It’s the middle of March! Today I have a wonderful guest who’s going to talk about a topic that has come up many times on my show, she’s gonna talk about food and nutrition who’s written a book called No Small Potatoes: A Journey More Than Meets The Eye!
Elizabeth Johntson‘s fascination with the potato brings her on an absorbing journey through many of the pivotal issues affecting how we live today. The stark reality of GMO domination, leading to the destruction of agricultural communities, the limiting of food choice and the loss of traditional knowledge and farming practices is central to the book. She skillfully demonstrates how science has lost its integrity in response to the lure of big business but points out that there is hope for small scale farmers working to preserve genetic diversity and food security. Elizabeth’s account of how native Peruvians are reclaiming their dignity and spiritual connection to the land and her call for a grassroots movement for food independence make this a captivating read. — Cait Curran, (editor of Organic Matters)
I’m excited another friend I met in a FB group it’s fun to meet colleagues and people that are near and dear friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination for Teachers, Trainers, Coaches and Mentors
Tell us a little about yourself.
I too like the technology that allowed us to connect…. I actually went off of Facebook for quite a while, for about a year….
- who cares about status updates?
- and who had a cup of coffee?
- and some trivial things?
then I realized that’s what it’s not about. I don’t have to invest a lot of energy there and don’t pay attention to them.
Then I started getting involved in the groups in Facebook and you do really feel like you make friends!
I’m a creative writing instructor at a university. I also teach business communication
- skills for university success and
- self management techniques
It’s for people who have failed out of their program who need a refresher on strategies that are gonna help them succeed. It takes me a little bit away from the creative aspect of myself
I’ve been teaching that for going on 8 years. The people who take that are not happy to be there initially. It can be stressful to dealin with people that are not happy where they are in teh process it can be quite challenging and stressful.
I needed to get back to my creative source
nurturing that in a creative way.
I’ve always been creative
I have come to realize how important creativity is in your life. That it shouldn’t be something that’s an add on. Or when you have time. I believe it has to be integrated to your whole life. It has to be a habit.
Recently I have been thinking about a follow- up to the book that you mentioned which is about GMOs and why they are not good for us.
Back in 2008
really what started me on my organic journey
now even thought I don’t have a garden I do buy organic as much as I can
I am more interested in the connection with the food we put in our bodies and how it will affect on our brain
i.e. our creativity
what we put in our brain and how that affects
I’m all about creativity
some of the relitazations … and the relationship between friends and creativity.
One of my all time best friends wrote a book about Creativity too, and I also, when I first became a teacher they told me you will be ok, because I have no sense of humor and that’s a big quality in a teacher but they said I had enough creativity that would be my strength. They were like you just breathe creativity you’ll make up for that. I agree with it does have to integrate into your whole life. I met so many teachers that were in my classes
Tell me about your first gardening experience? You’re in Canada right.
I’m in Montreal.
You see I totally feel like we will might meet in real life! I’ve got a long life to live.
Well, I actually don’t have my personal gardening experience, it’s not like I as a kid. My grandparents had a garden, they were from Poland and came here after the 2nd world war and they were both from rural communities. They were farmers themselves in Poland.
When they came here they opened a camper park. Near
Wasaga Beach — north of Toronto. summers growing up where from age 5. Every weekend there during the year
spent a lot of time with my grand parents.
Fruits and Vegetables
- pear trees
- apple trees
- plum trees
- corn they grew for a while
on top of running the campground
2 big plots
One near our house and elsewhere on the property
So I didn’t have to do the work around it, except like going and picking for things for the meal. They would send me go out to the garden and get some cucumbers.
When I got older I thought I’m gonna start growing things myself
seeds for brussel sprouts and red peppers
grew them on top of my roof of the place that I live
first foray into growing vegetables for myself. The peppers were stunted but they were tasty!
That’s a big part of it, our Health odd store’s motto is It’s all about the Taste.
How did you learn how to garden organically?
they were not
they used fertilizer and pesticides
I didn’t really pay attention to what they were doing
it wasn’t until much later until that I learned the dangers of pesticides. Do you want to talk about that and your book? Is this a good place to do that.
I was taking a photography class, the last part, the instructor said we had to take a series of photos of things that hadn’t been photographed to death.
Then what popped into my head
I hadn’t seen a lot of potatoes and I thought wouldn’t be interesting.
black and white
in the end I didn’t do that, I did portraits. But I was so intrigued about that idea, about potatoes, maybe they were in the art world and I did research I just amassed papers and papers. Not as anything that I thought was going to lead to a book. I moved to montreal to torotnot
going through my things
came across this milk crate full of papers
research on the potato
should do something with his
this is it, Im gonna do something with this or I’m gonna throw it all out
I applied for a grant
for the writing and research
didn’t get it the first time, but I did the second time. That gave me enough money to do some more research and do some traveling!
