Why would voters choose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton?
Food is a good reason for Democrats and Republicans to abscond from their "politics as usual" party loyalties and vote for Bernie Sanders, the 38-year Independent running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary. This article deals with both candidates' positions on two issues that relate to the food we eat - GMOs and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
GMOs and the Fight for Healthy Food
Whether you believe that GMOs are good eats or not, you can't ignore the legions of people in this country who want to exercise their right to know whether the food they are feeding their children and themselves contains genetically engineered (or transgenic) ingredients. About 80 to 95 percent of the processed foods in supermarkets would need labels to identify that a GMO was involved in some aspect of its manufacture.
I'm trained as a master gardener, so I have a holistic view of agriculture. One input or toxin added to the system has a cascading effect on the entire ecology. Transgenics, while well-meaning, is specialized. Scientists take years to find a strain to meet their objectives, whether developing plants that resist an herbicide or include a pesticide in their genetic makeup. When seeds leave the laboratory, lab scientists are not responsible to review the safety of the chemicals sprayed on their creations.
A significant source of seed in large-scale farming operations is the RoundUp Ready® brand. Lately, chemical/seed companies are developing plants that resist 2,4-D (a component of Agent Orange) and dicamba to overcome the 'superweeds' RoundUp® no longer conquers. The FDA doesn't require the manufacturer of these chemicals to conduct tests of chronic ingestion of their products.
I find it troubling that the FDA doesn't require humans to consume these herbicides in combination with mercury (found in fish), aluminum (commonly used as a preservative in vaccines), and synthetic glutamate (a ubiquitous flavor enhancer found in many processed foods) in longitudinal tests. These neurotoxins pass from gut to blood to brain more easily when glyphosate chelates (carries) them. Once a neurotoxin enters brain tissue, it stays there and accumulates. We need to conduct more studies to find out if combinations of these toxins cause autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The World Health Organization has already proclaimed that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen."
Is Hillary a Shill for Monsanto?
How is Hillary personally involved in supporting big agriculture? The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which gathers leaders to solve the world's problems, promotes Monsanto, the maker of RoundUp® and RoundUp Ready® seeds. Hugh Grant, Monsanto's Chairman and CEO spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in September, 2014. Ms. Clinton's top campaign advisor, Jerry Crawford, was a lobbyist for Monsanto for years and is now the political pro for her Super PAC, "Ready for Hillary." Clinton spoke in favor of the government's Feed the Future (FtF) program, a USAID funded, corporate-partnered program that brings RoundUp Ready® technology to the most vulnerable populations of the world. Monsanto and Dow Chemical support Hillary and Bill's 'Clinton Foundation' with generous donations.
Last year, at a San Diego biotech conference, Hillary coached her audience in messaging. "Genetically modified sounds Frankensteinish. Drought-resistant sounds like something you'd want. Be more careful so you don't raise that red flag immediately."
It's also highly unlikely for Hillary Clinton to stand up against her benefactors, saying she favors a review of RoundUp, 2,4-D, and the even more toxic poisons used by farmers worldwide when she has friends in the industry telling her that they will "feed the world" someday with their agricultural methods.
Who Is Likely to Change Food Policy?
Right now, GMOs are considered General Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. This is based upon the assumption that GMOs are substantially similar to their non-GMO counterparts, and forgets the part about being sprayed by pesticides. Steven Drucker's recently released book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public explains how the FDA covered up and ignored data from their own scientists who warned that GMOs were not sufficiently studied.
For the past twenty years, our Presidents have consistently appointed pro-chemical company insiders to make decisions about overseeing their own industries. Changing agricultural policies will require a leader who isn't afraid to remove Monsanto cronies from high positions. Michael Taylor, current Deputy Commissioner of Foods at the FDA and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture at the USDA would need to be replaced if we wanted to require more safety studies of RoundUp, 2,4-D and dicamba before they were applied commercially.
How the Trans Pacific Partnership Protects Chemical Companies
Companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta are motivated to see the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement I wrote about in my last post, become the law of the land. The trade attorneys who drafted the 29-chapter bill built in protections for chemical companies with the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. A corporation thus becomes an "Investor State" with rights that supersede governments' (and people's) rights, including the right to label GMOs. One lawsuit of Monsanto v Vermont or Dow v The U.S. Government could cost taxpayers millions in attorney fees and billions in settlements if the TPP passed.
As Secretary of State, Clinton promoted the TPP 45 times according to CNN. She even stated for the record, "this agreement will ... build in strong protections for workers and the environment" when it does exactly the opposite. The actual wording in the TPP's environmental chapter states: "The Parties further recognize that it is inappropriate to set or use their environmental laws or other measures in a manner which would constitute a restriction on trade or investment between the Parties [read: Countries]." What this means is that environmental laws can't stop trade. Clinton soft-pedals the TPP, saying at a recent Des Moines, Iowa rally, "No President would be a tougher negotiator on behalf of American workers, with trading partners or on Capitol Hill than I would be."
Senator Bernie Sanders represents Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a "right to know" GMO labeling law. He authored an amendment to the 2013 farm bill that would have given states the ability to require labeling so that they don't have to fight for it, state by state, through propositions on the ballot. Sanders' amendment was defeated 71 to 27 in the Senate, even though 93 percent of Americans want GMOs labeled.
"An overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling but virtually all of the major biotech and food corporations in the country oppose it." says Sanders. Vermont's labeling law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016. "The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what's in the food that they eat," Sanders said.
Sanders goes on the record against the Trans Pacific Partnership in its entirety. In a position paper, Sanders enumerates job losses that resulted from trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR).
"The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S." writes Senator Sanders. "These trade agreements have ended up devastating working families and enriching large corporations."
Who is more interested in protecting Americans?