Spirituality without Structure

Nimue Brown

This is not a book I consciously set out to write. What happened is that some years ago I spent a lot of time reading about other religions as part of my research for ‘When a Pagan Prays’. It was a book that took a long time to write – and as I’d been quiet for ages – my lovely publisher, Trevor Greenfield, asked if I’d consider doing a small book. Moon Books publishes a Pagan Portals Series — lots of short and punchy introductions to niche areas of Paganism. Would I like to do one?

As soon as the offer was on the table, it was evident to me what to do with it. All manner of things had been occurring to me with regards to the nature of religion, and what it takes to have a meaningful personal practice. From the research for ‘When a Pagan Prays,’ Spirituality without Structure was unexpectedly hatched. It was significantly influenced by Alain du Botton’s ‘Religion for Atheists’. I’m not an atheist, but the questions he raised about the social and psychological function of religions prompted me to start considering how we might construct spiritual practice to serve human needs, and to questions the needs which established religions serve.

Here’s an excerpt to give you a bit of a flavour for the project. This is a book people either love because they find it challenging, or hate for exactly the same reason.

“As human beings we seem to find strong leadership enticing. We like it when someone else takes the risks, makes the decision, solves the problems and tells us what to do. Religions can be very good at matching those who wish to graze quietly with those who wish to be shepherds. It is also worth remembering that you can just as easily match those who do not want to make much effort with the kind of shepherd who runs a very lucrative abattoir.

It is important to know yourself. Are you looking for comfort, a sense of security, some rules to follow, a nice plan for the afterlife and a routine? If so, then stay with regular religions and structures. If, on the other hand, you want spiritual experiences and to find your own answers, are not afraid to take risks, face setbacks and ask a lot of questions, then doing as you are told is never going to satisfy you.”

This book is all about breaking out and doing it for yourself. I’ll admit I have an agenda here. I think that there is much to be troubled by in people who want power over other people, and over other aspects of the natural world. I believe the desire for power is driven by fear and that it is inherently destructive. I also believe that we do best when we seek harmony, tolerance and collaboration, and when we respect each other as equals. As soon as you try to control another person, you diminish them, and yourself. The structure of religion is so often about control. There are too many issues around whom has the right to make whom do what. The right to punish, to exile, own and to devalue can all be tied up in religious thinking too, and these are destructive influences across the globe. I’m much more interested in the power to control the self, and the self-discipline that is all about what happens inside an individual.

The trouble with having no structure or system – as is so often the case for independent modern Pagans – is ascertaining what you might replace that with. Figuring everything out from scratch is rewarding, and a profound journey in its own right, but you may have to start by working out what to work out in the first place and this can lead to a great deal of wheel re-invention.

It is possible to learn a lot from the history and diversity of religion; Pagan and non-Pagan alike. We can learn without subscribing to any one system, drawing inspiration without abdicating personal power. I’m not suggesting a ‘pick-and-mix’ attitude to spirituality, but a process of stepping back to examine what religion is and does. We can learn from the areas of overlap and commonality. We can learn from the places of difference and conflict. I’ve gathered together much of what I’ve learned from reading about different religions and listening to a great many people. This is not the whole story. It’s not even the tip of one.

The drive for spirituality in humans and the history of religion are two vast topics that it would probably take lifetimes to understand. However, the attempt is always worth it and I hope this provides a useful jumping off point.

Nimue Brown is the author of a number of Druid and Pagan titles also published by Moon Books.


Nimue Brown interviews Kitchen Witch, Rachel Patterson

by Nimue Brown

I met Rachel Patterson through Moon Books. From my perspective she came out of nowhere and set people’s imaginations on fire with her books on kitchen witchcraft. Her friendly accessible style has won her a lot of fans (me amongst them). Down to earth, can do, user friendly writing is something that I really value. For me, kitchen witchcraft is part of folk magic, part of the kind of thing quietly pagan people have always done. If high magic and very ceremonial rituals don’t call to you, then this probably will.

Nimue: Your sixth book comes out in June 2015. What was your first title and what prompted you to start writing books?

