The Salmons Want to Go Home – A transcription of the speech by John Robbins

In July, more than a hundred people gathered at a wooden house located in the larch forest of North California, USA. After hearing John Robbins’ speech, they gave him a standing ovation that lasted for quite some time.

Outside the wooden house, a cool breeze gently caressed the forest of larches. The summer sun shone through a large piece of glass at the rooftop, showering on everybody’s head. On stage, John was quietly smiling, accepting the appreciation of the audience. His speech had touched everyone in presence. Some even had tears in their eyes…

We began to understand why, at a United Nations conference held a few years ago, the representatives stood up to applaud John after hearing his speech.

It is because of his sincerity. It is because of his integrity and righteousness.

His sincerity to life; his care for the Earth; his treating everything in the Universe as equals; his love for his wife, son, daughter-in-law and twin grandchildren; his desire to seek welfare for all mankind; and his integrity that shows no fear to those in power… These, will touch the most stubborn mind and let the most arrogant bow their heads in shame.

John came from a wealthy family. He is the only son of the founder of “Baskin-Robbins” ice-cream empire. However, he chose to give up his family business worth several billions, to pursue an even greater ambition. Indeed, he stirred a revolution. His books Diet for a New America, Reclaiming Our Health, The Awakened Heart and The Food Revolution call on people to change their diets, to use compassion and love to bring about changes to the healthcare system, to heal ourselves and to heal the Earth. The concepts that he brought forward have been named as one of the most important accomplishments of this century.

John accepted Dr Lai Chiu-Nan’s invitation to give a speech at this workshop, part of a learning camp in North California organised by Lapis Lazuli Light. Dr Lai said to be able to hear John’s speech is a rare opportunity. We were indeed very lucky to be here to listen to him. We deeply felt that something as wonderful as this should be shared with everybody as soon as possible. The following is a transcription of John’s speech.

Welcome everyone and myself to be with you.

I want to tell you a little story to start with. My wife, Dior and I have been together for 37 years. In our generation and culture, it is something hard to come by for us to be together for such length of time. We have a son, Ocean. He is 29. We live with him and his wife, who is our “daughter-in-love” and their two babies – twin boys. Three generations in one house, one family together.

The story I wanted to tell you happened when Ocean was 10 or maybe 11. We lived in a small home. We had a problem with fruit flies. They were swarming in our kitchen and were landing on everything. We tried very hard to keep things clean so to deter them. We did not leave food out and we tried to create an inhospitable environment so that they would leave. But they persisted. They were so thick in the air it was difficult for us to breathe. We were afraid that we might inhale them. What do we do? So we tried to talk to them, asking them to leave. They did not seem to notice.

Finally, we are not violent people but to a certain point, we had to try to get a fly-swatter as there were so many of them. Ocean said, “No, no. Before you use the fly-swatter, let me try.” I did not know what he was talking about.

 
He wrote them a letter:

“Dear Fruit Flies,          

First, I want to bless you and send all my love to you, to all your ancestors, all your descendants to come and all future generations of fruit flies, and to wish you a happy and peaceful life. I also want to tell you that this is our house. We live here, we pay rent and you don’t. We eat the food here and you are also eating our food and that’s a problem for us because we can only eat certain food and those are the ones we have. But outside there are many food that you can eat but we cannot. There is a compost pile outside, full of rotting beans and horse manure from the local place. Those are the things you can eat. So we would like you to eat there. We would like you to leave. We love you and we respect you and bless you and want you to leave our house. We really mean this. If you don’t leave by tomorrow, my parents have purchased a fly-swatter and I believe they would actually use it. So I am pleading with you to please leave now and I wish you all the juiciest dung pile in the world for you, your children and their children.”

 

Ocean wrote this note and read it out loud in the kitchen just in case a few little ones might not be able to read. Then he taped it to the wall with an arrow pointing to the window and wrote: “Please leave from here.” We left the window open and went to bed. The next morning when we woke up and went back to the kitchen, there was not a single fruit fly.

