Who Controls Our Food?

November 8th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Who Controls Our Food?

testingThis past Tuesday was Election Day, and in several states across the country, citizens went out to vote for local and state officials. In the state of Washington, citizens were also voting on Initiative 522 that would allow for labeling requirements for foods with genetically engineered ingredients. If voters approved 522, Washington would be the first state to enact labeling requirements for foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Unfortunately, the initiative lost 55% to 45%. Initial polling numbers, however, showed that over 60% of Washington’s population was in favor of GMO labeling. So, what happened? How did that number drop 15 percentage points? Did some new research come to light? The very same scenario occurred in California in 2012. That was the year that President Obama was on the ballot and won big in California – a very blue and progressive state. When the polling began, over 60% of Californians were also in favor of labeling genetically modified foods.

What happened in both Washington and California was a tremendous influx of outside money from companies like Monsanto, Dupont, Kraft and Pepsico. In Washington, proponents of labeling raised $8.4 million dollars – with $2.6 million coming from in-state donors, with over 10,000 residents contributing. Those against labeling raised $22.5 million – with all of it (with the exception of $500,000) coming from out of state, from the likes of Monsanto, Dupont, Kraft and Pepsico.

And with their money, opponents ran ad after ad on TV, successfully scaring people into believing that labeling would be debilitating to farmers, and would raise our food costs. NOT TRUE! We have had the opportunity to actually see the impact of labeling and how it plays out in European countries where labeling laws have been in place for years. And the verdict – no drop off in sales occurred and their farmers are doing just fine.

Right now, in our country, there is no issue that even comes close to the GMO labeling issue, when it comes to displaying the raw power of unlimited spending by a few very large and self-interested companies, and how it can effectively change the will of the people. If in two very progressive states like Washington and California, where initially their citizenry were overwhelmingly in favor of labeling, and this issue cannot win at the ballot box, it’s difficult to imagine that we will see change in the labeling laws any time soon. And keep in mind, this is not about eliminating the use of GMO’s. It’s about labeling. It’s no different than knowing which of the foods you buy contains sugar as an ingredient. Imagine if we didn’t have access to ingredient labels on our food, and we were told to just trust the manufacturers. There is absolutely no difference with the GMO labeling laws. Or even more absurdly, (and yet a relevant and apt analogy) would be if we couldn’t label products as organic for fear it might hurt the sales of conventionally grown food.

Unlimited special interest money has intentionally fought to mislead people, and they have done it very effectively. They have scared people into believing that the welfare of big agribusiness is more important than knowing how our food is raised. What labeling proponents are asking for is at its core so basic and so fundamental – how is the food we eat grown, and what’s in it? This should not be some secret esoteric bit of information that only a handful of people can rightly know. This is about our food supply, and we are being deeply manipulated and bought by a handful of very determined companies that have no interest whatsoever in our well-being. Is this who we want making key decisions about our food supply?

I could not emphasize this point enough and it should make us all very deeply concerned: Our food is being made and modified by the world’s largest pesticide manufacturer. This is not hyperbole; but rather it’s fact. That’s pretty powerful, and it’s wrong.

Right now, fiction is winning over truth, and over-the-top spending is defeating the power of people. We can change this. We must change this.