How have we gotten to this point, where familiar crops and even weeds are morphing into unrecognizable and dangerous entities? Where we now have to vote for permission to know what’s in our food? Our resourcefulness/laziness as a species has come back to bite us. No longer content to hunt, fish, gather or grow, we began the Industrial Revolution in the early part of the last century. We discovered the convenience of contracting out low-class, menial jobs such as growing food, grazing animals, weaving and baking and the like. We now had more time to sit in offices and engage in leisure activities that were unthinkable in a farmer’s day. We could make more money in less time. Progress!
But Grandmother was right: idle hands are the devil’s playground. This complacency – as Nature abhors a vacuum—paved the way for companies like Dow and Monsanto to ooze their way into our lives via chemical agriculture. Better living through chemistry! This DDT is harmless! Look, a plant that makes its own insecticide and produces sterile seeds, so you get to buy more every season! A tomato that never molds, a fish that glows. Behold the positively Seussian wonders of the modern world.
In India during the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 70s, farmers abandoned traditional farming methods (crop rotation and variety) with our encouragement and went American-style with high-yield modified seeds, tons of water and lots of chemicals. They were astounded by the initial success of the seeds, which yielded unheard-of bumper crops. Then, subsequent crops began to die off (starved of nutrients) and farmers found their soil virtually useless. Such intensive farming methods, which government policies still subsidize, completely destroyed the soil. The high-yield crops sucked up vast amounts of water and nutrients like phosphorous, nitrogen, manganese, phosphorous and iron, making the soil anemic. “It’s like a disease that is catching on in the world,” says Suba Singh, a farmer in the state of Pujab, “building a life that is like a house of cards.” The state of the farmland in certain areas of India continues to worsen. As of 2012, every thirty minutes a farmer in India—unable to pay back steep government farm loans, running out of water and unable to grow enough crops to sustain himself—commits suicide.
Today, many farmers across the US grow subsidized monoculture crops of GM corn, wheat (not yet GM, but Monsanto’s working on getting it approved) and GM soy, rice, sugar, soybeans and cotton — all farm bill items— on land that is barely tenable; soil is weak, weeds have become resistant to Round Up and require even stronger chemicals, invasive species of worms have become “superworms” that can no longer be killed by the same pesticides, and water is becoming scarce. The organic farmer holdouts find themselves battling with Monsanto’s litigious legal army when GM crop seeds blow into their organic fields and contaminate them. Yes, Monsanto sues family farms when someone else’s crops are contaminated by THEIR crops. It would make just as much sense to sue the bees who unwittingly brought pollen from one crop to another. Farmers are now fighting back with their own lawsuits against Monsanto.
Many of us have seen the recent pictures of rats with tumors as big as handballs dangling from their bodies, a result of exposure to Monsanto’s GM corn and Roundup fertilizer. How much more proof do we need? We are in a dysfunctional power dynamic with Monsanto. Monsanto is that distant, uncaring authoritarian father who is never wrong, that falsely cheerful, in-denial mother, the strapping big brother who looks great on paper but secretly runs a dogfighting ring and is dating his half-sister. We facilitate Monsanto’s bad behavior by ignoring it. We need to take our power back. Monsanto won’t be going into therapy with us to resolve this imbalance. Monsanto is not at all interested in what we have to say. We must stop enabling them, and remove our financial support by not buying their products.
The first thing I noticed about the No on Prop 37 website was the reference not to GMOs, but to “GE (genetically engineered)” products. Is this an image makeover? Monsanto wages its unholy war against the human, animal (including bees and earthworms) and plant kingdoms by cloaking it in yet another guise. GMO is an unpopular term, so expect to see more about the wonders of GE crops, or Genetically Enhanced for Your Pleasure papayas, or some other cleverly turned phrase.
I have spoken to friends and colleagues on both sides of the Prop 37 voting bloc. Most are pro-labeling, but some are questioning the bill’s efficacy. There are concerns about exemptions, an escalation in food costs, a possible dearth of class-action lawsuits should someone decide their poor health resulted from a GM food item. Companies are not required to label GMO foods sold to restaurants. Dairy, meat, and poultry would not have to be labeled. Companies from other countries would only have to claim GM free food, without any documentation. Let’s start with the exemptions.