This is a true story. If we teach our children since young to revere life, this is the kind of beautiful story that you would get. When the child is still in the womb, or even before conception, we can connect with our child spiritually and start teaching them to respect all beings.

We have lives because we are part of a greater life. Not in isolation, but along with a bigger family. Our power – the power to heal, to live beautiful and successful and extraordinary lives – stems from our connection with this greater life. What happened with Ocean was he was raised along this way of thinking. So when a situation arose with the fruit flies, he knew there was this power that he could contact the little flies. He did.

Afterwards I thought, if he was so good, he may write to the pests in the fields, asking them to leave. Probably the chemical company would not like it. It may put them out of business. I don’t know whether this is possible but some people do have this ability. Certainly with this 10-year-old Ocean, he did not have the idea of harming others. To him, human beings were not harmful. We could communicate with other life forms. So I think what every minute of his life is a reflection of something very beautiful, innocent and sacred – a part of who we essentially are, of our healing power. It can be a guide to how we live and even such simple choices like the food we eat.

 
Common Trances

Do you know the meaning of “common trance”? A kind of hypnotic, sheer belief system that teaches what is real and what is the conventional trance in the society. What matters in food is food that is tasty, cheap and convenient. It does not matter how it was produced, whether chemicals and poison were used and the residue from them stored in the food. As long it is cheap and tasty and convenient, it does not matter the long-term health implications and it does not matter that farm workers are poisoned. As long as it is cheap and tasty, it does not matter what is really going on. McDonald thrives on people to think in this way and wants people to think this way so they would continue to buy their food day in and day out. McDonald does not care what happens to people.

Opposing that belief system, there is a whole other way of looking at things. We ask if there are animal products, meat, dairy products. Then we want to know how these animals were treated and how they were killed. We care about these other creatures as they are part of our greater family. They draw in their breaths from the same source as we do and partake in the great spirit of life. It matters how they are treated.

It is important that we not be in trance. Our consciousness is not controlled by the commercial culture. It is important that we ask ourselves what we really want and what is important to us so that the choices we make, in terms of what we eat, be consistent with our values and truths. The food that is good for our bodies, that will give us health, strength and help us to live long and happy lives, are also the same food that are kindest to other animals and earth.

Now in this country we are starting to genetically engineer (GE) foods and particularly soybeans, corns, canola and cotton. The first three are food. Most of the soybeans that we grow in USA are now genetically engineered.

Do you know what it means to genetically engineer a seed? It alters the DNA so that the change is permanent and all subsequent generations will forever contain that alteration. What they are altered for is to tolerate weed killers. When the farmers spray herbicides in their soybean or cornfields, there is a type called “Round-Up”, it kills all the weeds except GE plants. I wonder why we have to kill the weeds in the first place? Why don’t we grow crops in a way that is in harmony with the eco system? Organic agriculture doesn’t require us to poison the earth. There are other ways to increase the commercial agriculture. But in this country, those export to the rest of the world is using the techniques of GE, enabling it to be for “efficiency” in plants and animals.

I would like to make this into a discussion. What questions would you like to ask?

 
Question: How are the twin babies?

The Commitment of a Grandfather

Cute. They were born very very prematurely. Very difficult in the beginning as normally it would be a 9-month pregnancy but they were born shortly after six months. They were born weighing only about 2lbs, unable to breath, suck, swallow. Quite frankly, unable to live. But through a great deal of medical intervention, they survived.

They are now adorable, and still a little bit challenge in some way. Womb is a precious, sacred, holy environment. An incubator in the intensive care in hospital can hardly replace the womb from the spiritual and emotional point of view. It’s very far cry from the mother’s body. We are now providing the boys with life support, comfort and support they didn’t get in the womb.

