Saturday, February 02, 2013

GM - and California

 Stacy Malkan, a longtime advocate for environmental health, told me:
"It's about our right to know what's in the food we're eating and feeding our families. It's about our right to decide if we want to eat food that's been fundamentally altered at the genetic level, by companies like Monsanto, to contain bacteria, viruses or foreign genes that have never been in the food system before … Sixty-one other countries require labeling laws, but we haven't been able to get labeling here because of the enormous influence of Monsanto and the chemical companies."
Journalist Michael Pollen is no lightweight when it comes to food. His bestselling books include The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual and the forthcoming Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. He is on the faculty at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He supports Prop 37, and explained why:
"Something very exciting is happening around food in this country. There is a movement. You see it when you go to the farmers' market … People are getting very interested in where their food comes from, how it was produced, and they're trying very hard to vote with their fork, as the slogan goes, for the kind of food that supports their values, the kind of food that they deem most healthy or environmentally sustainable."
For Pollan, the science is still unclear on whether or not GMO food poses a health risks:
"Genetically modified organisms may have been developed in laboratories by scientists in places like Berkeley, but make no mistake, they're owned by very large corporations. Monsanto and DuPont now own something like 47% of the seed supply in this country. The real benefit of GMOs to these companies is really the ability to control the genetic resources on which humankind depends ... this represents a whole new level of corporate control over our food supply."
Prop 37 still might lose, because of these corporate stakeholders, which Malkan describes as the world's largest pesticide and junk-food companies, who are spending $40m carpet-bombing California with a campaign of deception and trickery, with lie after lie in the ads that are going unchallenged in the media.

The paid ad campaigns are slick and pervasive, suggesting that the labeling law is poorly written, will cause new state bureaucracy and increase food costs, and will provoke a flurry of frivolous lawsuits.

UC Berkeley agriculture professor David Zilberman opposes Prop 37, but, ironically, provides a strong argument in favor of broad food-safety regulation:
"Almost all the food that we eat is genetically modified … If we label, there are pesticides that are much worse than genetically modified food."
Perhaps, in his opposition to Prop 37, he has planted the seed of a broader food-safety movement to include pesticide labeling as well.
California produces much of America's food.

The Golden State's labeling law just might set the gold standard for food safety.
Denis Moynihan.
America is in many respects behind other countries in demanding informative, clearer and more easily readable food labeling.
The idea of colour coding food labels to indicate their healthiness is not even on the agenda.
The power of the food industry lobbying is very telling.
In Europe this lobby group were successful in removing many good ideas from discussion of food labeling.
A victory for greed, however the war is far from over.
The crunch comes as societies wake up to the cost of obesity.
Once politicians have to choose between food industry pressure for hard to understand labeling and ever increasing money being needed for dying voters the tide may well turn.

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