Rachel: I never had a desire to write books and it was not something on my to-do or bucket list, it all happened totally be accident. I saw a request on the Moon Books Facebook page asking for suggestions for their Pagan Portals series and as I run an online school based on Kitchen Witchcraft, I suggested that as the subject. The editor contacted me and said he liked the idea and asked if I would be interested in submitting a proposal. Eeek! I was totally petrified but as I had experience with writing lessons for the school and a few magazine articles I gave it a shot. Pagan Portals – Kitchen Witchcraft was born and I am extremely happy to say that even two years later it continues to sell and be received very well. It was the start of an avalanche really.

Nimue: Is all of your magic / ritual about indoors spaces or do you leave the kitchen as well?

Rachel: I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but that’s because I love to bake, cook and eat! But I also have a lovely little garden stuffed full of plants and herbs that I like to spend time in and I usually take a walk outside in my local area every day. We also hold regular open rituals in a local country park where we have the use of beautiful beech and yew tree groves. Nature is a huge part of my witchcraft.

Nimue: What makes Kitchen Witchcraft different from other approaches?

Rachel: When I first started on the witchcraft pathway a gazillion years ago the only structure of training at the time was Wicca, so that’s what I started to learn, but fairly early on in my training I struggled as it didn’t feel like quite the right fit for me personally. I went on to complete my Wiccan training but I also started to ‘get out there’ and be a part of rituals, moots and working alongside other Wtches, Pagans and Druids and I studied anything I could get my hands on from Druidry to Shamanic practices to Hoodoo. Along with my life-long love of cooking and food my journey as a Kitchen Witch began to make more sense to me. I started to use bits and pieces from one tradition and work them into my own and then take something from another pathway and fit that into my way of working as well. Kitchen Witchcraft is about using whatever is to hand, no fancy tools or specific rule book ways of doing things; I work with my intuition and instinct all of the time. I work a lot with herbs, plants and flowers and of course the magic of food is at the core. There is also a lot of Hedge Witchcraft in with it as well, foraging and walking between the worlds and Green Witchcraft for the natural items, recycling and eco-warrior add in a bit of folk magic and traditional witchcraft and there you have it.

Nimue: Who / what inspires you?

Rachel: Nature and life itself are my biggest inspirations but also people; some of our students come up with the most amazing insights.

Nimue: What would you most like to achieve through your writing and teaching?

Rachel: I feel extremely blessed that I am able to share my own experiences and knowledge that I have learnt along the way with others, but I do believe it is a two way thing; I learn from the feedback with my books and sharing with students. I don’t know everything, not by a long shot and I never will. Continuing to learn alongside others is all part of the journey. If I can help give one person clarity with something then that is an achievement I am more than happy with.

Nimue: What comes next for you?

Rachel: There is another Pagan Portals title with the publisher at the moment this time on Meditation and a new book that I am just starting to write about called The Art of Ritual, alongside new courses being run with Kitchen Witch and the day to day lessons life is always busy.

Nimue: How do people find out more?

Rachel: My website is www.rachelpatterson.co.uk and the Kitchen Witch site is www.kitchenwitchhearth.com but I am always happy to answer queries or chat via Facebook or E-mail.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton is a great many things, a High Priestess, a board member of the Solar Cross Temple, a clinical counselor, social worker, and a graduate worker in a social work program. Crystal writes and coordinates the Patheos blog, Daughters of Eve, is a writer for Sage Woman and a monthly columnist for The Wild Hunt.

Besides raising a multicultural family of four children with her husband, she has passion for social justice and is an advocate for expanding the common understanding of privilege, race relations, the use of restorative justice practices and cultural empathy; furthering constructive discussions that are often taboo and misunderstood in society. She is both a thinker and dedicated to creating that better society that we all claim to want. She was also kind enough to accept my request for an interview.

Christopher: What kind of background did you grow up in?

Crystal: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised by a single mother who was self employed. Growing up 5 minutes away from Berkeley, I have always been around a lot of different types of people and different kinds of diversity.

Christopher: You describe yourself as a woman and a person of color.  What does that mean to you? How does that affect you?

Crystal: The inter-sectional position of being a woman of color gives me a lot to contemplate about who I am in the world, and what success looks like. My mother raised me to be a strong black woman, despite the challenges and messages I might get from society saying that I am not strong enough, pretty enough, or presentable enough to fill the expectations that greater society might have. To be successful has always meant the ability to embrace who I am and what I am as a black woman. From there all things are possible.

