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23 August 2012

Prop 37: Hell To Pay for 'Healthy'

A recent visit to a nearby health food store opened my eyes to why some so-called 'healthy' food companies are spending money to defeat Prop 37: the truth would kill their business!

I needed mayonnaise for a sandwich and the health store was on my way, so I dashed in and was shown to the mayo aisle. 

 Needing about one tablespoon of mayonnaise for this sandwich, I was naturally somewhat reluctant to pay over $6.00 for a small jar of 'healthy' mayonnaise. But it set me wondering: what the hell was in healthy mayo to make it 'healthy' vs. ordinary mayo?

Turning the mayo jar over to the list of ingredients, it would be an under-statement to say I was a little shocked to find that the 'healthy' mayonnaise was made, depending on the brand, with either soy or canola oil – two commodities that are much more likely than not, genetically modified! And the scales fell from my eyes.

Currently somewhere south of 15% of all soybeans planted in the US are non-GMO (although this figure is currently trending up as of this writing; farmers are willingly switching acreage back from GMO soy to non-GMO - good news, though I cannot, as yet, tell why).  That 'less than 15% figure' is far too small to supply all the products using soy that sport 'healthy' and other monikers of health labels on their products.  Surely an organic behemoth like Whole Foods could absorb all that non-GMO soy crop and still need more for their vast in-house brands.  Where does the rest of this 'non-GMO' soy come from?  

Canola presents a slightly less smiley face.  According to an Oregon State Extension bulletin clear back in 2008, "Non-GMO winter and spring canola varieties are available, but they are rapidly becoming difficult to find."  If they were difficult to find in 2008, I wonder what it's like in 2012?  Canola was one of the first successful genetically modified introductions and currently about 90% of the United States' production of canola is GMO.  I couldn't find a figure for the percentage of Canadian production, but it is surely similar to the US figure.  Canola is a made-up name for 'rapeseed.'  "Rapeseed oil" was thought to be a tough sell to women shoppers, and since most of it was grown in Canada, someone came up with Canola as the name to sell.  Rapeseed is a brassica and rapeseed pollen can cross with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and mustard.

Companies that label themselves as 'healthy' have no standard to prove the label. Imagine the shock of health food store shoppers finding products labeled “healthy” and sporting a GMO sticker to boot! Obviously, an informed shopping public would be a non-buying shopping public and if these companies have to charge over $6.00 for a small jar of 'healthy' mayo with GMOs, what's it going to cost if it is 'healthy' AND non-GMO? You can see these little producers squeezed out of the market completely – already they are marketing to a very small portion of the food buying public, any more shaving of their demographic and they are sunk.

Still. Profit before the public's health? The bottom line on this whole discussion, and it is an unassailable position, is that the public deserves to know what is their food.

I didn't buy the mayo. I got a packet of Best Foods (soy oil) mayonnaise. It didn't cost me $6.00 and it didn't claim to be healthy. Yes, it was most likely GMO, but they didn't take my money and try to pull the wool over my eyes. After Prop 37 is law, there's going to be hell to pay for a large portion of the food producing industry.

We all might have to go to mustard on sandwiches. As long as it hasn't crossed with GM rapeseed.


22 August 2012

Starting To Take Back Our Food Supply: California's Proposition 37

The battle to just label genetically modified material in our food is heating up. Coca Cola, Pepsico along with a host of industrial ag folks are heaping money to fight California's Proposition 37 which would require proper labeling of genetically altered products in our food stuffs. There are a lot of reasons why genetically modified crops have no business in our food, and it would be easy to write an article about why the whole idea needs to be abandoned as one of the least-wise projects ever taken to enrich people at the expense of the earth, current populations and future populations.

The point of Prop 37 is not to ban these products but simply to label them. We label the components in our mattresses, but manufacturers are off the hook for telling mothers what is in the food they give their children?

