Last month I wrote 3 articles (parts 1, 2, and 3) regarding Monsanto and its use of intellectual property laws to control food production in the United States and globally. I also included an update after Hungary destroyed their GMO seeds. However, those fighting against GMOs had a major setback.
âThe policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE (genetically engineered) crops as well. True coexistence is a must.â - Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011 In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsantoâs Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nationâs 25,000 organic farms and ranches, Americaâs organic consumers and producers are facing a major setback. A self-appointed group of the Organic companies, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided itâs time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsantoâs controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for âcoexistenceâ with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.
In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and âseed purity,â gave the green light to the USDA to approve the âconditional deregulationâ of Monsantoâs genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Many believe that this will result in the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
In exchange for allowing Monsantoâs premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants âcompensation.â In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workersâ and rural residentsâ risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soilâs crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants Monsanto to agree to pay âcompensationâ (i.e. hush money) to farmers âfor any losses related to the contamination of his crop.â
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for âpublic oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,â even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government âoversightâ of Frankencrops such as Monsantoâs sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: âThe policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must.â
The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called âNaturalâ GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Out of the Market
There can be no such thing as âcoexistenceâ with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the worldâs 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers.
There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled.
Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonaldâs and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: âIf you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.â
The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you donât want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont, the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming.
Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and the members of Congress who they have lobbied have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, donât hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumersâ right to know whatâs in their food.
Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage during elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent, unless we as citizens band together.
The âRevolving Doorâ between Monsanto and the Federal Government, is illustrated by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, who also delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto the right to buy unlimited media coverage during elections.
However, there are alternatives to national labeling laws; we should demand GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.
The Organic Consumers Association, joined by the consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and other Biotech companies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.
If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If youâre interested in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here.
To pressure Whole Foods Market and the nationâs largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely.