GMO Labeling, What is Industrial Food? Who Controls it? And Why Food?
"We the People of the United States, ..." is the way the US Constitution begins, giving we the people sovereignty over our affairs.
I was on a panel
with advocates of labeling foods that contain genetically engineered organisms recently.
Former Congressman Rob Simmons spoke first and mentioned that sovereignty expressed in the Constitution as one reason people have a right to know what is in their food.
Sovereignty is important for the "right to know" what is in our food, but it also may be the key concept as we work for a healthy food system. Who has sovereignty? We the people or Big Food and Ag, that is the Industrial Food System?
GMO Labeling in Connecticut
The work to get labeling for foods that contain GMOs is in full swing in Connecticut.
There will be two bills in the Connecticut legislature this year. One, introduced by Representative Diane Urban, will require labeling of GMOs in infant formula and maybe other baby food. The other, introduced by Representative Phil Miller, will be a broader bill requiring GMOs to be labeled in most foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. It will be introduced in the public health committee, which is where this issue belongs.
One of the things that came out of last year's work is that we should assume that any food that contains corn, soy, cotton, canola or sugar contains GMOs unless it is certified organic or is NonGMO verified. Jeffrey Smith's Institute for Responsible Technology
is a good source of information about the health effects of GMOs. You can see the impressive movie, Genetic Roulette
, for free until February 10.
Unfortunately, GMO Sweet Corn
is on the market. It is designed for large applications of Roundup and is registered as a pesticide since it has Bt in every cell.
There is a growing coalition of people working on this issue. The real energy and heart on our side comes from moms who have studied nutrition and health and care about what they feed their children. See one of the moms in this video clip
. Consult the Non-GMO Shopping Guide
for healthier eating.
If you are interested in seeing GMO labeling passed here, and our state has a chance to be the first in the nation, YOU need to be involved. At minimum, talk to your state representative and senator and educate them about the issue and let them know how you feel. Talk to your friends and ask them to do the same.
You can attend the press conference on February 7 at 11 in room 1-D in the Legislative Office Building. There will be other opportunities for rallies, testimony and outreach as the legislative session moves on. Almost every week, Genetic Roulette is shown somewhere in Connecticut. Sign up for our GMO email list on our homepage
Passing labeling will be a fight. The biotech industry has strong footholds in the state and influence on key leaders and on the Farm Bureau. One of the most prominent public voices against labeling is a "farmer" who makes ice cream and would have to own up to the high fructose corn syrup made with genetically modified corn or else change his recipe. Farm Bureau says in effect, "No, that won't do. Let all the mothers in Connecticut stay in the dark about what they are feeding their kids."
The fact that labeling is so hard to do, that this is the third year we are working on this, in spite of 80 percent to 90 percent of people polled wanting labeling, gives an indication of how powerful "Industrial Food" is. See Industrial food below.
They want control, and to keep us ignorant. (See the new book Foodopoly
by Winona the Executive Director of Food and Water Watch. There is a good short video there.) The proliferation of "Ag Gag" bills provides some indication of how ignorant they want us to be. The wonderful growth of Community Farms in Connecticut provides a different vision-direct farm knowledge available to the public.
it seems to me that this labeling thing is just a warm up for the enormous "battle" to regain control of our food system. Here's an article
about another aspect of this fight, the lawsuit against Monsanto.
What is Industrial Food? Who controls it?
Sometimes novels say it well
"I'm sorry about the Venus Pizza," said his father. "After going there, and shopping at Carnegie Foods and watching a few hours of this delinquent network television, I've come to the conclusion that we should probably fast during our holiday here." (New York City, 2003) Factory farming doesn't stop in the slaughterhouse, it stops in our bloodstreams, after the Henry Ford food missiles have hurtled out of their cages into our open mouths and dissolved their growth hormones and their genetically modified feed into our increasingly wobbly bodies. Even when the food isn't "fast", the bill is instantaneous, dumping an idle eater back on the snack-crowded streets. In the end, we're on the same conveyor belt as the featherless, electrocuted chickens.
From The Patrick Melrose Novel Mother's Milk, by Edward St. Aubyn
Other times, the money says it
The companies who paid big money to defeat Proposition 37 in California are listed here
Or their political position does
The companies who stood with Obama at the World Economic Forum in Davos to talk about feeding the world:
The project is led by 28 global partner companies of the World Economic Forum who provide strategic leadership and championship of the initiative. These include: Agco Corporation, Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bayer AG, Bunge Limited, Cargill, The Coca-Cola Company, Diageo, DuPont, General Mills, Heineken NV, Kraft Foods, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Maersk, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Rabobank, Royal DSM, SABMiller, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd., Syngenta, The Mosaic Company, Teck Resources Limited, Unilever, Vodafone Group, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Yara International.