So finding ways to grow within my understanding of where I stand as a marginalized person, and learning how to use the social and cultural capital I have in my intersecting communities has taught me how to be fierce within any environment. From writing books, to raising my children, to social work in the inner city, embracing the strength of who I am has been a life-long lesson.

Christopher: What drives you? How does that affect your choices in education and your career choice?

Crystal: Passion drives me. I have always felt a strong commitment to justice and equity work, and worked in clinical services before I became a part of the Pagan community. Being a part of a marginalized ethnic community has given me first hand knowledge of what it means to work within systems that are designed without a sense of equality for all people. It has always been important to me that everyone has a choice to thrive, and becoming a social worker was the best path I could work in to be a part of manifesting this change.

Christopher: How did you become Pagan and what path do you follow?

Crystal: I came to this path in 2002 when I was prompted to do some research after meeting someone who was also interested in the path. I joined my first coven in 2003, and have continued to work in covens since that time. I trained with several traditions and became initiated with Family Wiccan Tradition International, which is no longer around.

I am a very eclectic Witch and incorporate several different aspects of my culture and my spirituality together. For the most part I still work within a Wiccan framework but have expanded that in many ways to accommodate some of my ethnic culture and ancestral culture.

Christopher: You are a high priestess in your tradition. Do you have a coven?

Crystal: I do not run a coven but I am a part of a small local coven. I have chosen not to have a coven that was specifically under my leadership because I am putting my energy towards completing my graduate degree and my social justice work.

Christopher: Could you tell us a bit about the Solar Cross Temple?

Crystal: Solar Cross Temple is a pan-magical temple that works with people from many different magical paths. The temple offers monthly devotionals, educational classes, outreach, interfaith and numerous social justice related projects. Some of our most recent justice projects have included contributing to the Pagans Against Racism website, facilitating justice programming at PantheaCon and collaborating with other organizations to support local actions.

Solar Cross is also kick-starting their new project called Turning the Wheel. Turning the Wheel is a project that will support collaboration and networking for young leaders and emerging leaders.

I have been a Board Member for Solar Cross since 2012, working alongside T. Thorn Coyle, Jason Thomas Pitzl, Jonathan Korman, Robert Russell and Elena Rose. I enjoy the work that we do as an organization and focusing a lot on using our magic, education and resources to fight for equity in our communities.

Christopher: How does all the above affect your chosen purpose and responsibility in the Pagan community?

Crystal: Being a part of the Solar Cross team just solidifies the intersection that exists between my spiritual and social work worlds. Priestessing often looks like social action for me, and this is an important marriage of principles that I embrace as a part of who I am today. I engage in activism within the Pagan community, as well as in larger society, as a commitment to justice and equity. One of the vows I made to Yemaya encompasses this work, and the fight for the protection of all her children.

Christopher: You often mention bringing up taboo and uncomfortable subjects in the Pagan community? Why are those subjects important? What must happen once the problems are identified?

Crystal: I often talk about topics around issues of race, privilege and other concerns of social justice. As a social worker, these topics are very normal conversation for me and yet they are not often the conversations that are comfortable to have in general society. We are taught not to talk about things that make us uncomfortable or that are challenging topics in public environments. Race, privilege and other justice related issues often fall into that categorization.

Yet these subjects are important in our society as a whole and within the Pagan community. In order for us to change some of the dynamics that traditionally keep marginalized people out of our circles, we have to be willing to delve into the issues that are existing around us.

So part of what I think is important for us all to do is to talk about these things, engage with one another on the challenging topics and find collective community minded solutions that support healing and growth.

Christopher: How do you explain something that your audience has no personal experience with? How do you get past ignorance denial, defensiveness to start working on the problem and encourage cooperation?  Do you suggest possible solutions?

Crystal: All that I can do is tell my personal truth to others and share the information that I have from my studies and professional work. I do my best to be open and genuine in my communication, sharing in a way that allows people to hear and experience some of the true reflections of emotions. There is no way to make someone understand, I can only be present in the moment.

I do not also think it is my job to help someone get past the ignorance, denial or resistance. I think I get the option to engage with people who I feel are wanting to work towards understanding and true equity. If someone wants to live in their denial, it is not my obligation to change them. Instead I feel it is important to give resources, options and opportunities to those who are truly present in this struggle and want to learn and grow. I need that in my own process of growth and I find this is often a reciprocal process.

