By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News
Oregon’s organic farmers and consumers won a major victory earlier this year, when citizens in Southern Oregon voted to stop the introduction of GMO seeds in their pristine growing valleys. Even though Syngenta and Monsanto funded huge television campaigns to try to stop the grass-roots organizing, the majority of Oregonians voted to protect their land, farmers’ rights, and their own healthy food sources and seeds.
This week in Oregon the current campaign, Measure 92, is heating up with another show of force. The citizen initiative to be voted upon will mandate labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and protect the public’s right to know when food they purchase contains GMOs. As the November 4th vote nears, Oregon’s early polling results are showing a very close margin (with “Yes for Labeling” in the lead, 49 to 44).
As expected, big agri-business companies are flooding Oregon with millions of dollars of marketing in an attempt to defeat the citizens’ concerns. This week Dupont donated a whopping $7.5 million ($4.5 million in Oregon and $3 million in Colorado, which has a similar measure) against labeling. This last-minute contribution has now trumped the record for the largest political campaign contribution in Oregon.
Dupont, Dow, and Monsanto have already spent three times more money to defeat this measure than companies have donated to mandate the GMO labeling. In the national arena, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association had previously spent $100 million from 2012-2014 to block GMO labeling nationwide. In the first six months of 2014 alone, Dupont spent $27.5 million on lobbying to try to stop any such mandates.
In an effort to prevent anti-GMO labeling measures from passing in Oregon and Colorado, Monsanto has spent $8.8 million, adding to Pepsi ($3 million), Coke ($2 million), Kraft Foods ($1.5+ million), General Mills ($1.5 million), and others such as Land O’Lakes, Snickers, Kellogg’s, Hormel Foods, and Bumble Bee, all contributing large amounts under $1 million.
In Oregon’s battle with the GMO issue, retired EPA scientist Dr. Ray Seidler has played a key role in educating the public. Seidler, a micro-biologist who started the first federal research program on biosafety issues of GMOs, states, “Back then we only wanted to regulate GMOs because we didn’t know anything about them. Now we see what damage they can cause.” Seidler emphasizes, “The pure vitamin-laden seeds grown here in Oregon (swiss chard and table beets) are now exported internationally to the 66+ countries that have banned GMOs in their countries. The seeds grown in the Southern Oregon Valley are in demand worldwide. So Oregonians want to protect that too.”
Seidler has also focused on the widespread failure of the Bt insecticidal trait in genetically engineered corn, and especially on the rapidly emerging resistance in insects. Because of this resistance, there have been huge increases in coating seeds with insecticides and injecting insecticides into the soil nationwide. Seidler recently teamed up with David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, to coauthor a white paper on the dangers of GMOs entitled “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops.” Bronner, who has a Biology degree from Harvard, has been one of the biggest contributors in Oregon and Colorado to the effort to demand GMO labeling.
Over the past two weeks, Bronner has placed advertorials in major publications such as Scientific American, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, Harvard, Progressive Magazine, and Mother Jones. However, the two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature Magazine, refused to publish the ad focusing on the dangers of GMOs. A Science magazine rep stated in an email to Dr. Bronner’s staff, “We’re concerned about … getting into a battle with the GMO industry.”
In a press release issued this week, Mr. Bronner stated:
The truth of the matter is the chemical industry has bought the seed industry and both political parties in this country, has pulled the wool over our media, political and scientific elites, and taken a page from Enron – gaming our food and agricultural systems in plain light of day. Unfortunately, prominent journalists and scientists are running interference, bamboozled and blind to their own bias focusing on irrational elements and straw men in the anti-GMO movement, while celebrating commercially insignificant or nonexistent applications of GE agriculture and ignoring the plain facts in US soil and the regulatory pipeline.
Over 99% of GMO crops in US soil are engineered to produce insecticide and/or tolerate heavy herbicide use, which like overdosing antibiotics in factory farms has rapidly created resistance in target weed and insect populations, which are now saturated with ever more toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides banned in the EU due to suspected link to massive bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder. GMO crops are not ‘feeding the world’: over 40% of GMO corn kernels are inefficiently converted to ethanol in another Big Ag boondoggle, and most of the rest is factory farm animal feed, as is the vast majority of GMO soy.
We have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably, which requires that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices. It’s embarrassing that in the land of the free we don’t even know whether our food is engineered to be saturated in pesticide, unlike 64 other countries including every country in the EU, and Japan.
Meanwhile in Oregon, the citizen’s initiative, Measure 92, has grown stronger, with its own influx of financial backing to counter the negative effects of Big Agriculture’s corporate donations.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety have each donated $1 million for GMO labeling. Grassroots donations have been matched by Mercola.com, and other healthy food companies such as Nature’s Path, Bob’s Red Mill, Nutiva, Stonyfield Farms, and Amy’s Organics have contributed as well. The Organic Consumers Association, Presence Marketing, Food Democracy Now, and the Consumers Union have also contributed substantially to the labeling initiative.
To counter a move by the Hormel Foods Company (which donated $170,000 against labeling), Tom Hormel, heir of the Hormel Foods fortune, donated $500,000 in favor of the crucial GMO labeling, citing concerns about the high health risks from eating GMO foods.
Sixty-six countries around the world have banned all use of GMO seeds and food products. Many independent scientific studies have been conducted that show the dangers and health risks of eating foods with GMOs, and consumers are now asserting a ‘right to know’ what is in their foods.
The GMO Labeling vote in Oregon and Colorado on November 4th will be instrumental in raising the standards for a healthy future in the U.S., for consumers, for farmers, and for the soil itself. The late President Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” The soil, the seed, and the harvest are all at stake in this effort to label GMOs.