As someone who supports the objective of Prop. 37, and any legislation/ideology that will force the bio-tech industry to come clean and tell us what, exactly, is in the foods we're eating, I was shocked to see, on Nov. 6, Californians vote to defeat the bill that would have mandated the labeling of foods containing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and, most likely, set precedent for other states to follow.
Sure, this is the state that also voted down gay marriage, so, it's probably fair to say a good majority of Californians are still in the Dark Ages. But, when you're talking about agriculture, and the state that accounts for nearly three times as many organic farms as any other -- and one in Fresno County that, alone, more than doubles the crop production of the entire state of South Dakota, Prop. 37's demise came as quite a surprise.
So, What Happened?
Why, when a dozen different polls leading up to the election show 96 percent of Americans overwhelmingly support the labeling of foods which contain GMOs;
Why, when nationally respected health practitioners, such as Dr. Oz, devote entire segments of their programs to the dangers of GMOs; and,
Why, when there's now enough evidence to link GMOs to everything from tumors to birth defects, so much so, that even Russia forbids importing U.S.-grown corn, would the state that considers itself the Foundation of Organic Farming say, "No, thanks"?
After a bit of digging, it appears the answer is the answer to almost every question involving politics since the beginning of time: money.
- It's the money that was spent on the incredibly successful disinformation campaign by Monsanto, DuPont, and the rest of the bio-tech community. Going as far as using focus groups to make sure the confusion sets in.
- It's the money you thought it was going to cost you to buy one of these honestly-labeled products once they hit the shelves.
- And, it's the money you thought it was going to cost you, as a taxpayer, due to all the lawsuits that would "inevitably" be flying back and forth between the state legislature and the bio-tech giants.
Monsanto's attempt at convincing Californians the bill was full of holes was so good, even an incredibly well-informed friend of mine in the food business, who voted against the bill, commented, "...and there's even a provision to fine companies that don't use organic fertilizer."
Had he taken the time to read the bill for himself (it's only about four pages), he would have discovered that what he was told was false. But, that's exactly what these companies count on; people being too busy to get the facts for themselves, so, we'll just keep repeating it over and over, on TV, in newspapers, and online, until it becomes fact.
Speaking of newspapers, some voters claimed they didn't vote "yes" on the bill simply because the major publications didn't support the cause, thus, there must've been something wrong with it. This sentiment is echoed by Prop. 37's creator, Jeffrey Smith, who confirmed, "We couldn't get the executive boards of the big papers to meet with any of the bill's supporters for even five minutes, due to the pressure put on them by the advertising machine."
Of course, there was nothing to stop the proponents of the bill from putting up their dough as well, but, that's where we run into the other problem:
Traitors to the Cause?
While the little guys were running themselves ragged trying to scrape together a few hundred G's, the big dogs were busy writing massive checks for tens of millions of dollars. It clearly wasn't a fair fight. Especially when you consider some of the world's biggest natural foods brands were accused of treason.
Kashi, Naked, Silk, Odwalla, Morning Star, Horizon Organic, Ben and Jerry's, Smuckers, etc., all market themselves as leaders on the organic front, yet, all are owned by huge conglomerates such as Pepsi and General Mills. Ben and Jerry's may support labeling, but they couldn't do a thing to stop their parent company, Lever Bros., from donating millions to the other side.
Whole Foods, the nation's largest organic supermarket chain, came under severe criticism, not only for rallying the troops too late, but also for advertising "Nothing Artificial. Ever.," then being thrown in the spotlight for selling GMO-tainted foods.
According to Libba Letton, Whole Foods Director of Media Relations, "No supermarket in the country is 100 percent GMO-free. We do our best to encourage farmers to go organic every chance we get."
When asked, then, why the Nothing Artificial sign still hangs outside each store, she replied, "That's a good question."
Even Dr. Oz, the defender of all things healthy, was lambasted for flip-flopping under the pressure put on him by Monsanto, which, was the supposed reason for his recent Time Magazine article touting the benefits of buying cheaper frozen or canned foods (the article is subscription protected).
Tim Sullivan, spokesperson for the Dr. Oz Show, assured me:
Dr. Oz has never changed his position on his support for GMO labeling. He is 100 percent for it. The Time Magazine article was written purely as a way to help families realize there are some cheaper, yet, perhaps just as healthy ways to eat if you can't afford the higher prices of organic foods.
He added, "At no time has Monsanto ever approached or attempted to influence the doctor's decision on GMOs."
All well and good. Except while the good doctor's article successfully pointed out the similar nutritional benefits between organic and non-organic foods, it failed to mention the myriad of damaging pesticides and toxins used to grow, harvest, and preserve these non-organic options.
But, Organic Food Is Too Expensive for Me
The main reason organic foods cost more to produce, at this point in time, is because the government sees the majority of us continuing to opt for the traditional choices, as opposed to the healthier ones. Thus, until we show them our disdain for these cheaply-produced, highly toxic products, we will continue to experience higher priced organics, due to the virtually unsubsidized costs to cultivate them.
