What’s a GMO, and why should you care? If you value health, environmentalism, social justice, corporate accountability, and functional democracy, the issues surrounding genetically modified food deserve your ear! GMO Free USA’s Diana Reeves pops by for an in-depth discussion of genetically engineered food crops, the need for GMO labeling, and strategies by which ‘we the people’ can agitate for meaningful change. Join us!
GMO’s: What’s the Big Deal?
Diana explains how crops are modified (mmmmmmm, poison you can’t wash off!) and summarizes some of the biggest reasons to view GMO-driven agriculture skepticallly, with eybrows in the ‘down’ position:
- It’s chemical companies who are patenting our food, and
- they do so specifically to make their demonstrably harmful chemicals an intrinsic part of what we eat;
- studies have not been done to explore whether the resulting products are even safe for human consumption,
- or whether they are safe to release into the environment,
- and since the global-mecacorp foxes are allowed to self-regulate this particular henhouse, every single thing they develop gets approved
- despite virtually absent scientific data addressing these serious concerns (which, to be fair, only seem to trouble non-shareholders who eat food and live in the environment).
Reality vs. Biotech PR: Knockout Imminent
Despite claims by the marketing departments of biotech behemoths, evidence accumulates that GMO agriculture fails to live up to its multibillion-dollar marketing claims. Since their takeover of our farming system in the 1990′s, GMOs have led to increasing pest resistance and ever-increasing pesticide use; meanwhile, their promise of sustained high yields has proven to be a dud:
- Bt Cotton Losing Steam, Productivity at 5-Year Low
- Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops
- GMO Myths and Truths: An Evidence Based Examination of the Claims Made for the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops
- New Study Shows Increasing Rootworm Resistance to Monsanto’s Bt Corn
- New Report: GMO Agriculture Increasing Pesticide Use on Cotton, Soy, Corn
We also tackle industry claims that GMOs will help solve world hunger, and that anti-GMO equals anti-science (spoiler alert: nope and nope!).
- Eco-farming Outperforms GMOs at Improving Crop Yields and Growing More Food, Says Report
- Can GMOs Help End World Hunger?
- Famine and the GM Debate
- Science, Sustainability, World Hunger, and GMOs: a Skeptic’s Rebuttal
Like potential health impacts, the effects of GMOs on the environment have been virtually uninvestigated by independent researchers, with regulation all but nonexistent due to chronic revolving-door-itis between chemical companies and regulatory agencies.
Diana also points out that another part of our government’s love affair with GMOs relates to global trade: we’ve outsourced so much of our economy that the US doesn’t have a whole lot else to export. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of any economic growth from that trade model goes straight into corporate megapockets, rather than benefitting farmers or the actual citizens of the exporting country.
As discussed in one of the articles linked above,
Regarding the accrual of financial benefit by corporate shareholders vs. growers, farmworkers, and consumers, GMO-driven agriculture has demonstrably harmed poor farming communities in India and Mexico, by creating financial dependence and limiting food crop biodiversity (respectively). Within our own industrialized first-world food system, heavily reliant on biotechnology for our most commonly grown crops (corn and soybeans), Monsanto profits grew an estimated 25% during 2012; net farm income only grew 3.4%.
The ongoing Supreme Court case of Bowman vs. Monsanto throws that dichotomy into sharp focus: industry intends for patents of self-replicating seeds to extend through time for infinity. Farmers will never benefit from such a system — indeed the biotech industry’s business model depends on unlimited exploitation of farmers through seed patents, forever.
As Diana has seen up-close-and-ugly, the GMO business model (and the political clout that comes with privatizing the food supply) lends itself to the corporate takeover of democracy:
Based on these problems and concerns, many people prefer not to consume GMO foods – and not to fund the chemical companies who created these problems and concerns.
Just Label It, Mmmkay?!
Despite overwhelming US voter support for mandatory GMO labeling, so far industry has been able to squash the idea (see ‘corporate takeover of democracy,’ above).
For an in-depth overview of the labeling issue:
In terms of health concerns related to GMO consumption, labeling is the first step towards any potential investigation of industry claims that their products are safe. There’s no way to conduct the much needed long-term safety tests unless and until researchers can actually investigate who’s eating how much of what, and track health outcomes accordingly. The hypothetical ability to actually gather data on potential health impacts of GMOs, which labeling would facilitate, undoubtedly accounts for much of the rabid industry resistance (ha, a pun!) to the idea.
