Just Label the Food — and Let the People Decide

By Jim Goodman

I’ve farmed all my life and I have to tell you, all food is not the same. No food or farming system is perfect, but as farmers, as citizens, we should not be forced to accept a globalized, industrialized, genetically modified system of agricultural production.

I have farmed with pesticides, chemical fertilizers and livestock hormones, and was lucky enough to jump off that ship before it went completely under the waves. I experienced the shortcomings and failures of pesticides, antibiotics and the system in general. I was concerned for the health of my family, my livestock and the soil, so I got out.

I dropped out of the conventional farming system (seeing organic production as a better, safer and more productive alternative) just as the revolution of genetic modification (GM) and its “promise” to feed the world was being forced upon the world.

When I say forced, I mean just that.

People were never given a choice (not in the US anyway) as to whether or not their their food would contain GM ingredients, or if they had a right to know. If you eat food with processed ingredients, you are eating GM ingredients.

Despite clear indications of health risks, our government maintains that food with GM content is substantially equivalent to non-GM, therefore labeling is not required.

When GM crops resistant to the weed killer Roundup were introduced, farmers were promised that one application of the herbicide was all they would ever need. Dream on; I watch spray rigs running across neighboring fields from April to November, Roundup is no longer doing the job — the promise of less chemical application was a false promise.

Some farmers still grow non-GM crops, but, it is increasingly difficult to get non-GM seed. If GM pollen contaminates their non-GM crops — it’s their fault, their crops got in the way. And of course, since that crop now has GM genetics, GM kingpin Monsanto and others can sue them for stealing patented crop varieties.

Our current food system, dominated by intensive farming practices (notably GM crops), is a system that is failing in so many ways.

It is a system that has destroyed rural economies worldwide.

A system that contributes to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, food allergies, heart disease and cancer for some, while at the same time allowing hunger to persist for others.

A system that that is controlled by multi-national corporations whose interest is profit, not healthy food, not land stewardship, and certainly not fair prices for farmers.

Peter Rosset tells us food is different. “It is not a typical commodity because it affects so many people and the environment in such intimate ways”.

Food production and food choice should be controlled by farmers and those who eat, not corporations, and not politicians.

While some feel that the cheapest food is the best food, people are not stupid; they want to be able to make choices about the food they buy. This is why California Proposition 37, which would have required processors to label genetically engineered food, was such a critical ballot initiative. It’s so simple: food with GM content should be labeled as such so people can make a choice.

Proposition 37 was defeated 53% to 47% on Nov. 6. Small wonder, the food industry was willing to spend well over $40 million to avoid GM labeling. Why?

If GM is so safe, so necessary, so full of promise, why are corporate interests so opposed to labeling it?

If it is the answer, why, as a technology, does it need special treatment from government regulators?

So — California voters had a chance to decide if they were entitled make choices about their food. Unfortunately, money was, again, powerful enough to sway public opinion.

Monsanto and industrial agriculture have squelched the peoples right to know — for now. Labeling bills and propositions will be back, and by spending over $40 million, the opponents of GM labeling have raised awareness of the issue to a new level.

The right to know is an ongoing struggle. It’s not over yet.

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wis.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2012



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