For the love of Joe! as my Scottish friend likes to exclaim with indignity. We as consumers need to pry our asses out of our chairs and our eyes away from our iPads. We can get around labeling-exempt products by buying organic dairy, poultry and meat. It is worth the effort. By law organic foods cannot contain GMOs. Where the wicket gets sticky is in regards to the feed given to said animals. Is it GMO-free? You have to contact the farm to find out. Not many people are going to do that. So we’ll start here, on the macro level, and work inward. Organic foods can be found not only at fancy-schmancy Whole Foods but at regular grocery stores such as Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s. I wish they could label everything, but I’m happy to start with mandatory labeling of my fruits, grains and vegetables. And yes, cross-contamination is still at the back of my mind. I am hoping that we get this stuff outlawed so the crops will stop being planted. A girl can dream.
Concerned you can’t afford organic food, or worried about costs going up because of labeling? I like Joel Salatin’s (owner of Polyface farm, a stellar model of crop rotation, organics and sustainability) take on that. Do you own a flat screen TV? Do you wear jeans with holes that were put there by a designer? Then you can afford organic food. Download one less video game a week. Rent a movie instead of going to one. Eat at home instead of at a restaurant. Buy in bulk at farmer’s markets. If you have a yard, grow a few things. A whole organic chicken is not cheap, but I can get three meals out of it. It takes a little planning and a little effort, but eating organically is not as costly as you might imagine. Not to mention, your healthcare costs are going to be higher with a convenience food diet, guaranteed.
If you go to a restaurant, make peace with not knowing what’s in your food — unless you know the proprietors and trust that they are sourcing their food locally and organically. I do go to restaurants about once a week and I know I have to release my concerns for that moment. If there is an organic item on the menu I’ll order it, but I’m not going to freak out. I do try to avoid corn and soy. Such is life. If you buy produce from a big chain such as Walmart, know that the produce could be from a country that is not required to prove their food is GMO –free. You have to weigh all your choices and just be aware. I don’t know anyone who eats perfectly all the time. Striving to do better is more achievable, at least for me.
The No on Prop 37 campaign dismisses concerns about food safety. Science has been doing this for decades, and it’s perfectly safe, it says. First of all, genetic damage does not show up right away. It may take a minimum of ten years to see the side effects of consuming genetically mutilated products. It may not show up in your body, but in the bodies of the children you bear. And their children. DNA damage is permanent. This is not hysteria. This is science. If a product is laying waste to the animals who ingest it and the plants who depend on the soil for nutrients, and the soil itself can no longer sustain life- are we exempt from this damage? What scientist truly believes this? Unless he or she is being paid to believe it. Or to remain silent.
I agree that Prop 37 is not perfect. But it’s a start. Most of world won’t touch GMOs with a ten-foot pole. What is wrong with us? How far are we from becoming those scary people in Wall-E, too fat to walk and too dumb to think? Floating in our pools of denial, supersizing our way to an early grave. I don’t want to be that person and I’m sure no one else wishes that dismal future upon themselves or their children. I urge every Californian to vote yes on Prop 37. We deserve to know what’s in our food, and to choose for ourselves. Then, hopefully, the rest of the country will follow suit.
In the meantime, according to Natural News, around 85 percent of the conventional corn grown in the USA is genetically modified corn, and that corn is engineered to produce its own deadly insecticide inside every grain. These chemicals can infiltrate your cells and continue to cause damage for years.
Below are some shocking findings from the first-ever study to examine the long-term effects of eating GMOs. Led by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, the study was published in The Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal and was recently presented at a news conference in London.
• Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.
• Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.
• Rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.
• The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GM corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.
The Daily Mail is reporting on some of the reaction to the findings:
France’s Jose Bove, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s commission for agriculture and known as a fierce opponent of GM, called for an immediate suspension of all EU cultivation and import authorisations of GM crops. “This study finally shows we are right and that it is urgent to quickly review all GMO evaluation processes,’ he said in a statement. ‘National and European food security agencies must carry out new studies financed by public funding to guarantee healthy food for European consumers.”(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2205509/Fresh-fears-GM…)
You can read the article in its entirety here:
—Alyssa Swanson Hamilton