Fine, We’ll Do It Ourselves!
Since our legislators and regulatory agencies aren’t doing their jobs — i.e. looking out for the public good, rather than corporate profits — Diana created GMO Free USA to take the issue directly to food manufacturers. Kellogg’s is one of the main offenders, not only for selling GMO-filled foods but for spending a bazillion dollars to fight fair labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients — so (congratulations, guys!) Kellogg’s won the dubious honor of being the GMO Free USA’s very first boycottee.
The documentary Ethos offers an excellent summary of why boycotts and conscious consumerism are such powerful tools, for bringing about positive change:
The way we use money in our society has more influence than anything else. And the way we choose to spend our money can change everything…
No company will continue a practice or product that you the consumer will not buy. It’s vitally important that you understand this, because this gives you ultimate power to change the world you live in…
By choosing to spend your money wisely, you can promote those companies that do business in a socially responsible way. Without saying a word, you will send a message that they simply cannot ignore.
So boycott Kellogg’s until they label those GMOs, and clear your Earth Day calendar — nationwide protest opportunities are right around the corner! — and go here to learn more.
Meanwhile, shop like you give a damn: don’t reward bad actors on the GMO labeling stage. Obnoxious anti-consumer behavior equals NO COOKIE.
GMOs in the News
Right after our excellent visit with Diana, several GMO stories popped into our browsers to demand attention:
- The Economic Argument Against GMOs: A Top Ten List
- Scientists Find Dangerous ‘Hidden’ Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide
- Pictures Don’t Lie: Corn and Soybeans are Conquering US Grasslands
- Oxfam Reveals Global Food Firms’ Gaping Ethical Shortfalls (hint: congrats AGAIN, Kellogg’s!… at least you guys are consistently problematic – well done, there!)
GMO Free Kitchfest
How do we transform GMO knowledge into action, when it’s time for dinner?
- Shop organic to the greatest degree possible. Not all non-organic foods are GMOs — conventional agriculture utilizes sythetic fertilizers and pesticides, without genetically modified and patented seeds. But unfortunately — until we get mandatory labeling in the US – there’s generally no way to be sure a given food is GMO free, unless it’s labeled organic.
- You can also look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, on packaged foods.
- Plant a garden, and support local growers! If you grow it yourself, you know exactly what kind of seed you used; if you know your farmer, you can say, ‘Yo Jim (or Kate, or whatever) — tell me about this squash!’
- Since our subsidy system (surprise!) favors the GM giants that staff the USDA, organics tend to be more expensive. Cooking more foods from scratch — buying ingredients rather than packaged food items — saves grocery money with which to prioritize organics.
- When you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?!), prioritize your organic dollars: corn, soy, and thin-skinned produce top the list! Go here for more on GMO-free shopping.
This week’s Braingarden picks fall in the ‘If you like Progressive Kitch you may also like’ category:
- Best of the Left — excellent and consistently thought-provoking, designed to aggregate and amplify the best voices from the truly progressive media.
- The Vegan Option — outstanding high-quality monthly show, exploring the world from a reason-based and vegan perspective.
As of this week we graduated to ‘actual podcast’ status! (CONFETTI!!) Search the iTunes store, and BAM: there we are — or go directly to our Feedburner page to subscribe by the podcatcher of your choice. If you enjoy PK, please rate and review us on iTunes, to help with our searchability!
There’s about a week left on our Kickstarter project — all sharing is greatly encouraged and appreciated! We’re so very close to our goal… we hope to vastly improve our sound quality, so you guys can tell we’re not recording from inside a giant tin can. In frustrating Kickstarter news, we actually met our goal — only to have two backers change their minds. We’re down to the wire now, and so very close! If you find value in the Progressive Kitch idea, please share as widely as possible to spread the word. Thank you!
We’ve got an interview coming up with the guys over at the Which Side podcast, that’ll publish on March 3rd – that was a super fun hour, be sure to listen!
Also please notice the ‘Donate Your Account’ option now available on our home page, for sharing posts by Progressive Kitch on your social networks; and there’s a snazzy new downloadable PK flyer also available, perfect for posting in your favorite health food store or vegan cafe!
Thanks for reading, and for listening, and for sharing.
Now proceed directly to GMO Free USA, and shake your organic groove thang until we meet again!
Image credit: Creative Commons photo by Millions Against Monsanto.