Farmer Debunks Corporate Propaganda Against Proposed Law to Label Genetically Modified Food
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I’ve been a farmer for more than 40 years. While I no longer live or farm in California, I do co-manage 120 acres of farmland in Vermont, and I know that a GMO labeling law passed in California will have widespread implications for consumers and farmers in every state in the country. As a farmer who has experience in both conventional and organic farming, I’m compelled to address the anti-labeling campaign’s so-called “concerns” for farmers and consumers.
But first, make no mistake: The folks who are running and funding the campaign against California’s Proposition 37, the Nov. 6 citizens’ ballot initiative that would require mandatory labeling of GMOs, have never worked on behalf of small farmers or consumers. Why would we think they are suddenly on our side? Heading up the campaign are the same folks who, backed by Big Tobacco, fought anti-smoking initiatives in California. They are the same people who, with a little help from Big Oil, tried to repeal California’s clean energy and climate laws. The $25 million that has so far poured into the “No on 37” campaign comes from huge biotech, chemical and food processing corporations (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgriScience, Pepsi, Coca-Cola). These are all companies whose primary motivation is profit, not the protection of consumers or farmers.
Here’s my farmer’s-eye view of the propaganda coming out of the No on 37 campaign, which by the way is dubiously named: Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme.
Propaganda statement #1:
The initiative would close off opportunities for farmers and food producers who might want to take advantage of future advances in crops bred for disease and pest resistance, drought tolerance, improved growth, nutrition, taste or other benefits.
This is perhaps the most outrageous of the No on 37 campaign’s purported concerns, and it’s directed at us, the farmers. The GMO giants claim to be concerned that we will not get a chance to grow GMO crops. Really? After suing and harassing thousands of farmers and driving small seed dealers out of business and into court, it is beyond disingenuous for Monsanto and the GMO gang to feign concern for our interests. I can assure them that we farmers are more afraid of Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta than the biotech giants are at the prospect of losing their genetically altered seed.
Farmers in several states have tried to pass farmer protection laws against the spillage and drift of GMO seed and pollen. These laws were designed to respond to the fact that biotech companies can sue farmers for patent infringement if GMO crops inadvertently sprout up as “weeds” on their farms – the result of pollen drift or seed spillage from a neighboring or nearby farm that grows GMO crops. Most of us farmers see this differently. We believe that when GMO seeds spill onto our land, or pollen from GMO crops drifts into our non-GMO crops and contaminates them, this constitutes trespassing, not patent theft. In spite of this trespass, Monsanto alone has brought 136 cases against more than 400 farmers. Thousands more U.S. farmers have been threatened with lawsuits by Monsanto.
Farmers growing cotton, corn, soy, and canola are in a tight spot because biotech companies have bought a majority of the seed corporations in order to control what seed can be grown. In the last several years, more than 90% of the seed available to farmers for these four crops has been genetically modified. So if a farmer wants to grow any of these commodity crops, he’s forced to grow the GMO variety –or not grow them at all.