The Rising Food Movement Continues GMO Labeling Fight
The video above features Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and other books relating to the growing movement toward real food. In this talk, given at UC Berkeley, he discusses the rise of the food movement in the aftermath of California Proposition 37's failure to pass.
Prop. 37 would have required genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled, and would have prevented GE foods from being labeled as “natural” or “all-natural.” As Pollan says, had Prop. 37 passed, it would have been a major step forward for the food movement.
Unfortunately, the initiative failed to pass by about 1.5 percentage points. Had the organic companies with billions in revenues (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Stonyfield for example) coughed up another mere two million dollars to support the campaign, we probably would have won—it really was that close.
Not two million dollars each, but two million total among them. Shocking, when you consider that between them they have over $30 billion in gross revenues. As it were, the No to 37 side blanketed the state with 46 million dollars worth of misleading propaganda, which gave them this narrow win.
Still, the initiative served as a great tool to raise awareness about genetically engineered foods, and next year, we'll do it all over again in Washington State, where they're now working on GE labeling initiative I-522, and Vermont, where a Right to Know campaign has also been created.
Rise of the Food Movement
What you and I have to specify as “organic” today, most of our grandparents knew simply as “food.” Modern food production has so radically altered our food supply that today, many of the products sold in grocery stores barely even qualify as food. They're more like chemical-based “food-like” products.
The highest ideal of the food movement is basically about bringing back real food—at best what we now refer to as organic food. At minimum, food that has been minimally altered and contaminated with agricultural chemicals.
As discussed by Pollan, food has not featured heavily in politics unless or until there was a major food safety issue. That is now changing, with the political fight for GE labeling leading the way as people are becoming aware that there's something wholly unnatural in our food that we're not being told about, and our regulatory agencies are not doing anything about it.
Remarkably, while 61 different nations around the world require GE foods to be labeled, the United States—official claims of being a forerunner of all things democratic notwithstanding—has repeatedly caved to the wishes of the biotech industry, which for some reason really doesn't want you to know you're buying their allegedly superior products. That alone should make you wonder what they have to hide... Meanwhile, multiple polls have shown that about 90 percent of Americans want GE foods to be labeled.
Another side effect of the oh-so-near-passing of Prop. 37 is the backlash now building against those who opposed the initiative. And those within the natural and organic industry that really should have contributed to Prop. 37 but for whatever reason chose to sit on the sidelines, may eventually wish they had not been so short-sighted.
Truly, any organic business opting not to protect the value of its own industry and its customers' health and right to know doesn't deserve customer loyalty. Once their customers become fully aware of the treason, they're likely to take their business elsewhere, and I'd encourage you all to do so.
Farmers Told to Buy Insurance Against GE Contamination or Risk Being Sued by Monsanto
I am not in any way drawn to politics other than the recognition that it is a necessary evil if we are to be victorious in our efforts. A related news story offers a perfect example of why food needs to enter the political arena. Our federal regulatory agencies simply are not going to step in to protect our food supply for us. On the contrary, these agencies are all firmly wedded to the biotech industry, led by Monsanto, which rules our agricultural system much like the pharmaceutical industry runs our health care.
In health care, this undue influence by multinational for-profit companies has led to a health care paradigm based on pills, where common-sense prevention and nutrition has been left by the wayside. Similarly, Big Biotech's influence on our agricultural system has transformed our food into something that can only be described as a massive science experiment, for which no one will ultimately be held responsible, should any of several worst case scenarios become reality—environmentally or biologically.
This is why we need such foods to be labeled. You have the right to know. We all have the right to know what we're buying and eating. Then, at the very least you can make a personal decision about whether or not you wish to participate... Proving yet again that our federal agencies will not stand in the way of Big Biotech monopolizing and destroying our food supply, ThinkProgress.org reports:
“... the U.S. Department of Agriculture... released a final report Monday [November 19] absolving the biotech industry of contamination of non-GM seeds with their products from other fields. The USDA report concludes that organic and other non-GM farmers should simply buy insurance to protect against GMO contamination.
Essentially, Monsanto can sue these farmers all they want for patent infringement, but they are immune to challenges from organic farmers whose products are contaminated by GMOs. As one dissenting committee member commented: 'Any farmer/seed grower contaminated will not want to disclose the contamination because they are illegally in possession of a patented material and could be subject to legal action for theft of intellectual property. The committee refused to ever recognize this fact.' The report is just the latest example of the USDA's cozy relationship with the biotech industry. In fact, the agency has never denied a single application for GM crop approval.”
That's not all. Monsanto had cause to break open the champagne and celebrate twice on the same day, as on November 19 the Department of Justice also dropped its antitrust investigation into Monsanto's monopoly on Roundup Ready technology. According to a report by the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
“The Justice Department said 'marketplace developments' affected its decision to stop the investigation but declined to elaborate on what that meant.”
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.