Just Label It: Let the People Decide

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Common Dreams

Just Label It: Let the People Decide

I've farmed all my life and I have to tell you, all food is not the same. No food or farming system is perfect, but as farmers, as citizens, we should not be forced to accept a globalized, industrialized, genetically modified system of agricultural production.

I have farmed with pesticides, chemical fertilizers and livestock hormones, and was lucky enough to jump off that ship before it went completely under the waves. I experienced the shortcomings and failures of pesticides, antibiotics and the system in general. I was concerned for the health of my family, my livestock and the soil, so I got out.

I dropped out of the conventional farming system (seeing organic production as a better, safer and more productive alternative) just as the revolution of genetic modification (GM) and its “promise” to feed the world was being forced upon the world.

When I say forced, I mean just that.

People were never given a choice (not in the U.S. anyway) as to whether or not their food would contain GM ingredients, or if they had a right to know. If you eat food with processed ingredients, you are eating GM ingredients.

Despite clear indications of health risks, our government maintains that food with GM content is substantially equivalent to non-GM, therefore labeling is not required.

When GM crops resistant to the weed killer Roundup were introduced, farmers were promised that one application of the herbicide was all they would ever need. Dream on. I watch spray rigs running across neighboring fields from April to November. Roundup is no longer doing the job; the promise of less chemical application was a false promise.

Some farmers still grow non-GM crops but it is increasingly difficult to get non-GM seed. If GM pollen contaminates their non-GM crops, it's their fault their crops got in the way. And of course, since that crop now has GM genetics, GM kingpin Monsanto et al. can sue them for stealing patented crop varieties.

Our current food system, dominated by intensive farming practices (notably GM crops), is a system that is failing in so many ways.

It is a system that has destroyed rural economies worldwide.

A system that contributes to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, food allergies, heart disease and cancer for some, while at the same time allowing hunger to persist for others.

A system that that is controlled by multi-national corporations whose interest is profit, not healthy food, not land stewardship, and certainly not fair prices for farmers.

Peter Rosset tells us, food is different. “It is not a typical commodity because it affects so many people and the environment in such intimate ways”.

Food production and food choice should be controlled by farmers and those who eat, not corporations, and not politicians.

While some feel that the cheapest food is the best food, people are not stupid, they want to be able to make choices about the food they buy. This is why California Proposition 37 is such a critical ballot initiative. It's so simple, food with GM content should be labeled as such so people can make a choice.

If GM is so safe, so necessary, so full of promise, why are corporate interests so opposed to labeling it?

If it is the answer, why, as a technology, does it need special treatment from government regulators?

California voters have a short time, as Ferlinghetti might say “a time of useful consciousness”, to decide if they are entitled to make choices about their food -- time to decide if their right to know is more important than Monsanto's bank account.

As California goes, so goes the nation, just label it.

Jim Goodman

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.

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