I’m just fascinated! I’m like you got a grant to do what and what?!
I went to Peru, I talked to Alejandro Argumedo
He was my contact there. He is part of the indigenous network there to help the indigenous people become self sufficient. Able to make a living from their agriculture. He is a Canadian citizens he worked for the Candian government for many years. s
worked here for the government
by another person for the book
got some money to go down to
International Potato Center
Peru is in South America right?
Yes, and when I was doing the research initially I thought potatoes came from Ireland
but in the course of my resource no they actually come from Peru. They are indigenous there, that is the only place on earth.
All the potatoes that are grown around the world once came from there.
So there are like regular white potatoes? Baker potatoes right?
White potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a different animal. So
They originated from there.
5000 naturally occurring varieties of potato
amazed by that
It’s outside the city of potatoes
where they live
They grow the potatoes there organically naturally
They created it so it was like eco-tourism
so they could stay and learn about how they husband the potato
an apothecary there,
natural remedies they make from potato…
flowers and other crops that they grow.
When you say potato flower, you mean like the flowers that grow on the plant of like potato flour you bake with?
of the potato
so it’s a way of
taking charge of their economy and their lives
doing that thru what they do best which is grow potatoes
There is an International Center in Lima
- like a bank or a repository
- of potatoes
went there and interviewed a scientist and had a tour
and Alejandro Argumedo was instrumental in repatritationg the types of potato
taken from the ketchewa
lost those varieties
He was instrumental the back the varieties. He was also he was establish the no GMO law there….in a particular area so that their potatoes in the center could be protected from the
- transfer the GMO spread
- from the wind and birds
I learned a lot about potatoes!
I have pictures in my book of the different varieties of potatoes
- all sorts of shapes
- different kinds of potatoes
- red and it actually looks like a carving of soap of a rose
- others that look like hands or feet
Incidentally the one that looks like a rose it’s got a lot of knobs on it, it’s not a smooth round or oval shape,
- round knobs
Traditionally when a man wants to marry a woman, the mans family gives the prospective bride and she has to peel it without cutting off any of those knobs.
I’m thinking they are more nutritious because you don’t have to peel them. Probably makes some art piece.
Alejandro Argumedo was invaluable in taking me around the lay of the land
I was introduced to him because
It’s about 20 years old now and still relevant today which is sort of sad. In the movie.
Árpád Pusztai was a traditional scientist in Scotland
asked the lab where he worked at
won the bid
scientists to test the GMO potatoes to make sure they were safe for human consumption. They needed official scientists to be objective not part of activity. They wanted them to rubber stamp but they did these tests and the research
these potatoes were fine
cause for concern
The rats had an actual enlargement in cells around stomach, that means it’s a pre-curser to cancer. So they let them know.
Árpád Pusztai was interviewd on tv about the results of his findings. And it blew up in Scotland and Árpád Pusztai ended up being discredited for 10 years and accused of incorrect findings and it took about 10 years for his reputation to be restored, and the story to come out in fact to prove that he was right all along
Went to Hungary to interview him and his wife who was also working at the same lab at the same time. Went to the lab and did a similar kind of research.
Both agree with Genetic Modification that they believe in the science
but not now, maybe down the line.
how to make this
Now they are using GMOs in transforming our food but it gets out there and it changes things irrevocably. You can’t bring them back. Once they replicate in the wild! It’s hard to tract them down. You can’t go back on that.
Árpád Pusztai and his wife were saying this is not science that’s ready to go out there. They did agree with it in principle but not in practicality.
That was interesting to me as well. And as I’m doing all this research, it occurred to me most people don’t know what GMOs are and why we should care. When I started this research, it was about 10 years before I published in 2008
even today I’ll be chatting with someone that still don’t what GMOs are
Do you want to explain?
As Árpád Pusztai he explained, what they’re oind basically they’re closing their eyes
shooting at the vegetable, shooting blind they don’t know where on the dna strip is landing they don’t know what the combinations are gonna be. That’s why.
The way the vegetables shuffle the genes is unique to them
You can come out with all manner of weird things that don’t
The idea is to make them more resistant to pesticides
predominantly hear about this in wheat
his property here in Canada
here in Torotono
He found some Roundup ready wheat in amongst his crops. He was involved in this huge long protracted battle with Monsanto.
Basically if any of Monsanto GMO products, if they end up in your garden, you’re responsible and doesn’t matter if the birds brought it or the wind, and it’s on your crops you have to pay for it.
they can pour all manner of pesticides and
on this GMO wheat it will grow
all of that pesticide is on the thing is your doing.
