Battle Over Our Food

There has been a lot of conversation in the last few days about certain American billionaires trying and—more significantly—failing to buy the last election. If you view the election this way, it was a fantastic display of “We the People” in action. However, California’s Measure 37, which would have required food manufacturers to identify genetically modified ingredients on their labels, succeeded.

The United States is in the first stages of a food revolution, a time during which people will have to decide whether they want to eat food that is cheap or food that is nutritious. At the moment, these things are mutually exclusive.

At the moment, not everyone in the United States eats every day. Many people only have access to the cheapest of food, the mega-processed, prepackaged schlock that is nearly devoid of nutritional value. Diabetes is an epidemic. This is an embarrassment for the richest country in the world.

The stated mission of mega-corporations like Monsanto is to feed the world. They look to products like “Golden rice,” a plant that has extra beta-carotene imbued in it, to fill the empty bellies of billions of people. Regular agriculture is not cutting it, they say. To some degree, Monsanto is right.

People who are against genetically modified organisms argue that they threaten the entire world’s food chain by introducing “plants” that have not been tested for their effects on the environment nor on human beings. They believe the real mission of corporations like Monsanto is to “own” agriculture, to create a world in which the only food available is the food to which they own patents. Anti-GMO people are also right.

Anyway, back to California. In 2012, a bill to require GMO ingredients to be identified as such got onto California’s ballot. It wasn’t trying to ban GMO foods, just to let people know when they’re there.

This particular ballot measure was about choice—the people who want to avoid GMOs can, and the people who don’t care can do that, too. The following corporations launched a campaign to defeat Measure 37. Many of them won’t surprise you:

  • Monsanto
  • Cargill
  • Kraft
  • DuPont

A few of them might:

  • Kashi
  • Cascadian Farm
  • Horizon Organic

I know some of them surprised me.

While most elections were not bought in 2012, this one was—the ballot failed in response to ads claiming food prices would go up and downplaying the risk of genetically modified ingredients.

We have to figure out a lot of things, one of which is how to feed all the people on the planet without destroying the planet. Measure 37 marks the beginning of that process, not the end.

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