7-21-16 – PMOs: Politically Modified Organizms

by Chris Campion

In a state that ranks 41st for business, nothing sells better politically than taking a stand on…food?

Vermont, a state with apparently nothing better to do,  has recently become the 1st state to require food labeling on product made with genetic engineering.  Vermont’s champion of all things natural (including his own hairstyle), Peter Shumlin had this to say about Vermont’s
historic moment:

“This is a true David and Goliath story, a small state fighting big food, big agriculture, big business and big money in Washington,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

No mention from Peter about how instituting single-payer in Vermont bends the state over (backwards, mostly) in terms of bowing to big business and big money in Washington.  But let’s get to food!

  1. All food is genetically modified.  Corn, wheat, soybeans, you name it, have all been bred for centuries so the most desirable traits in the product are prevalent.
  2. The state does not address meat or dairy, because, obviously, the dairy industry has a healthy interest in modifications made to cows so they can produce more milk.  I guess some GMOs are more equal than others, in the political science realm.
  3. Making crops virus-resistant  (as many genetic modifications do) improves yields and drives cost down, making food availability more widespread and cheaper.  Humans are injected annually with the flu vaccine.  Should we stop vaccine production immediately?  Should vaccinated humans be removed from store shelves immediately?
  4. Kale, (sorry hipsters) is a GMO.  Just ask the Smithsonian!  And Peter “Kale Boy” Shumlin!

As others have noted, there’s a host of reasons why GMO opposition exists, and it ignores the realities of the current food supply, and how food that today isn’t under the GMO labeling requirement has long been modified.

Ian Godwin, University of Queensland Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics, told Coach that a lot of the opposition to GMO foods stems from the fact big American multinational companies were some of the first to start using them.

“Part of it is an ideological thing against large multinationals, which was aided and abetted by the European Union because it seemed US seed companies were going to take over the seed industry in Europe,” he explains.

Secondly, the fact that organic certifying organisations refuse to certify GM products organic, has contributed to the belief that GM foods are less healthy or good for the environment.

“I have argued that [organic certification] shouldn’t just accept it or reject it –look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Professor Godwin says.

“If there is one that will allow us to not use [pesticides or insecticides] to control fungal diseases on tomatoes and potatoes, environmentally that might be a good thing.”

Australian Organic argues that there is not enough understood about GMOs and, “with many safe and proven forms of farming already available, the organic farmer believes it is important to allow Mother Nature to provide us food the way nature intended”.

But Professor Godwin counters that our current food supply is a far cry from how Mother Nature originally designed it.

“We have to recognise that agriculture is not natural,” he points out.

“We are taking one species and trying to make that the only species that grows on a hundred hectares of land. That doesn’t occur in nature.”

Professor Godwin says that apples naturally would be bitter and the size of cherries, while maize grasses were carefully selected by humans to find ones with more seeds to produce more yield.

“Wild maize has maybe 20 seeds in each cob but through domestication we selected bigger cobs that have 800 seeds,” he points out.

“We have done a lot with domestication of plants to make them unable to survive in nature.”

But what’s the short-term impact of the labeling requirement in Vermont?  Food taken off shelves by grocers, that know they are not in compliance with Vermont law.

Price Chopper, one of Vermont’s leading chains, announced Friday that it would no longer sell about 3,000 products manufactured by companies which refuse to put the Vermont label on their product.

So, when the average Vermonter goes to buy groceries, what they can choose to purchase is reduced, meaning someone else is making their choices for them, again.  Politicians are making the choices for them, so the politician can yet again buy votes by appealing to a demographic slice that wants nothing more than to dictate how Vermonters live their lives, and what the “right” choices are.  As Venezuela is ably demonstrating, centralized planning as to what you can get, when you can get it, and price controls on crops, etc, result in utter chaos and shortages.

When the politicians are making the choices for you, everybody loses.  Like single-payer in Vermont, where you get all the options to choose from that you want, as long as you choose this option.

Why do all of Shumlin’s political victories make Vermonters worse off?  Single-payer.  Vermont Yankee.  GMO labeling.

And why did they keep voting him in?

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