treat our own bodies and hearts with the same respect and care that Nature needs for its vitality, which in turn vitalizes us—so the circle turns.
The proliferation of superweeds and superbugs follows the same etiology (disease progression) as superviruses and bacteria inadvertently cultivated (especially in hospitals) via the overuse of antibiotics and antiseptics. Where stronger and more toxic antibiotics are needed (so goes conventional thinking) to combat these personal healthcare threats, stronger and stronger herbicides and pesticides are needed to combat the monster creations selectively bred for by using Roundup and other pesticides. And this brings us to our current critical crossroads.
The USDA is on the verge of deregulating (legalizing) the toxic and even more dangerous herbicide 2,4-D. Briefly, this chemical composes nearly half the ingredient volume in Agent Orange, used to strip foliage during the Vietnam War. According to Truthout “The use of 2,4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen, which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry.”
In a corrupt cocktail alliance as nasty and deadly as the products they make, Dow Agroscience and Monsanto have collaborated to invent another Frankenfix to Mother Nature’s inherent outsmarting the bogus promise of Roundup Ready and its crop failures. Monsanto has developed the toxic poison 2,4-D, and Dow has geo-engineered the corn seeds to withstand 2,4-D. A match made in heaven between these once fierce competitors. It’s amazing to see how money turns immoral enemies into allies, while the rest of us living on a shoe string or two collaborate for mere survival and solidarity to try to heal a world back to integrity so we can once again enjoy the simple beauties of life.
These companies are now “stacking” traits into plants so that they produce multiple desired effects. As an example, the new corn varieties will be stacked with both Roundup and 2,4-D resistance so that farmers can spray the hell out of their fields with Roundup and then again with 2,4-D to kill the remaining weeds that are resistant to Roundup. In all likelihood this toxic treadmill won’t stop with 2,4-D. If Nature is consistent in her ingenuity, it’s likely that plants soon will develop resistance to 2,4-D, and we we’ll see the next round of unsustainable Frankenfixes by the Frankenmakers.
Meanwhile, in their sociopathic bubble, Dow and Monsanto seem mesmerized by profits and the promise of more profits as they sell billions of dollars worth of their junk and then stay busy in between waves of adaptation planning for the next round of pesticides and mutant seeds to replace their temporary fixes. When they have no more poisons to combat the ever-mutating and adapting superbugs and superweeds, I can imagine the day (because their insanity does not surprise me anymore…I’ve adapted!) we hear them say that all of nature needs to be killed as the only solution left to combat weeds, if by that time our soil can even sustain the hardiest of weeds.
This toxic treadmill is only a recent development of the industrialized world. Traditional farming methods date back thousands of years to the beginning of agrarian societies. This body of ancient wisdom is a complex web of intelligence, intuition, and empirical discovery, that in reality is not ancient at all. It is as applicable today as ever, and perhaps more urgently needed today than ever. Indigenous peoples all over the world, who suffer the effects of modern industry and corruption, not only harbor this wisdom, but live it. It is essential we do all we can to help them; they are our link to better times, integral to our survival from this mess of chemical warfare. And this is precisely why Big Ag seems to care nothing for displacing and poisoning indigenous groups. The supremacy and workings of nature were the same then as they are now. Nowadays we simply try to override what we should be humble to accept.
If we are lucky we are going to have to learn all over again that we have to live with nature instead of against it. This would bring us back full circle, with the appropriate integration of technology and science into the matrix of living on Earth, which is natural by original design. Indeed, the very existence of profit, greed, and lack of empathy for life drive the corporate machine to act against nature, against sanity.
I wonder what is beneath greed and lack of empathy. What weeds lurk beneath the inventive minds of those who create, and worse yet, promote, distribute, and wheel and deal their mercenary creations in the form of seeds and crops that require hundreds of millions of extra pounds of herbicide and pesticide to be dumped into our food chain? Could this attempt to repress and blatantly deny the natural cycles of nature be equal to the severity of the perpetrators’ personal wounds, and therefore equal to the force required to deny and repress their personal pain? What other explanation is there? Are the weeds that Biotech is trying to kill while poisoning us all, the same weeds that ordinary, decent people pick out by hand and organic farmers moderate by natural means? By poetic extension, then, are superweeds the distorted and perverted results of what caring citizens diligently tend to in our daily lives through sincere introspection, good communication, viable problem-solving, right livelihood, and humility?
This is why, despite my disgust, anger, and sadness, despite the pain of my constantly breaking heart, I hold a place—however small and somehow simultaneously growing and shrinking by the day—of empathy for Biotech, for the companies that are plummeting our planet. My empathy means that I know pain, and I know that no sane person or group of people would destroy what gives life without a tremendous impetus of fear for doing so. They would not dismantle the most beautiful gifts of being alive: vibrant health and a vibrant ecosystem—an ecosystem in which weeds and life’s obstacles foster awe, empathy, large-heartedness, holism, and grounded diligent care—not reckless, cruel and toxic hubris.
It is for this reason that I teach a comprehensive course in Radical Awakening—to join inner growth work for personal fulfillment with activism for collective sustainability. I recently joked that an alternate title for my work is “How to transform your heart to be sure you never become a Monsanto employee or plant GMO seeds.” Of course this is tongue-in-cheek and refers to any bad mischief we might find ourselves into. Once we have cleared our own hearts of backlogged pain we find fulfillment beneath the surface of what passes in our culture for fun and happiness. We can then pour our fulfillment into the world that needs our help. These are the practical mechanics behind how internal personal transformation creates change in our world. Radical Awakening is the means by which we become medicine for our times through the vehicle of integrated sustainability and what I call holistic activism.
May we tend to our weeds in the right way, if not altogether revision their message to us in these overly-sanitized and soul-deprived times. Dig into the Earth and the soil of your own body and spread your wild love!
About Jack Adam Weber:
Jack Adam Weber is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, author, organic farmer, celebrated poet, and activist for Earth-centered spirituality. He integrates poetry, ancient wisdom, holistic medicine, and depth psychology into passionate presentations for personal fulfillment as a path to planetary transformation. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com
Article and photo contributed by Jack Adam Weber and Wake Up World