Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are We Losing the Food Fight?!

Lately, my stomach has begun to sink when I hear my husband reading the Acres USA magazine.  "Uh-oh," he'll say.  "That's not good."  Or, "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

"What is it now?"  I ask...wondering if I should query.  Do I really want more bad news?  (I'm still recovering from the assault on heritage hogs in Michigan.)

He replies with a scowl.  "You won't believe what's happening in Bellingham."

He's reading the November issue...the dilemma is described thus:
Traditional Rural Lifestyles Under Assault:  Despite the growing back-to-the-land movement, many legal and planning challenges continue to stymie smaller farms while favoring industrial-scale agriculture.
As I cringe at yet another attempted murder of Real Food, hubby gives me a glimpse of the latest onerous move against food freedom in a locale that is known for its clean food cravings.  This time it's Whatcom County regulations making it more difficult for small farms to raise and sell food.

A happy, pastured pig
And I can't help but wonder...what's happening?  We live in a day when the message of clean food, real health, and consumer rights is louder than ever (who hasn't seen Food, Inc.? who hasn't heard of Joel Salatin?  how many Real Food blogs does it take?  ...Ron Paul, anyone?).  Yet, it feels like we're losing the fight.

Just look at the recent stinging loss of Prop 37.  I feel like I have the credibility as a former Californian to say this...What happened people?  Prop 37 fails?  You can't be serious!  You don't want to know if you are eating GMOs?  Well, I don't believe it for a moment.  It is more likely that we are seeing the twisted system at work.  Can you say foul play?

Of course I expect Monsanto and cronies to use their deep pockets (and powerful friends in high places) to fight consumer rights and food freedoms, but I don't expect the voters to play into their hands.  Big frankenAg loves it when consumers are swayed by "studies" that organic food is no healthier than the alternative.  In its fight of Prop 37, Monsanto falsely quoted the FDA to mislead voters.  But none of that should matter, right?  Why would concerned and knowledgeable voters fall prey to false advertising and phony studies ("We're Stanford...if we say it it must be true")?  We're living in the information age.  Are we still trusting the FDA and robodocs? (good one, Sarah.)  Aren't we smarter than that?  We know that power corrupts.  We know how people will say anything for money...for control.  We know better...we care more...don't we?

That's right, I'm a grazing goat...and I give great milk!
California has traditionally led the nation in the food fight.  But the failure of Prop 37 plays right into the hands of Big Ag.  Any win for them is a deleterious loss for us, the people...for our future food and health choice freedoms.  

I recall some anti-Prop 37 rhetoric from the Libertarian camp in the months before the vote.  To my understanding, the Libertarians took umbrage at further government regulation in this arena.  They would prefer that consumers somehow induce companies to voluntarily label their foods.  I could be mistaken, but that's my take on the argument.  Without waxing too politically philosophical, I would like to share my (radical and perhaps contradictory?) view on that message.

I think it's a little bit of rubbish.

Don't get me wrong...I consider myself a Libertarian of sorts (if I allow myself to enter any classification at all politically).  Of course I agree that all levels of our government have metastasized, like a cancerous growth, far beyond the boundaries of their acceptable purposes.  I despise big government and over-regulation of our lives.  I would love to see government out of our business, and out of the marketplace (for the most part...hang on, I'll get there).  

But let's get real.  It isn't happening.  Legislators and government agents are not looking out for your best interests...they are held sway by corporate interests.  (Case in point, the on-going raw milk war.)  And at this crucial time in our nation's food fight, I do not believe the GMO labeling issue is the ground in which to stake the flag of "no more government regulation."  The government is already protecting the bad guys...is it too much to desire that our government (for the people, by the people, right?) requires Truth in Labeling?

At its core, I see Prop 37 as a truth in labeling law.  It would have required "food" corporations to enact full disclosure to consumers about what they are eating.  It seems to me that truth in labeling fits seamlessly with a Libertarian view of government's purpose.  Based on the simple yet wise historical tradition of common law, the role of government should be to protect citizens from encroachment, and to enforce contracts.  Common law says: Do all that you have promised to do, and Do not encroach on persons and their property.  Period.  If any peoples anywhere at any time desire to enact a government, those alone are the principles that should be upheld.  I see these principles at work in labeling laws.  Fair and just regulations would be those that disallow force and fraud in the market place.  Truth in labeling reduces fraud.

In addition to eliminating (or lessening) the perpetuation of fraud in the food market, labeling laws would reduce encroachment upon persons, in the form of protecting consumers from being physically harmed by Big Ag's offerings.  This is vitally important when we understand the truth that we are what we eat...that what we eat can damage our DNA.  You are made well or ill by what you put in your body.  (Fake) food corporations would no longer be able to hide behind their lack of disclosure.  People would be empowered to make educated choices about what substances they are feeding themselves and their children.  Ignorance is certainly not bliss when one is being poisoned against one's will.  

Unless you are an informed consumer, you can fall prey to poison.  Big Ag's lack of disclosure makes you a potential victim.  You have a fundamental, inalienable right to know what is in your food.  In my view, enacting truth in labeling laws fits within the Libertarian framework of dismantling fraud and enforcing the anti-encroachment rule.  I could be way off base here, I allow room for that possibility, LOL.  I'm all for dismantling government's hold on our food system altogether.  No fingers in the pot whatsoever.  Government's only role would be to punish companies for encroachment and contract violation (lying, cheating, stealing, polluting, poisoning...).  If that were to happen, the GMO monster might be significantly diminished.  Without shelter and enablement from Big Brother, maybe the frankenfood producers would skulk away.  One can dream...

Well, coming on the heels of the GMO labeling defeat, it seems California will no longer be a bastion of enlightenment in the Real Food fight...we'll need to begin looking elsewhere for our inspiration and national clean food leadership.  Perhaps we can follow the lead of San Juan County...at least, until Monsanto sues them and buys itself a win.

Now that's Real Food
So, what's the answer?  Can we trust that the "free market" will prevail and we will always be assured the choices we desire?  I'm not putting my eggs in that basket, considering that Monsanto and cronies desire not just part of market share, but to control the entire market.  They already have "good friends" in government positions and regulatory agencies.  I think our real hope lies in boycott and community self-sufficiency.  Corporate food avoidance is the best medicine.  If you want to be certain you are not ingesting GMOs, do not eat any processed foods, nor any crops/produce known to have GMO in production.  Purchase raw ingredients from farmers you trust; ask them about their seed sources.  Don't patronize farmers who buy seed from Monsanto et al. 

Currently, you may be able to avoid GMOs by purchasing Organic foods, but I have no hope that this will continue to be the safeguard we need.  The USDA certified Organic standards are already full of compromises...where is that bus headed?  With Big Ag at the wheel, I certainly do not trust the future integrity and purity of the Organic label.  Right now, you can still vote with your fork.  Consider any company unwilling to fully display the components of their ingredients not to be trusted.  Do not buy from such companies.

Freely ranging members of the egg brigade

My family just spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with dear friends.  We enjoyed organic pastured heritage breed turkey purchased from a farmer with whom we have developed a relationship.  We ate an organic pastured ham from one of the heritage breed pigs that my husband raised and butchered himself.  Among other lovely foods, we were blessed with an abundance of organic gourmet potatoes (multiple varieties) from a local farmer friend.  (For the nonGAPS eaters in the group.)  The meal was fabulous.  During our dinner, we shared with each other blessings for which we were thankful.  More than one person mentioned good food and good health.  My prayer for all of you...for all of us...is that we may continue to pursue our fundamental, inalienable food and health freedoms.  To do so may require a food fight of increased vigor.  Let's rise to the challenge.