The best solution for addressing denial and resistance is education and engagement with others. Learning to understand topics of oppression is a responsibility that each of us has to own and learn about. Do the research, speak to those who do this work, talk to marginalized people and build meaningful relationships, be present and stay engaged. There is no crash course, it is about the willingness to learn and challenge one’s personal biases and conditioning.

Christopher: What are some of the uncomfortable subjects that you have written about and given workshops on? What about books you have written and anthologies that you have edited and co-edited?

Crystal: I have been on numerous panels at PantheaCon that discuss the topics of race, cultural appropriation, privilege and sacrifice. I have also done workshops at other festivals and conventions around cultural empathy, restorative justice and the use of cultural archetypes. These are all incredibly important topics within our community that I enjoy sharing.

I have written several books on related topics. I wrote Bridging the Gap: Working with the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society, and Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World. Both books address topics related to the myriad of community or personal issues that come up within our lives or our community and the infusion of counseling techniques to address them.

I have been the editor for Shades of Faith: Minority Voices in Paganism, and Shades of Ritual: Minority Voices in Practice. Both of these anthologies highlight the voices of people of color within our community and their experiences, practices and stories within the Pagan community. The newest anthology, Bringing Race to the Table, was co-edited by Taylor Ellwood, Brandy Williams and myself; it addresses the very topics of race, appropriation, privilege and ally-ship. All of the anthologies have very talented writers and incredibly moving pieces.

Christopher: How can people learn more about what we have talked about?

Crystal: There are always great resources to read that can support people with a better understanding of any topic that they want to learn about. Some of the resources we are putting together currently include the Pagans Against Racism website. This site has a host of links and information about several of the topics I have mentioned. I also have a lot of information and resources listed in the archives for the 30 Day Real Black History Challenge that are currently on the Daughters of Eve blog, hosted by Patheos. This year the 30 Day Real Black History Challenge will have it’s own website and there will be a lot of upcoming announcements to stay tuned for.

This interview was first published in ACTION.

Paul Mitchell, druid and musician

by Nimue Brown

For those of you who have not encountered Paul Mitchell, you could start by imagining what Billy Bragg would sound like if he took up Druidry. Well known on the U.K. Druid scene as both a solo performer and part of the folk-rock band Mad Magdalen, Paul is about as far from gentle, tinkly new age music as a person can get without needing amplification.

Nimue: When I saw you at the Druid Network conference in 2012, you commented that folk is as much a part of our heritage as Stonehenge. What is it about folk music you think Pagans should be paying attention to?

Paul: I experience our evolving folk tradition in a way that was well described by Chris Wood (an exceptional performer and writer). He described a sense, when singing a folk song or playing an old tune, of the ghosts of generations of performers standing behind him, checking that he was honouring the song or tune (rather than having the song or tune honour his performance). It is this honest connection with the past that is offered through our engagement with our folk traditions. It’s so very available to us all, be it through attending folk clubs or just checking out a few songs here and there. So if it is the heritage of your people and your land that you seek to explore, connect with and honour then our folk tradition offers a simple and fun way to do so.

Nimue: Ah, Chris Wood is a splendid chap. You perform a mix of your own stuff and other material, folk and otherwise. Whose work are you drawn to?

Paul: The roots of my stuff cover a lot of areas. However I think it’s important to mention Chris Gosling’s work. He was the first satirical pagan act I heard, and clearly was a master wordsmith. Well worth checking out if you get a chance to hear recordings of his material. In terms of folk music I like anything with passion in it. Mabon, for example, offer modern Celtic tunes. I’m a great fan of Martin Carthy. My musical tastes are wider than some might expect. For example, Damh the Bard expressed surprise to find me at a heavy rock festival a couple of years back. As a young man brought up on a rough council estate through the 70′s and 80′s I am also influenced by bands like The Clash and The Jam. It’s a heady mix that’s not to everyone’s taste. For example the only place I can get away with playing the Marilyn Manson CD’s is in the car on my own. I’m also a Capt. Beefheart fan, which takes some doing.

