Food Politcs…and GMO labeling

Part of my reasoning for starting this blog was not just to post recipes, but to talk about food, sustainability and the politics that surround these issues. Don’t get me wrong, I love the making of food, the exploration and the art.  Sometimes, however, it is important to talk about how our food is being used and delivered as a system to enrich a few, manipulated through our political system.

My interest in self and local grown, organic and sustainable food is because I want us to take back our food from corporations.  Corporations that aren’t interested in our health, or our well-being.  They are interested in using our own biology, and in fact, just plain biology, to engineer a complete food cycle that is about control, their control, from seed onward.  They prey upon our instinct to maximize calories, by feeding empty calories, especially high fructose corn syrup.  “The food industry has made a fortune because we retain Stone Age bodies that crave sugar but live in a Space Age world in which sugar is cheap and plentiful. Sip by sip and nibble by nibble, more of us gain weight because we can’t control normal, deeply rooted urges for a valuable, tasty and once limited resource.”

It is no accident, in my opinion, that this “sugar” is high fructose corn syrup, that corn is the most subsidized of the few crops that are subsidized, and it is the food source that is most engineered, and that protection of US GMO crops has been at the top of the US food agenda.

The just passed election had a ballot measure in Washington to require the labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients, which was defeated, and in 2012 a similar measure was defeated in California. It seems clear, that the huge amount of money poured into defeating these measures worked.

The real issue with GMO crops is that the whole industry is designed around one thing….Roundup.  Overuse of Roundup is resulting in weeds with resistance, and the apparent solution from the GMO-chemical industry is even more toxic weedkillers.  This is a bad, bad spiral.  As Dr. Huber , Professor of Plant Pathology from Purdue University puts it “..ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do otherwise might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans.”

Though the use of Roundup  and GMO crops is a very serious concern, perhaps one of the most important we face, I remain cautiously optimistic about the future of GMO labeling, at the least.  Knowing where and how our food is made may be the best tool for changing the system.  The developing world is suspicious of US claims in general, and in specific, concerned about food cycles that lock poor farmers into buying into a food chain where farmers are prevented from storing seed.  Despite the setbacks at the WTO, the EU distrusts GMO products.  Research continues to develop that shows that GMO crops are not more productive, and pose significantly more risks than non-GMO alternatives.  “…recent studies have shown that organic and similar farming methods that minimize the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers can more than double crop yields at little cost to poor farmers in such developing regions as Sub-Saharan Africa.”   More and more consumers are demanding non-GMO food products.

This train has left the station.  Like with gay marriage, you can try to hold back the tide, but that is a fools errand.  People across the globe want information on what is in their food, and are demanding it.  Farmers and consumers want to know that their food is safe and sustainable.  “…public skepticism over the benefits of genetically modified foods is reaching new highs, even as public awareness that GMO crops already account for a large percentage of the North American food supply is also hitting record levels. This awareness and understanding is slowly being transformed into action, as grassroots movements are prompting country after country to set up new barricades against the introduction and spread of these GMO foods.”

Still, as any number of corporate disinformation campaigns have shown, from cigarettes to asbestos to fracking, success may be a long time coming.  We need to keep the pressure to at the very least have GMO products represented on labels.

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