We made a vow when we came home from the hospital. They were so isolated in the hospital incubators. We made a vow: They would be in contact with our skin 24 hours a day for at least one year. We held them all the time. We kept that vow. They slept on us for 24 hours a day for one year, so to restore the bonding, the contact that from their point of view, life is trustworthy and this is a safe place to be. We still to this day hold them a lot. I am the grandfather. I get them to fly, hold them and go flying around the house, up the hills, hall to kitchen, and plunge them on the bed with a “Plop!”. And they love it! They would come back and ask again. They are now 2 ½ years old.

 
Question: Eating GE soybeans and its products, e.g. tofu, how would that affect our health?

This is still a puzzle. The US government has not required a single study on these foods before allowing them to be commercially produced and consumed. There have been no studies on what happens to people who eat these products. They just assume these products are similar to the original. However, small studies undertaken by private independent agencies associated with universities are not reassuring.

The amino acid profile, the protein balance in soybean is one of the thing that is useful to people. Genetically engineered soybeans are deficient in some of the amino acid that is necessary for life. There are also indications that genetically engineered soybeans are more likely to produce allergenic effect – food allergy response or reaction – than conventional soybeans. So it is best if you buy soy products or make soy products like tofu, soy milk tempeh, get them or make them from organically grown soybeans. Not only are you avoiding pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, you are avoiding the dangers of genetically engineered food. It is most important today that we buy and use and grow organic food as much as possible.

 
Question: How do we distinguish genetically engineered food?

The problem is no labelling. So it is difficult to distinguish genetically engineered food. The US Government does not have a labelling law on GE food. In a recent poll, 93% of the Americans public would like GE food to be labelled. Actually in this country, it’s very hard to get this high percentage of people to agree on anything. So it is remarkable how unanimously the people are in wanting this label. This actually involves our basic right of knowing what we eat.

Mosanto, the major GE corporation, is against such labelling law, because then people would not buy their products. But the thing is, do they have the right to force us to eat GE food?

I want to tell you some secrets. Key foods to watch are soybeans, corn and canola. Right now, 99% of GE foods in this country are those three types. If you want to eat these foods, choose organic ones. Also look out for any products made of these three types of crops, e.g. corn syrup, corn sweetener. If it is not labelled organic, most likely it’s from GE plants.

All of you come from different countries. If you’re not from America or Canada, perhaps GE food is still not so common in your country. Maybe your country bans the selling of GE food, or has a labelling law, then you are safe. But how long can this last? Being the most powerful country in the world, the Bush administration would pressure the rest of the world to do business the American way. They are committed to spreading particularly GE food worldwide. So it is important to stop them.

 

Not A Single Step

May I ask how many of you here are vegetarians? (The majority put up their hands) How many of you are not? (a few people raised their hands). Only a few, very good.

In agriculture today, more and more agriculture animals like cows, chicken, turkey, pigs, etc are kept in the so-called factory farms. For example, in a factory farm which is slightly bigger than this prayer hall, there will probably be 1,000 pigs, each weighing about 500 lbs. These pigs are kept in individual cages the size of their own bodies. The cages are stacked in tiers and waste from the upper tier will drop onto the head of the animals in the lower tier. You see how crowded it is and they cannot take a single step to turn their bodies in their whole life. This is very, very cruel. This is done because it enables the industry to produce pork that is tasty and cheap.

If you have compassion for these creatures, if you wish them well, you must ask yourself a question. Do you want to take food that is produced in this nature?

Have you come across animals that touch your heart, like a human being does? Do you feel that you have an important relationship with your pets at home? Ask yourself: Why do we call some animals pets and treat them with a great deal of love? Why do we draw a line and call other animals “dinner”? And simply because it’s our dinner, we allow the cruelty that’s going on in the factory farms. If you eat meat, you need to look carefully how it is produced and what happens to the animal if you don’t want to unconsciously add to the cruelty of animals.

 
Question: Are the GE soybeans in USA being exported to Third World countries?
YES.
 