To fight the initiative, seed giant Monsanto Co, soda and snack seller PepsiCo Inc and other opponents of the labeling measure have put up $25 million already and could raise up to $50 million. Reuters article 8/6/2012

This is very wrong. Monsanto and PepsiCo have decided their profits are more important than the health of children – their products are already labeled in most of the world, the sad news is that Monsanto has infested the United States government so thoroughly it is impotent to fight the multi-national corporations with no interest in the health of Americans (or any one else for that matter). Not only is our food unlabeled, these corporations have managed to avoid any possible regulation from any American government – in the countries not so easily bought and sold, Monsanto has had a much harder time gaining any kind of foothold in the food marketplace.

Monsanto has a record of lies and half-truths that parallel their long history of reckless behavior towards our planet and all the residents thereof. There should be no mistake in considering this a company that has a single thread of altruism in it's veins.

Reuters again:
While Mother Nature does her share of genetic engineering, human interventions have specific goals, such as increasing crop yields or helping plants survive droughts or attacks from pests.

This is sheer Monsanto hype. The company, and it's competitors have absolutely no interest in things 'such as increasing crop yields or helping plants survive droughts.' Their business model is heavily invested in telling us things like that, but even the USDA's own research (and the USDA is pretty much a shill for all of biotech) concluded after a 15 year study that genetically modified crops do not hold any significant edge in crop yield. And reports from the field over this last summer show that there was no benefit in having so-called 'drought resistant' GM crops because they were engineered to survive a mild drought but their engineering was drastically short of the resistance needed to withstand this year's drought (older, open pollinated corn did survive to produce a crop for some farmers and we could have had a substantially larger harvest if more open-pollinated seeds had been plated). The truth is that there is only one goal for any multi-national corporation and that is to make money.

Some companies do that by looking for long-term solutions that will benefit the world, but that is not the case for Monsanto. ALL of their genetic engineering has been to create a larger market for their herbicide, Roundup, or creating crops with pesticides in every cell.  At that they have been very successful. None of this technology though has been tested in the real world until just recently. And that means there is certainly no long term study on these crops. Anecdotal evidence though shows some frightening complications with farm animals fed GM corn, including an inability to bear offspring. As far as I am concerned, the simple lack of a long-term study of GM foods' effect on human beings is enough for a just government, not bought and sold on the black market, to forbid these products from being sold pending proof that they are not harmful to humans and the planet. These studies are now underway: unfortunately WE, you and I and our children, are the lab rats. We will prove, in our living and dying, whether or not this technology can make food that is safe to eat day in and day out. Note, you are already eating this stuff! 

Even if you are a vegetarian eating only from a health food store, chance are you are only limiting, not eliminating, these foods from your diet. Genetically engineered food is pervasive through out our country because the first Bush administration (in a memorandum authored by Vice President Dan 'Potatoe' Quayle) certified that GM crops were the same as non-GM of the same variety. Of course, our government then went ahead allowing these 'same' crops to be patented as something totally new and different. What are we to believe?

We should believe that all this is simply a plan to make profit and externalize the costs to others. Medical costs, environmental clean up costs are just a few that come to mind – these corporations are already externalizing their research costs!

So this is why Monsanto has invested over $4 million bucks to oppose a campaign that only seeks to label the presence of their same as/extraodinarily different technology. They speak out of both sides of their mouths and ignore the honest truth incessantly – enough for me to get several more blog posts about it.

Let's be clear: vote yes for Prop 37. Prop 37 only requires a more honest accounting of what is in our food. That's all.  These corporations are aware that as goes California so goes the rest of the nation, sooner or later, that scares the hell out of them.  It should. 

Opposing Prop 37 is standing up for dishonesty and deceit. We have enough of that. We need multinational corporations to be more accountable to us. Our government has refused to do it. It is incumbent upon us to do it. We all need this law, but Mothers, you must protect your children if not yourself.

Honesty in the labeling of our food should not be optional.

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