The reason they’re putting the pesticides on is so everything that’s a weed etc around the wheat is dying and only the wheat grows.
everything that’s living around it is growing
- bigger yields
- save more of their crop
- more that they can sell at the market
we’re getting high concentrations of all manner of things in them. Just the very fact of modifiying them affects our guts just like it did the guts of the rats.
there’s a lot of info out there
lot of suggestion
increase in diseases and allergies is attributed to that
I haven’t come across any hard and fast connections, it seems odd, with the rise of GMOs and having to use so much more pesticide.
That’s what happened in india, they started growing gmo crops and then they had to buy the special pesticide that goes with it, you have to use inordinate amounts to grow it.
it costs a lot of money
farmers in india
rash of suicides
couldn’t feed their family
high cost of seeds
and this ripple effect
not just of us personally on our
social how a community functions
I’m pretty ignorant too, but I did watch the movie GMO OMG! a couple of times. I watched the part where he points to the corn field and says that’s technically a pesticide. And then I’ve been hearing things that the sweet corn that humans in the store is not GMO. Mike’s always saying you don’t want to eat corn but you eat corn chips, and I eat a lot of popcorn thinking it’s low cal snack if I don’t put the butter on it.
How long did it take you to write this?
After I got a grant, it to
didn’t cover everything
after I got the grant took me about 4 years
down east to interview
He’s a Prince Edward island potato farmer
blight resistant organic potato
They are very hard to grow, especially when it’s monoculture
very susceptible to blight
that’s why people wanted wanted GMO potaotes
I went and talk to him about all of that.
Where’s Prince Edward Island? Is that in Washington or in the East?
island off of east
I went there and I interviewed him
I had a researcher did some research on Ireland. That’s on my bucket list to go to ireland one day. He went and he interviewed people in Ireland about potatoes. It took about 4 years. The actually writing of the book didn’t take me as long as I thought it would. I transcribed interviews that I recorded so took a long time to transcribe them all myself.
I went through all the interviews and I had this sort of general outline. about how to incorporate the research and quotes
Once I got it all organized, it took about a month of writing everyday. After that I had it edited. Then rewrote it again, then did it again. Altogether it went through 3 edits. Then I published it in 2008, which was the international year of the potato. I felt like I have to get it out during this year!
So what’s the solution? Go organic?
I think that people just need to be a lot more vocal and a lot more informed about what they are putting in their mouths.
you can’t see it if you looked at a gmo potato and a regular potato or GMO corn or regular corn
regular you can’t tell any difference from the outside
People are passive about this but I think that just
to be more vocal
vote with your dollars
get organic food
yes it is more expensive but in the long run it’s healthier for us an the environment
it’s not a quaint old fashioned nice thing to do
to be an organic gardener it has profound effects on your health and the of your community…
I think… that’s gonna really inspire listeners, especially someone who’s on the edge and thinking can I do this, is it just a pipe dream, but I think they might be inspired to make an organic farm because they realize it’s importance in our society. And I think Jean Martin Fortier talked about potatoes are hard to grow and he let’s other farmers do it and Anastasia Cole Plakias from the Farm on the Roof in BrooklynFarm on the Roof in Brooklyn said they couldn’t grow potatoes based on the space etc. So I think this is inspiring for someone. Mike has talked about potatoes.
My knowledge is pretty ignorant when it comes to where do things really grow. Waht comes from where, I know a lot about food comes from farms but what farms where I am pretty ignorant.
is not only affected by the food that we eat
affected an informed by the activities that we do
gardening can be one of the greatist cataelistysts for your garden
meditative time you get by gardening can actually create the soil for other projects.
Megan Cain from Creative Vegetable Gardener talks about the creativity of putting frutis and colors and flowers and desifn so it’s an expression of your creativity and because her’s is in her front yard and tying ito listeners and what they feel. They are not just growing us a garden but also a greener future.
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I think for me if
it would be the GMO thing! It’s almost the tip of the ice berg, haha iceberg lettuce…. but it connects to so many other things
if people realize the importance of that they would understand
- how big business factors into
- the social issues that make it necessary that we have GMOs.
It’s a huge huge topic of understanding GMOs what they are and why they are not good for us to get their head around the global scale of that issue. Just if they would realize why is it that I should not put GMOs in my body…
something that I would love…
Can we just revisit that if someone is like why shouldn’t I put GMO’s in their bodies
- there’s that it changes our guts
- changes our internal body
- because it’s all very technical
basically when we are ingesting GMOs changes gut bacteria and can lead to
- leaky gut syndrome
- other things that are not good for our bodies…
I’m not a science expert, but I have read a lot and from enough different sources
This is something playing with, and blythly putting in our mouths and bodies and not just taking it for granted that corporations have our best interests at heart.
Or that the government is protecting us.If they are putting on the shelves adn I think a lot of the EPA and FDA hands are tied, and deregulation and it’s tough even if they want to do something.
its about the people
send email when pictures…
How do we connect with you?
If people want to get in touch with me
IT is on amazon…also on my website