Notes From the General Manager

Lisa Blake

A customer mentioned Michael Pollan to me in a way that made it clear she thought I'd know who he was, so I looked him up. Serendipitously (that one is even more fun to say) he was in my Dr.-Mercola newsletter the very next day, so I watched the entire hour-and-a-half presentation of his UC-Berkeley class, Food Movement Rising. I had decided to drop the GMO topic for a while, but some recent news items are important.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final report on February 19, absolving the biotech industry of contamination of non-GM seeds with their products from other fields. The USDA report concludes that organic and other non-GM farmers should simply buy insurance to protect against GMO contamination. (From the Website

The Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds tracked Monsanto's law suits and learned the firm won more than $23 million from 410 farmers and 56 small businesses. They outspend and wear down the farmers, and have spent $10 million dollars a year on these lawsuits, paying a staff of 75 lawyers for just this purpose. They won even when farmers hadn't bought their GMO seeds, stating that when farmers used their pesticide Roundup, they should have known the plants came from seeds that were their patented ones because the pesticide Roundup didn't kill the plants.

Last Friday, Vermont's House Agricultural Committee passed (8-3) H. 112 in support of labeling GMOs, and the state's House and Senate look likely to pass it. However, Monsanto has promised to sue, as they did when Vermont passed the first mandatory labeling law in the nation in 1994 requiring labels on milk and dairy products derived from cows injected with the controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone. Monsanto won in Federal Court, a judge's deciding that dairy corporations have the first amendment right to remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH—even though rBGH has been linked to severe health damage in cows and increased cancer risk for humans, and is banned in much of the industrialized world, including Europe and Canada.

Do you know that the USDA has never denied application for genetically-modified-crop approval? That 61 other countries have labeling laws to protect them from unknowingly eating genetically altered food, but not the United States? Now the next wave of GMO seeds is being developed to withstand an assault of multiple herbicides, because the weeds that Roundup kills are becoming more and more resistant. The chemical in this most-used agrochemical is glyphosate, which is proving to be more dangerous to human health than we've been given to understand.

Dr. Don Huber is a professor at Purdue University, teaching pathology, soil microbiology, and micro-ecological interactions as they relate to plant disease. He's considered an expert in an area of science that relates to the toxicity of genetically engineered (GE) foods. He's warning of the human effects: glyphosate becomes systemic (so it can't be washed off), so it's in the plant and goes into the animal that eats it, where it kills beneficial bacteria in the gut. Our intestines contain 80 percent of our immune systems, which is dependent on a healthy ratio of good and bad bacteria. The plants themselves are nutritionally deprived: micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc can be reduced by as much as 80-90 percent in GE plants (See the rest of the article at Dr. Mercola's Website: search Worse than DDT)

Back to Michael Pollan, a journalist who wrote In Defense of Food, speaking to the defeat of California's Proposition 37: I highly recommend watching his talk because he is hopeful, in the end. The issue of GMO labeling is going to be on the ballots of other states, and the next looks to be Washington, where the people's initiative 522, The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.

Mr. Pollan points out that those food-manufacturing companies such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, and General Mills (as opposed to Monsanto, Sygenta, and Dupont, intimately involved in the creation of GMOs) who kicked in all those millions of dollars have a lot to fear from a public relations backlash, now that food activists are talking about boycotts of the biggest contributors to the defeat of the law. What do they have to win? Pollan thinks they'll not want to fight this fight again because people are waking up to the issue. They did not win the philosophical fight: they won a savagely fought campaign by scaring people about the technicalities, convincing people that the proposition was badly written, would cause many problems for small retailers. They never once talked about genetically modified food because if they do, they'll be defeated.

Watch out for those public-relations guys the big companies hire: for instance, the Center for Consumer Freedom is a corporate lobby paid for by the restaurant and food manufacturers. They've concluded there is no food movement outside of Berkley and the Upper West Side. Prove them wrong. Get involved. Seek out those excellent talks sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Food Council. Read Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Jeffrey M. Smith, watch Food, Inc., Fresh, The Future of Food. Spread the word and watch what you take into your body. Eat organic food. Join and shop your co-op.