At Mandaamin we breed Corn without GMOs
The Mandaamin Vision
- Optimal food production: combining healthy soils, healthy crops, and healthy animals.
- Breeding that respects the integrity of our domesticated species but fully utilizes their natural gifts.
- New varieties and breeds with high productivity that meet the stresses and nutritional needs of our world.
This institute is a new non-profit corporation that has been formed by Dr. Walter Goldstein and his friends to work for healthy, productive farming and healthy food. Mandaamin is the Algonquian word for corn/the spirit of corn; Mandaamin means ‘wonder seed.’
The institute intends to focus on developing more nutritious corn and wheat and healthier ways of farming. It will continue, deepen, and broaden the work done by Walter Goldstein for 25 years at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and bring it out into the World.
Our projects now are:
· Developing corn with enhanced protein quality that provides superior nutrition to the people and animals that eat it.
· Developing corn varieties that are extremely efficient at obtaining nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil, and possibly even fix some nitrogen from the air with the help of endophytic bacteria. Such varieties need less or no fertilizer.
· Breeding corn varieties that avoid contamination from transgenic corn because they utilize natural ‘gametophytic incompatibility’ genes.
· Finding and increasing wheat varieties that do not cause a gluten intolerance response in sensitive people.
Institute’s mission and philosophy
Responsible breeding of our domesticates: The species of domesticated plants and animals that we rely on in agriculture are not gadgets. As manifestations of little understood species, they have abilities to change, adapt, self-regulate, grow, and reproduce that we do not fully understand. They have a long history, rooted in the wild. Their domestication is often wrapped in the mysteries and symbols of forgotten peoples. They provided for and were loved by numerous generations of chthonic peoples and were selected for local needs and preferences. Human interaction with them unveiled gifts that are important today for our survival and pleasure. Think of the huge range of variation in foods manifested in all the different varieties of corn including popcorn, sweetcorn, corn nuts, field corn, baby corn, etc. Wild corn (teosinte) does not even have a cob, and is relatively uniform in its appearance.Scientific breeding: Starting a couple of centuries ago, breeders applied a new, scientific understanding of biology to improve our domesticates further. Such breeding emphasized selection for efficient production and resulted in large improvements in yields. Improvements in yield made it possible for expansion of the human population and averted famines. On the other hand, one-sided breeding led to imbalances. There were often reductions in quality. Cows and turkeys: In the case of animals the quality of life may have been reduced. Think of the modern Holstein milk cow with a huge capacity to produce a watery milk, but an expected life span of only 4 years, due to factors such as: a weakening of the ability to reproduce, increased disease including mastitis and lameness, and demand for very high milk production and economics. In the case of commercial turkeys, the tom’s oversized breasts full of white meat make them too large to mate naturally without crushing the turkey hens, and also predispose them to heart disease. Reproduction is limited to artificial insemination.
The Problems and What We are doing
For example, native Americans grew flour corn with excellent taste and nutritional value, known for the quality of eating. Analysis of 24 different varieties of native flour corn in 2011 showed that they averaged 14.2% protein and 64% starch. In contrast, modern hybrids have been bred for yield, and our impression is that they lack taste and nutrition. Analysis of 4 modern hybrids grown in southeastern Wisconsin in 2010 showed they had about half as much protein and more starch (7.5% protein and 73% starch). The easiest way for a corn plant to produce yield is to produce starch. Perhaps even more significant are differences in essential amino acids that are crucial for building new proteins in the human or animal body. The native corns averaged 0.39% lysine and 0.33% methionine in their grain while the modern hybrids averaged only 0.28% lysine and 0.18% methionine.
Our objective at the Mandaamin Institute is to foster a sense of balance in breeding and to select for domesticates that combine productivity and the highest nutritional quality. Breeding should be done in a spirit of respect and a kind of working dialogue with our domesticates, to enhance their gifts; not to violate their integrity, nor force them to be imbalanced organisms, with denigrated life quality. There is clear evidence that many of the kinds of traits that humanity needs to have developed in our crops are found naturally in landraces. This includes traits such as enhanced protein quality and the ability to work together with microorganisms in order to obtain nutrients from the soil and the air. Though these genetic traits cannot be patented, it is important for the public breeding sector to utilize them so that their benefits may be realized by humanity.
Such healthy soils produce healthy plants that can find the nutrients they need and require little fertilizer.In contrast, the present farming system in the Midwest is dominated by corn and soybeans. High quality organic matter is not returned to the soil. Continuous production of these crops is made possible by the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, and most of the seed used is genetically engineered so the plants can tolerate herbicides and kill insects. This farming system is secured by high prices and government support. However, it results in pollution of ground and surface water and is causing hypoxia in the Gulf of the Mississippi. The overall consequence of this system is poor soil structure and health which then causes an underground epidemic of root disease. Nitrogen fertilizer is necessary in order to stimulate the plants to outgrow the disease and herbicides and insecticides are necessary to help the plants compete with weeds and to kill insects. Reducing chemical pollution can only come about with healthier rotations, greater return of high quality organic matter to the soil, and with installing new government programs that do not encourage ethanol production nor price support for corn and soybeans. However commercial interests are highly entrenched in keeping the system the way that it is.