Nimue: With lines like “just what the world needs, another bloody druid” and “I’m a much better pagan when I am pissed”, that satirical theme is easily spotted in your work. Is that underpinned by a desire to make changes, elicit laughs, combinations thereof, other things that have not occurred to me?

Paul: I have no great message and on the whole (but not always) I’m not trying to do anything more than express some of my thoughts and feelings. I would hope that I’m more than a comedy musician (although that’s a great skill if you have it). So I guess I’m engaging in some satire and some people like to hear it. I’d write and play this stuff even if there was no audience. Indeed, I write and play lots of other stuff that people never hear. However when there are people interested in your art and are willing to listen, or to turn up to things because you’re playing, then I think there is an opportunity to use that interest; hence bringing the Pagan Folk Against Facsism thing together a few years back. I had people listening and turning up to see me so, with the band Mad Magdalen, I used that momentum for what I thought was an important cause. I also hope that my songs capture some of the story of the modern Pagan movement here in the U.K. as capturing stories is part of what the folk tradition is about.

Nimue: Not everyone (especially readers from beyond the U.K.) will have heard of Folk Against Fascism at a guess, so, can you say a bit more about what happened there and the role you played in all of that?

Paul: A few years ago it became apparent that the far right party, British National Party (BNP), were advising members to purposely infiltrate folk clubs, morris sides and the like with a view to convincing people that their love of English traditions was the starting point to their joining the BNP. The folk community got wind of this and formed Folk Against Fascism to raise awareness. The band I’m part of, Mad Magdalen, has a bit of an activist bent at times. I asked the band for support in bringing about a CD of music performed by modern Pagans, and a couple of poems as well, to help raise awareness in the Pagan community. We got lots of support and even financial backing from the community and released the Pagan Folk Against Facsism CD, some T-shirts and hoodies. It worked really well to publicise the musicians and worked as a great way of engaging people in discussion about folk music and the potential it holds for exploring our heritage.

Nimue: What other activist stuff do Mad Magdalen get up to?

Paul: No other non-music activity for a while. Demands of life have been getting in the way and we’ve managed to line a few gigs up that might not actually cost us anything play

Nimue: Now, I’ve seen Mad Magdalen (you’re awesome), and if I was booking you with my former folk club organiser hat on, I’d expect you’d have been at the edges of what I could have afforded (there being four of you) and only then if you happened to be in area anyway. It seems crazy to me that you should have to consider gigs in terms of not losing money. I’m guessing things are tough for musicians at the moment?

Paul: I think it’s always been the same. But it’s not just the band, I am so frequently asked, or to be frank, expected to play for little or nothing that I’ve simply stopped trying to be polite about it. The problems really arise when event organisers seem to take affront at being asked to make a reasonable payment, if only to cover costs. I had one Rainbow named person exclaim “But we’re a new company! We can’t afford to pay!” and even some well-known organisers are happy to pay speakers a fee (or at least expenses) but unwilling to shove things around to pay a solo musician for his train fare, a meal and a pint. Interestingly, since I’ve simply said “If you’re not going to pay me I’m not even going to consider your event” there have materialised paying gigs. Nothing much more than expenses, but it’s a start. It reflects where the Pagan community actually is, I suppose, with people singing and playing to pre-recorded music rather than keeping music live, over running support slots; meaning the live musicians have to play shorter sets and thus have less time to promote their CDs and maybe, just maybe, make £10 on an evening’s work. It’s happened several times and the combination of little or no money plus an emergence of pre-recorded acts tells me the community isn’t valuing its musical artists. Of course I’ll play events that I support without payment, or for the passing of a hat. But why on earth would you think that this applies to your event when we’ve never done anything more than become “friends” on Facebook?

Nimue: I feel much the same way about going out as an author. If it’s local, i.e. cheap to get to or something I want to do anyway, that’s one thing, but many events (not Pagan) seem keen that authors should pay for the privilege of being there, not the other way round!

So (because this is usually a more book orientated sot of blog) who gets space on your bookshelves?

