Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reclaiming Our Food Supply

  Let's rewind the clock five years. Now-President Obama was on the campaign trail vying to become the Democratic candidate. While making speech after speech, and meeting thousands of people across America, he vowed as President, to strive to: "let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they're buying." I could be wrong, but I think the majority of us agree with that statement. However, fast forward to the present, and we're still talking about the same issue. So what gives?

  This, by no means, is meant to be an assault on our president. But unfortunately, it's clear he made that statement before he discovered exactly who has a say in how our government is run. It's to show that we can have all the good intentions in the world, but our system is backwards.

  Our food supply is controlled by politics, and unfortunately, we have little-to-no-say in what happens. Through lobbyists and campaign contributions, corporations such as Walmart, Archer Daniels Midland, Tyson Foods, Monsanto, Cargill, and Kraft Foods have planted themselves front and center in the battle for control over what ends up on our plates. That stranglehold has wreaked havoc on the environment, our health, farmers, workers, and our future (follow related posts/links below for more information on GMOs and their effects).

  It seems easy enough: 93% of Americans have said they want GMO foods labeled (while it's estimated that 80% of processed foods in US stores contain GMOs), so what's the hold up? Put money aside, and do what's best for the people, right?

  But what we're seeing is Capitalism at it's best (or worst?). "Nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control."

  I'm no business major, but I guess that's called an oligopoly, or a near-monopoly:
  • Four corporations, led by Walmart, control more than half of grocery sales. Walmart alone gets more than one quarter of every grocery dollar spent in the US.
  • Three companies -- Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta -- own 47 percent of the world's seeds. And they own 65 percent of the global proprietary maize market.
  • Nearly every major commodity -- wheat, corn, soy -- is controlled by just four corporations.
  • More than 90 percent of soybean seeds, and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by one company: Monsanto.
  Since 1996, the US acreage in GMO soybeans has grown from 7 to 94 percent, with GMO corn skyrocketing from 1 to 88 percent of cultivation. A trend began in 1996 in the US, and not for the better.

  A study released in September by the D.C.-based watchdog group Food & Water Watch reported that between 1999 and 2009, roughly $547 million was spent on lobbying and campaign contributions to ease regulatory oversight and prevent labeling of genetically engineered crops.

  There are so many issues, and so many question-marks; so where do we start? How do we effect change?

  One step is to continue to push for GMO food labels. If we can identify foods in the grocery store, it becomes that-much-easier for us to avoid. The Just Label It Campaign is nearing 1 million signatures. 17 states also have potential legislation in the works for GMO labeling. So progress is being made in that regard.

  However there are more levels in the system that need changing. Labeling is a start, but revamping our food supply system is what's really needed.

  Pressuring Congress to end agribusiness subsidies, and begin spending our money on sustainable healthy foods and farming. "Pass a 2012 Farm Bill that reinvests public money in an economically diversified, ecologically sustainable and more locally-oriented food system." There are dozens of steps that can be made, and these are just a few. Read more about those ideas, and get a clearer understanding of the big picture here.

  Another example of how the line between big Agriculture and politics has been blurred: FDA senior adviser, Michael Taylor (who was appointed by President Obama in 2009) formerly served as vice-president of Monsanto. Sign the petition asking President Obama to 'cease FDA ties to Monsanto.'

  Most European Union countries have managed to keep GMOs out of their grocery stores thus far. And when modified foods do wind up on store shelves, you able to easily identify them because of labeling. It seems Europeans are winning the battle to keep control of their food supply. Monsanto has halted sales of modified maize in France recently, and BASF announced it would move its GM development plant from Europe to the US.

  When government is involved, I'm sure we all think there are bigger fish to fry (economy, ongoing war, etc). But really, is there anything bigger than our health, and the health of our future generations?

  As food policy expert Michele Simon says, "Single-day actions here and there won't cut it when powerful food industry lobbyists are roaming the halls of Congress and state legislatures all over the nation every day of the year."

  We need to get involved, and start paying attention. Take control of our food system by reclaiming our  "land, our labor, and our economy from corporate monopolies." It's a big mountain to climb, but I think we can do it. I look at it this way, if you can affect just one person, you are doing your part!

  ~ Sabrina

Pin It

Do You Know What GMOs Are? 
The Effects of GMOs 
Dangers of Soy
Just Label It blog

Obama's GMO Food Labeling Promise
Michele Simon: Cracking the Politics of Food
Political Battle Over GMO Labels
GMO Foods

Big Food Must Go
Occupy Our Food Supply
Petition to Cease FDA ties to Monsanto
Just Label It


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