The easiest way to change this is to vote with your dollar. Show them organic fruits and vegetables are not "specialty foods," and thus, should be removed from the a la carte menu, by spending a few extra pennies on them. You'll not only be keeping yourself and your family healthier, you'll be sending your own, personalized "text message" to Washington.
The "Monsanto Clause"
Even though many of us are completely aware of what's going on behind the scenes in the agricultural game, the bio-tech industry, and, more to the point, Monsanto, still manages to control us like puppets on a string. Of course, it helps to have a little help from your friends. Here's a look at just a few highlights over the past few years:
Oct. 2004- Good ole "W." keeps his friends at Monsanto happy by suppressing reports that prove a contamination link between GMO-tainted corn and the naturally grown variety.
June 2009 - Definitive evidence is found linking polyethoxylated tallowamine (wha?), the main ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, to the death of human tissue cells -- particularly in fetuses. More than 100 million pounds of this garbage is used every year.
Even Obama isn't out of their grasp.
Jan. 2010 - The president creates a brand-spankin' new position for his buddy, former Monsanto V.P., Michael Taylor, specifically designed to put him smack in the middle of the food lobby. By making this hypocrite the Deputy Commissioner for Foods (whatever that is), Obama succeeds in carrying on the tradition of letting the wolf guard the henhouse. This one appointment could arguably have the most damaging effect on the future of our food. But, believe it or not, the anti-GMO movement is happy about this appointment because, according to Jeffrey Smith, "everything he says and does can be proven wrong in 30 seconds."
Last but not least:
Feb. 2012 - More than 300,000 farmers sue Monsanto in direct response to the thousands of lawsuits filed against them claiming they infringed on the company's GMO seed patents when the breeze blew the seeds onto their lands from neighboring farms. They lost.
What the Heck Is Wrong With Us?
The hardest thing to comprehend in all of this is that food is not a "partisan" issue. It's not about black or white, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican. No matter what side of the fence you're on, on any issue, everyone needs to eat. Yet, here we are, facing a chemically-treated and cancer-filled future, thanks, in equal measure, to the lack of protection from our government and our willingness to let it all happen. If it does, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
If you disagree, ask yourself why, when our economy was in danger, did tens of thousands take to the streets, in dozens of cities nationwide, furiously protesting the big banks -- yet, when it comes to the comically corrupt laws and politicians who are supposed to protect our food and guard the safety of the things we feed our children, and when the threat of having almost everything we eat being altered by corporate genetic modification looms large, not a single soul marches on Capitol Hill, or anywhere else for that matter. That, and more than 12,000 McDonald's, 7,500 Pizza Huts, and 2,600 Papa John's restaurants should give you an idea of where our priorities lie as a nation. Heck, even the Europeans are banning this stuff, and they still don't think cigarettes are bad for you.
Holy Hats. Is There Any Good News?
The good news is, in spite of organic farmers receiving only $50 million in subsidies, compared to the $164 billion received by the industrial farm industry each year, and, in spite of governments policies toward farming remaining virtually unchanged since the Great Depression, public sentiment is actually changing. People are getting pissed off. Everywhere.
Case in point, just because 300,000 American Farmers didn't succeed in their bid to stop Monsanto and its ridiculously powerful patents, doesn't mean 5 million Brazilian farmers won't give it a try.
The more you Google "GMO," the more links you can find attempting to uncover what Big Brother doesn't want you see. Every story you click on offers you 10 new pages of information about how screwed up our agricultural system is -- both organically, as well as financially -- and what we can do to fix it. Spend just a half-hour reading about it, and your browser window will have more open tabs than a ladies Rotary Club luncheon in the '70s.
As far as Prop. 37 goes, its unfortunate defeat is not without benefit. In death, it seems the bio-tech industry has given the non-GMO movement almost Obi-Wan Kenobi-like status.
Nearly 30 states are preparing ballot initiatives for 2013.
In this past election, San Juan County, Wa., voted to take it upon itself and ban the planting of GMO seeds.
And, even though he's retiring, congressman Dennis Kucinich's brilliant rant against the FDA and Monsanto shows there are some politicians who care about changing the system.
Don't Count Us Out, Just Yet, Fellas
If one were to boil this oppressive situation down to a schoolyard fight, it would be the 300-pound bully against the 98-pound weakling. However, don't count the nerd out just yet. That pair of brass knuckles he's hiding, in the form of popular opinion, social media campaigns, and free choice at the check-out counter, is gonna pack a wallop in the days to come.
Alas, for now, this Christmas, our chimneys, stockings, and stomachs will have little choice but to be filled with the goodies from Monsanto Claus.
For a list of GMO-tainted foods to avoid visit www.nongmoshoppingguide.com
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