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Outrage Over GMOs . . . the Politics and Economics of Food

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Despite the disheartening loss of Prop 37 in California last November, it ushered in a movement to pass mandatory labeling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The narrow margin of victory, 46.9 percent to 53.1 percent, by its opponents was all the more significant because they outspent the proponents by six to one. The proposed statute would have put an end to the routine industry practice of fraudulently marketing genetically engineered foods as “natural or “all natural”. In addition to being virtually meaningless, the “natural” label allows manufacturers and healthy food retailers to charge artificially high prices for conventionally grown, manufactured and raised food.

Advocates say genetically modified seeds produce greater yields, in part because they are resistant to insects, herbicides and drought. Opponents warn of over dependence on single-crop agriculture, damage to the environment and to consumers. Agribusiness won’t let go of the monopoly profits its patents images-5on genetically modified foods provide while a growing global market demands better, higher quality local foods free of GMOs.

Although touted by proponents as “innovative”, GMOs are essentially a live trial of the biggest health experiment in history. One of the first steps to containing the problem is to get labels on all food that contains GMOs. GMOs are a global issue.

Vandana Shiva writes eloquently about Monsanto’s incursion into India. She notes:

“Five things changed with Monsanto’s entry: First, Indian companies were locked into joint-ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed. Third, open pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable, patented commodity. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure. Fifth, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes and, in fact, started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public-private partnerships (PPP).

And, after the damning report of India’s parliamentary committee on Bt crops in August 2012, the panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops. The ultimate seeds of suicide is Monsanto’s patented technology to create sterile seeds. (Called “Terminator technology” by the media, sterile seed technology is a type of Gene Use Restriction Technology, GRUT, in which seed produced by a crop will not grow – crops will not produce viable offspring seeds or will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched off.) The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from seed.

Fibres of Freedom flourishes in the heart of Monsanto’s Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. It has created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic.”

Despite the lessons learned from India and Vietnam’s horrific experience with Monsanto’s Agent Orange, Vietnam is today planting their seeds, New York Times. Jeffrey Smith, director of the Iowa-based Institute for Responsible Technology, reported that government officials he met in Hanoi in 2011 seemed troubled by the dangers of genetic modification — and of their colleagues’ disregard for their concerns. The people Smith talked to, he said, worried that some members of the government “were basically taking dictation from Monsanto” and ignoring information that genetically modified foods are “potentially damaging to the economy and food sovereignty.”

On Tuesday, President Obama inked his name to H.R. 933, a continuing resolution spending bill approved in Congress days earlier. Buried 78 pages within the bill exists a provision that grossly protects biotech corporations such as the Missouri-based Monsanto Company from litigation. Earlier, the Senate’s Continuing Resolution spending bill used the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, and in Sec. 735 of the Senate bill, actually granted Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.

Food Democracy Now, a major activist organization that organized signatures to fight the Monsanto Protection Act, described the rider:

“The Monsanto Protection Act would force the USDA to allow continued planting of any GMO crop under court review, essentially giving backdoor approval for any new genetically engineered crops that could be potentially harmful to human health or the environment.”

Even USDA thinks the provision is unconstititional. Secretary Vilsack’s office told POLITICO that he has asked the Office of General Council to review the language, “as it appears to pre-empt judicial review of a deregulatory action which may make the provision unenforceable.”

GMO InitiativewNot withstanding the recently signed Monsanto Protection Act, state initiatives to require GMO labelling are wide spread, see the chart to the left from just label it.

Beyond labelling, the Truth Farmer suggests wording that would truly enhance the viability of Missouri’s agriculture and increase the economic freedom in rural areas, therefore helping local economies prosper. Their proposed wording would eliminate the words in brackets [ ].

That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in direct trade with consumers [modern farming and ranching practices] shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural [technology and modern livestock production and ranching] practices that secure independent family farm’s ability to save seed, preserve livestock bloodlines, or impede their access to market.

Let it be so.

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