For the past 50 years there's been a growing awareness about the relationship between the land, agriculture, chemicals, food, health and the environment. Even before Rachel Carson penned The Silent Spring, Albert Howard and J. I. Rodale discovered the virtuous circle of organic and sustainable agriculture and the dynamic relationship between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people.
Carson's book, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last month, catalogued the devastating effects of synthetic pesticides, namely DDT, on nature and bird populations and launched the modern environmental movement. Her sharp critique of chemical companies and their spreading of intentional disinformation culminated in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, the banning of DDT and launched the modern environmental movement.
In the intervening years, this movement of citizens from all walks of life has grown to include millions of Americans who recognize the deep connection between humans' interactions with the environment, our health and our inherent democratic rights.
Pioneers in the good food revolution like Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson along with organic and sustainable farmers like Fred Kirschenmann and Jim Cochran helped lay a foundation for a healthier way to farm and feed the world's growing population in a way that creates a healthier planet.
The organic and sustainable agriculture movement rose as a direct response to the threats that chemical agriculture posed to both human health and the environment. But during the past 50 years, giant chemical and agribusiness companies have consolidated control over the food supply, driving more than a million family farmers off the land and dangerously concentrating power into a handful of companies in every sector of food production.
At the same time, what started as an underground revolution in organic, chemical-free agriculture has grown into a powerful economic force with more than 50 million regular organic consumers and more than $31 billion in annual sales.
Giant Chemical Companies Strike Gold with Politically Engineered Loophole
Twenty years ago, even as this new farm movement was growing by double digits annually, pesticide companies struck pay dirt when their corporate lobbyists, freshly installed as federal regulators, convinced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that genetically engineered foods were "substantially equivalent" to those that farmers had bred and planted for thousands of years.
As a result, pro-biotech flacks, and now our government, parrot the claim that there's no material difference between traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering, but nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, genetic engineering relies on a radical new technology that invades plant and animal cells with the genetic material of foreign viruses, bacteria and the DNA of other plants or animals to create a new transgenic or genetically modified organism (GMO) that could never occur in nature.
First Generation of GMO Crops Are Failing in the Fields
Even now, after more than 20 years of persistent promises, the ag biotech industry has only been able to successfully commercialize two common traits: herbicide tolerant, like Roundup Ready crops, that are genetically engineered to survive massive doses of herbicides, or insecticide-producing crops that include a genetically engineered poison in every cell of the plant to kill pests.
After decades of denying that it was possible, the first generation of biotech crops are rapidly failing in farmers' fields. Almost daily, the mainstream press is reporting alarming news of the rise of superweeds, which have been called "the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen," and the rise of superbugs that have grown resistant to the genetically engineered Bt toxin designed to kill them.
After an avalanche of empty promises, the evident failure of GMOs to increase yields and the resulting increase in pesticide use endangers the livelihoods of family farmers and continues to threaten the safety and stability of our food supply.
Predictably, the biotech industry's response is to release new GMO crops that are tolerant of even more toxic chemicals, including 2,4-D corn and soybeans, which was half of the chemical makeup of the cancer producing Agent Orange used to defoliate jungles in the Vietnam war.
But the real truth may only now beginning to be uncovered by independent, non-industry scientists.
In just the past month, French scientists announced that rats fed Monsanto's GMO NK603 corn and the flagship herbicide Roundup were linked to severe organ damage, a dramatic increase in mammary tumors and premature death. These unexpected results, discovered during the longest, most comprehensive peer-reviewed study to ever be conducted has shocked consumers around the globe, even leading Russia to temporarily ban the sale and import of Monsanto's GMO corn.
California, Prop 37 and the Ultimate Battleground for GMO Labeling
Despite the biotech industry's rampant promotion of GMO crops, the one thing that most Americans can agree on is that citizens have a right to know what they're eating and that GMO foods should be labeled.
The good news is this fall California voters will have a chance to vote on whether or not genetically engineered foods will be labeled in their state. As the 8th largest economy in the world and the leading agricultural state in the U.S., the importance of Prop 37 for all Americans and the rest of the world cannot be overstated.
California is ground zero in the effort to reclaim our food and our planet from out of control corporations that want to deny us the right to know what's in our food.
Already corporate opponents to "Yes on 37" have raised more than $34 million to defeat the grassroots-driven initiative. Leading the charge is the world's largest biotech seed and chemical giant Monsanto, who has donated more than $7.1 million, the next highest donor is DuPont with $4.9 million.
In an irony lost on no one familiar with the history of corporate malfeasance, the opposition side is funded by the same corporations and run by the lobbyists that claimed that cigarettes, Agent Orange and DDT were safe.
Now they want us to trust them on the safety GMOs?
At the moment, the opponents of reasonable GMO labeling efforts are launching an all out media offensive across the California airwaves, bombarding voters with deception, lies and misinformation.
Despite the outright lies that Monsanto and DuPont are telling in their ads, the same junk food companies like Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, Kraft and Kellogg's that are donating tens of millions of dollars against "Yes on 37," already label GMO foods in 50 countries around the world, including all of Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia and even China.
It's hard to believe that Pepsi, Kraft and Nestle could label GMO foods in China, but somehow want to deny consumers in California that same right! For some reason, the same corporations that espouse the ideals of free market capitalism believe that Americans shouldn't have honest and transparent labels on their food.
Prop 37 is a simple, straightforward initiative that would require a small label on foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, including prohibiting the use of the word "natural" on food products that contain such ingredients. Despite the common-sense nature of this proposal, the opposition could trot out more than $50 million for an ad campaign in an effort to bury the truth that Americans have a right to know what's in our food.
The tragic truth of the fight over "Yes on 37" to label genetically engineered foods is that it picks up exactly where Rachel Carson and the voices of reason left off at the launching of the environmental movement. Fifty years ago, when Silent Spring was published, Monsanto and DuPont were the leading manufacturers of DDT, today they're leading the charge to distort the facts on genetic engineering and keep Americans eating in the dark.
No matter what anyone thinks about the benefits or safety of genetically engineered foods, it's unconscionable that these companies that want Americans to trust their products are refusing to put a simple label on them in "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
For the food movement, for the future of our planet and our democracy, there is no more important battle than to reclaim our rights from out of control corporations and the failure of government oversight.
The revolution is now. We need everyone at the table. Now is our time!