Question: Soybeans are genetically modified to increase its supply. Can the supply of organic soybeans meet the demands of the world population?

Actually the supply of GE soybeans will be decreased instead of increased. It only serves to reduce production costs and help the farmer to save money. Currently, the supply of any type of GE crop has never surpassed the supply of crop cultivated with the conventional method. In fact, GE crops require more water and fertilizer. One feature of the GE crops is that they can withstand “Round-Up”, the weed killer. “Round-Up” is a chemical agent. When it contacts the green leaf, it disrupts the ability of the plant’s photosynthesis necessary for the plant to grow. It robs the photosynthesis of that plant, killing the plant. Not only does “Round-Up” kill the weeds, it also kills all the microorganisms in the soil.

Traditionally in a large-scale agricultural establishment, before seeds are planted, they spray the ground with “Round-Up” and it produces what the industry calls “clean field” – which is actually poisonous field. Next, they scatter soybean seeds in the field. However, new weeds will grow and affect the growth of the soybean plants. Hence, they pay people to take out the weeds, but with “Round-Up”, they don’t have to do this. While the soybeans are growing, they fly a plane and spray “Round-Up”. All plants are killed except soybeans which are able to tolerate the “Round-Up”.

However, the photosynthesis ability of the soybean plant will still be affected, hence its supply is lesser than soybeans cultivated with the traditional method. Farmers save on the manpower cost of hiring people to remove weeds, their profits will increase. This would also mean the weeders losing their jobs. They modified the soybeans for higher profits, not to increase its supply.

Meanwhile, tremendous amount of “Round-Up” is used while growing plants and it cleans up organic life. The company, Mosanto, is responsible for this. They produce GE soybeans to earn billions of US dollars every year. They also sell “Round-Up” worth thousands of millions of US dollars to farmers. This is their real purpose of producing GE soybeans, not to increase its output.

Millions of people are suffering from diseases due to a lack of Vitamin A, especially those from financially poor countries, the children are deficient in Vitamin A. Many have died from this deficiency. There is a type of GE rice called “Golden Rice”, which contains Vitamin A. Ideally, Golden Rice is to help provide these children with Vitamin A, so that they will not develop eye disease. This is a good idea. However, Mosanto spent only 100 thousand US dollars to develop Golden Rice but spent 20 millions on advertising the benefits of Golden Rice. This US$20 million is donated by Rockerfella Trust Fund and the Swiss government. Mosanto did not use a single cent to advertise, it used only US$100 thousand to do research on the production of the Golden Rice. Golden Rice has to be grown in extremely so-called controlled condition and requires tremendous amount of fertilizers and irrigation water. Fertilizers are expensive in Third World countries. These countries lack water as well. Nutrition wise, a 7-year-old child would have to eat 35 cups of cooked Golden Rice to get enough Vitamin A. So it has a very small amount of Vitamin A. This reflects the company was out to make profit and not to help people.

If they really want to help people, they should carry out research on genetic engineering that will produce crops that are drought tolerant, or improve the quality of the crop so that they can grow well even in poor soil, or increase the protein level in the crops, or make it so that it can grow very easily with very low cost. Currently, we do not have any GE research that fulfils the above requirements.

 
Question: Were you threatened by any organisation? Did any government sectors give you trouble? What support have you received? Do you have plans for any new book? What’s your plan for the next five to ten years?

I have received threats from many people, they include the American Cow Rearing Association, Pig Rearing Association and Chicken Rearing Association, etc. They tried all means to attack me and marginalize me. They wish that I were dead but things would not happen their way.

Let me tell you my background: My father and uncle set up the Baskin Robbins ice-cream company. This is a very successful company which was the largest in the world a few years ago. They earn billions of US dollars every year.

I am the only son at home. My father hoped that I would take over his business one day. But deep in my heart, I know this is not what I want to do in my life, it is just something that my father wants me to do. So I gave up everything, including his money. I have never taken a single cent from him in my life.