Do we think that Monsanto, Coca-Cola and Pepsico, who want to keep us in the dark, should be in charge of designing the global food system? Mostly they want subsidies for their inputs and no real talk about the connections between their products and serious diseases.
Here's a diagram
that illustrates the difference between Industrial and Agro-ecological food systems. You can learn more about the difference between industrial and ecological systems in these old essays:
Fortunately, there is an explosion of action on the food system front. A prominent one is the new Connecticut Food System Alliance. The Connecticut Food System Alliance is a recently formed network of organizations who think food is important. The group has a vision:
We've developed a set of values: Justice, Health, Knowledge, Integrity, Courage and Enjoyment.
Together we can build a better food system. We envision a Connecticut where everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food; where the food supply chain supports many vibrant and varied small businesses that provide sustainable livelihoods; where there is broad public awareness and passionate public support of a robust local food system; and where stewardship of soil, water, air and energy resources is institutionalized as an integral part of a resilient and robust regional culture of food, health and community.
Here's what one high school class has done.
Global Problem Solving and Food at Hall High School.
The senior Global Problem Solving class at West Hartford's Hall High School picked food as its topic for this school year. In the fall, they studied food and heard from farmers, activists and chefs. For the second half of the year, they are putting what they learned into action.
That began with a delicious Farm to Plate dinner on January 30 at the high school that attracted hundreds of students, parents, friends and relatives for a delicious vegetarian meal prepared by local chefs and the students.
Money raised from the modestly priced dinner will be donated to FoodShare and the West Hartford Food Pantry as well as provide funding to develop a community garden at the school. The are collecting recipes for a cookbook for the students to take to college to encourage them to cook and eat healthy food. Many of the school's organizations got on board to address some aspect of the food issue. Why is food so important?
- Food is our most important connection to Earth, after air and water. (We can live for only a few minutes without air, only a few days without water and just a few weeks without food. What else is as important?)
- Food is also our most important energy source. The food we eat supplies the stored solar energy that powers our bodies. A day's worth of food contains about the same amount of energy as a cup of gasoline. This gives us an indication of the incredible efficiency of the human body. Put a cup of gas in your car and see how far you get. Humans lived for over 100,000 years without electricity and fossil fuels.
- Food is the source of the wide range of nutrients and vitamins that our bodies need to remain healthy. For almost all of our hundred-thousand-year history we ate plants and animals from our environment. Ten thousand years ago, we began growing food and keeping animals to feed ourselves. In just the last century, we've added synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors, lots of processing and packaging, genetically modified seeds designed for massive applications of herbicides, factory farms, irradiation and long distance travel to our food system.
- Food is one of our most effective tools for positive change. Our food choices make a difference, for better or for worse. It turns out that much of the time, choices that are good for our health are also good for the environment.
- Growing and eating organic food is good for our health as we avoid pesticides. Organic methods are also good for the environment as they build biodiversity, limit nitrogen and phosphorus applications and avoid toxic pesticides.
- Saying no to soda and junk food not only helps us to stay healthy, it says no to a food system based on enormous monocultures of genetically modified corn and soy that is then highly processed and delivered to us by a few large corporations who have to care more about their bottom lines than our health or the health of the environment.
- Food provides a fantastic context for learning. Math, science, literature, writing, drawing, history, health and social studies can all be enriched or made real by the concrete context of growing, preparing and eating food. Start anywhere and follow the connections everywhere. Keep it real.
- Experts of all stripes identify feeding the 9 billion people expected on the planet by 2050 as an enormous challenge. Leave it to those currently in control and we'll get ever larger sodas and more double bacon cheeseburgers. Follow those two food items back to their sources and inputs if you want to see environmental, human and animal damage. Follow their effects on our health forward to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- Our students deserve to be connected with this challenge. Their creativity, flexibility and knowledge are essential to a healthy future.
- The vegetables and fruits that we can easily grow in our school gardens and grounds are very important for our health. However, about two thirds of the fruits and vegetables we eat in this country come from other countries, involving costs for transportation and associated pollution, as well as the loss of nutrients with the greater distance between soil and eater.
I look forward to seeing you at the Winter Conference.