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The Food Connection: Who controls your food choices?
By Mark Ozias and Lisa Boulware
Washington Initiative 522, requiring labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients, was ultimately defeated by 54 percent of voters in November 2013.
Although public support for I-522 was strong throughout the campaign, shortly before the election a slew of very expensive political advertising swayed results in the opposite direction.
In the final days before the election, the Washington State Attorney General filed suit against the food industry lobbying group the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA). The law suit alleges that millions of dollars in campaign contributions from individual companies (Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle, just to name a few) were illegally channeled through a “Defense of Brands Strategic Account” set up by the GMA and spent to defeat I-522, shielding those individual companies from public scrutiny.
The GMA moved to dismiss the case, but on June 13 a Superior Court judge ruled that the case could move forward.
It turns out there was quite a bit of national interest in our state initiative. Thanks to Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer Cropscience and the GMA, more than $22 million was spent to defeat I-522. Less than $1,000 in support of “No on I-522” came from individuals within our state.
In April, Vermont became the first state to successfully pass a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled; the state estimates this will impact 8 out of every 10 items sold at the grocery store. On June 3, Vermont’s Attorney General began drafting rules to implement the new law and less than 10 days later the GMA filed suit over its constitutionality.
It’s not enough that these chemical companies control our food supply; they also want to control the information we’re given about what we’re eating.
The GMA argues against state-mandated GMO labeling on the premise that it has “no basis in health, safety or science.” This may or may not be true when it comes to consuming GMO foods. We don’t yet know whether they negatively impact our health because not enough time has passed since we began ingesting them en masse to judge the potential health impacts with any accuracy.
What does have basis in health, safety and science is the evolution of the pests which GMO crops were developed to combat. The Western corn rootworm, one of the primary pests that GMO corn is intended to eliminate, is a prime example.
Entomologists in four Midwest states have now confirmed significant resistance to the toxin associated with GMO corn in rootworm populations; six more states suspect the same thing but testing is not yet complete.
The implication of toxin-resistant worms leads directly to additional genetic modification of the crop or use of additional chemical pesticides on the crop. Either way, the chemical companies win and everyone else loses.
Consumers don’t get the option of knowing what pesticides or genetically modified ingredients we are feeding our children and ourselves. Ecosystems suffer as GMO crops are designed to promote chemical heavy industrial farming, stripping the soil of precious nutrients and contaminating nearby water sources.
In every scenario and at every stage, the chemical companies make a profit. For instance, Monsanto produces genetically modified seeds and produces Round-Up, the main chemical necessary to grow crops from their seeds on a massive scale. As pests evolve, Monsanto further modifies seeds and produces more Round-Up; a never-ending cycle.
The good news is that it isn’t hard to “opt out” of the cycle, especially here on the peninsula. It is possible to get just about every significant ingredient you might need from a local farmer. Our various independent organic grocery stores are the envy of many visitors. Our farmers markets are numerous and vibrant. Local restaurants feature “food from here.” Our access is world-class.
We can control our food choices; choose well and be well.
Mark Ozias and Lisa Boulware are owners of The Red Rooster Grocery. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.