Paul: I’m involved in proof reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Paul Read (AKA the Tea Pot Monk). Paul writes on the subject of Tai-Chi, one of my greater passions. I have several of his books already and these have been a great help in my articulation of my aims around teaching Tai-Chi and related practices. I also have a couple of books by a guy called Rory Miller. Rory is a leading expert in the area of self defence and violence. A great read and I was blessed with the opportunity to train with him over a rather bruising weekend recently. A book that is frequently in my hands at the moment is by Dr. Sun, it relates to the use of wind and fire wheels, a rather odd weapon that he resurrected for use in Tai-Chi training. Other than the whole Tai-Chi / martial arts thing I also tend to read, from time to time, books about economics and green issues. If I’m feeling up to it I’ll read a book that presents an ideology really opposed to mine; this helps me to test and understand my thoughts better. I haven’t read any fiction for ages! My wife is an avid reader, she belongs to a book club so I guess I should try a couple of her books out. The book club is an interesting thing; ladies spend a month reading a book then get together, get drunk as can be, and talk about the book. I’m in a home brew club. We brew beer then get together and get drunk on each others’ beer. I think it’s a far more honest process.

Nimue: If you’d like to find out more about Paul, his homepage is http://paul.makingithappen.co.uk/ which includes some music samples and album purchasing options – http://paul.makingithappen.co.uk/music.htm including that aforementioned one about being a much better Pagan when pissed. If you get the chance to see Paul live, jump at it.

This interview was first published on January 13, 2014 as Pagan People, and is republished here with permission.

March Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto is a grassroots movement founded by Tami Monroe Canal in 2013. Every year, millions of people take to the streets in a worldwide peaceful protest united against Monsanto’s attempted monopoly and corporate control over the worlds’ seeds and food webs.

We are concerned parents and citizens from all walks of life. We aim to raise awareness of the destructive impact of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and their toxic pesticides on our communities, our health, our environment, our economy and all living beings. Ordinary people are outraged that these experimental products have been forced on us without our knowledge or our consent. As conscious and responsible consumers, we have a Right to Know what’s in our food and a Right To Choose 100% gm-free, uncontaminated, organic and nutritious foods.

Why Monsanto?

Monsanto is a U.S. chemical company notorious for its toxic products including Agent Orange, dioxin, DDT, PCBs and rBGH. They have a history of environmental destruction, pollution and cover-ups. For decades, Monsanto has contaminated, leaked and dumped hazardous and toxic substances into our air, water, soils and oceans, even the cells in our bodies! Monsanto is associated with many of the 114 toxic super-fund sites in USA.

They occupy governmental positions, lobby politicians to influence policies favourable to their products, and contribute enormous sums of money to governments, universities and agricultural groups to promote the gmo agenda. They have been caught falsifying and manipulating data, and have faced numerous lawsuits for unsubstantiated advertising, contamination and bribery. Including in our very own South Africa.

Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically modified seeds and Roundup, the most widely sold weedkiller in the world.

What is a GMO?

In traditional seed breeding techniques, peasants and farmers have carefully selected, crossed and propagated plants of the same species for desirable characteristics and complex traits like flavour, size, yield, adaption to micro-climates, disease resistance and resilience to cope with stresses like salty water or soil, drought and flooding.

A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is the result of an unnatural laboratory process taking genes from one species and inserting them into another across the species barrier to try to obtain a desired characteristic. Genetic engineers force DNA from one organism to another using bacteria or viruses to “infect” plant or animal cells with the new DNA, firing DNA into cells with a gene gun, injecting new DNA into a fertilized egg, or electrocuting the sperm membrane to force the new DNA into the sperm. These processes do not occur in nature. Uncontrolled mutations and complex interactions occur at multiple levels within the organism when even a single new gene is inserted.

These imprecise techniques result in unintended and unpredictable effects including changes in the nutritional content of food, toxic and allergenic effects and poor crop performance. Co-existence is not possible as they contaminate non-GM crops and wild relatives through horizontal gene transfer.

GMOs are living organisms – once released into ecosystems, they cannot be recalled. The impacts are irreversible. They continue to multiply in the environment and GM genes are passed on to future generations. These risky experiments should be strictly quarantined in laboratories.

Most GMOs are genetically engineered for two traits: To tolerate heavy doses of weedkillers and to resist a particular insect. The toxin is engineered into the plant so that every cell of the plant constantly expresses that insecticide. The result is now widespread weed and insect resistance to these two traits. Farmers must use more agrochemicals like 2,4-D and Dicamba, and harmful chemical cocktails to combat them.

