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John Robbins: Life on the Frontlines of the Food Revolution

Author John Robbins talks about the science of soy, meat production, our "disease care system," and how MLK Jr. influenced his work.

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But on the other hand, we have Monsanto, we have McDonald's, we have Coca-Cola and Pepsico, we have these very large entities -- Cargill and all of agribusiness -- who want to produce food as cheaply as possible because that is where their profit lies and they have a very different set of incentives. They control food policy, they control the farm bill, they control every recent administration's agricultural policies. They have enormous clout through the advertising dollars they spend on the public mind, on the lobbying dollars they spend on public policy, and these two forces are really at war with each other. I wrote No Happy Cows both to report on that war and also to take a side in that war. I am a journalist, I am also an activist, an advocate, I am very clearly wanting us to create a food system that isn't owned by Monsanto, that is based on a relationship to the Earth that is harmonious and sustainable and that produces food that supports people's well-being rather than compromising it.

TL: So considering the enormous impact that these corporations have over our legislators, over the Department of Agriculture, what are the most important things for us to be doing?

JR: There are many things. No Happy Cows and all my work has sought to help people know what they can do. Right now there will be a ballot measure in California in November that I'm very actively involved in, and it would mandate the labeling of GMOs in the state. We have seen in Connecticut and Vermont in recent months, legislation almost pass that would do that in those states. In both cases Monsanto threatened to sue the state if that legalization was enacted and in both cases the states backed down at the last minute, not wanting to take on Monsanto, not wanting to burden their taxpayers with the cost of that. If a private company can intimidate a state that badly, it is a statement on how far we've come from anything like a democratic process here.

California is big enough that perhaps it won't fold. We know that Monsanto and their allies in the biotech industry are going to be spending at least $100 million to try and defeat the measure. We know that they are going to tell the public that if it passes it will raise the price of food, it will make the hungry starve and cause all sorts of problems -- it's all BS and it's all PR. Labeling is not going to do that. All it is going to do is give people information about which foods do in fact contain genetically modified ingredients.

To get involved in that campaign, I think is a tipping point. There are others. People can pull their dollars out of industrial agriculture, shop at farmer's markets, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) if that's available, shop at local health food stores, eat as much organic as you can, eat lower on the food chain, derive as many nutrients as possible from plants, eat a plant-strong diet, don't eat processed foods (those are the ones that have the high profit margins for these processed food companies), do what you can to keep your kids free from the barrage of junk food advertising.

Junk food and fast food companies spend over $100 billion a year on ads targeting children. And the foods that they are promoting are always unhealthy -- it's incredibly consistent. They market the least healthy foods to the most vulnerable and impressionable among us -- our kids. And I think we should ban it, I think it should be illegal, but short of that we need to do everything we can as parents to keep our kids safe from that kind of predation, that kind of exploitation, is crucial.

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