GMO’s are patented and farmers may not save seeds for the following crop. The companies who profit from GMO’s should be held liable for contamination of non-gm crops. Instead, Monsanto has sued farmers whose organic crops have been contaminated. The Current GMO’s on the market, are a highly profitable scam perpetrated by unscrupulous chemical companies with criminal histories to sell their war chemicals and patent seeds.

Chemicals pollute the air, soil, water and oceans and contribute massively to collapse of ecosystems and climate disruption. They strip the soil of nutrients and kill beneficial bacteria, microbes, pollinating insects, birds and other non-target organisms. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup products, is classified by WHO (World Health Organisation) as a Category 2A “Probable Human Carcinogen”. (as well as countless other scientists who have found various other side effects)

While the impacts of GMO’s and agri-chemicals on humans is not being monitored, studies show that they cause cancer, diabetes, birth defects, infertility, obesity, cholesterol, heart disease, immune-deficiency diseases, damage to kidneys, liver, hormonal disruption, allergies, learning disorders etc. Developing infants and children are especially vulnerable. Thousands of scientists have stated that there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety.

The South African regulators do not conduct safety tests on GMO’s and pesticides and they lack the capacity to monitor them. They rely on data from the biotech companies which is not published and peer reviewed and is heavily edited under Confidential Business Information.

South Africa is the only country in the world where the staple food (Maize Meal) is genetically modified! The majority doesn’t even know what a GMO is! 86% of the maize and almost all Soya and Cotton grown in South Africa is GM. Most processed products like bread, baby formula, fast foods and snacks contain GM ingredients. Cottonseed oil is used in tinned sea foods and vegetable oils. Check your labels for GM ingredients like High Fructose Corn Syrup, maltodextrins, soy milk, protein or lecithin, Aspartame, MSG, Flavour Enhancers, Colouring and E-numbers etc.

The EU, USAID and mega-wealthy philanthro-capitalists like Bill Gates have embarked on a wave of neo-colonialism disguised under the philanthropic mantra of “feeding the world”. They force developing nations into trade agreements and policy reforms to facilitate the interests of multinational monopolies like Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Cargill, Nestle and Pepsico (which Gates also invests in.) These draconian policies result in biopiracy, land-grabs, loss of livelihoods, loss of our diverse agricultural heritage, poverty and hunger.

Studies show that peasants feed 70% of the world population using 30% of the world’s resources. The industrial food chain feeds 30% of the world’s population using 70% of the resources. Leaders should promote food security through sound agro-ecological practices and support small farmers instead of this industrial, petro-dependent, chemically intensive agricultural model. Global control of commercial seeds, agro-chemicals, fertilizers and genetics is now in the hands of just four corporations. Family farmers cannot afford the inputs. Control the food and you control the world.

The world produces enough food for 14 million people. About 50% is wasted, including the resources used to produce it. GM monocrops are used mostly for biofuels & livestock feed, not food.

GMOs have been grown in USA for two decades, yet 17 million children struggle with food insecurity. One in four children lives without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. In South Africa, where GM crops have been grown since 1998, one in four people regularly suffers hunger and more than half of the population are at risk of going hungry, despite the fact that we produce more than enough food. Africa has been transformed from a net exporter to a net importer of food.

What can we do?

Support local organic farmers who grow food sustainably, eat local grown, organic, whole, nutritious foods, grow your own, get your neighbours involved in community gardens, plant a food forest, save your seeds, teach children to grow food, raise awareness with family, friends and colleagues about the harmful impacts of GMOs on our health, the environment, ecology & biodiversity, take to the streets and join peaceful protests like March against Monsanto, share & like anti-gmo pages, get a NO GMO bumper sticker or t-shirt, hand out pamphlets, stick info in public places, demand labelling, boycott gmo products, demand strict labelling and gmo-free food at your local supermarket, sign petitions, tell your governments and newspapers to ban GMO imports, testing and cultivation in South Africa. Let’s take back our food!

This is only the tip of the iceberg, if you want more, please visit these pages on Facebook:

March against Monsanto
March against Monsanto South Africa
NO GMO South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety
SA Food Sovereignty Campaign

The MAMSA team
This article is republished here with permission.

GMO Myths and Truths

An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops and foods.
John Fagan, PhD Michael Antoniou, PhD Claire Robinson, MPhil.