1.Buying the vote on GMOs - Mark Bittman
2.Farmers overwhelmingly support Prop 37 - article and videos
1.Buying the Vote on GMOs
Mark Bittman
New York Times, October 23 2012

Supporters of ingredients derived from "genetically modified foods," which hereafter I'll call GMOs — genetically modified organisms — are mostly the chemical companies who make them or other people who make money from them. They assert that a) there's no proof that GMOs are harmful to humans and b) studies demonstrating that they might be are largely flawed [1]. Point b might even be true, although since the chemical companies largely control the research, it's hard to tell.

But even if there were a way to guarantee that food produced with GMO ingredients is not directly bad for you, it remains clear that such food is in general bad for all of us, based on the collateral damage from producing it.

What most genetically engineered crops have in common is that they’re bred to be super-resistant to chemical herbicides or pesticides, chemicals that will kill pretty much everything except the specified crop. And as the weeds that those chemicals are meant to kill adapt and grow bigger and stronger, more and stronger chemicals are needed to try to deal with them.

At times these super-applications are successful, and at times they're not. Some weeds in GMO fields not only aren't killed by the recommended chemicals, but they also have to be controlled — using an advanced technology called "the machete."

One of the "new" chemicals, sold by Dow and used in conjunction with a newly engineered corn, is 2,4-D, which is one of the components in Agent Orange. This doesn't exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Nor does the concern that blanket spraying of 2,4-D may affect the growth and health of nontarget crops near the sprayed corn.

This is powerful stuff. These chemicals damage human health, and that's bad enough, especially if you're the farmer or farmworker applying them. And, needless to say, residues of those chemicals can persist on at least some of the resulting foods.

It's the overuse of frightening pesticides as well as the novel and largely untested nature of GMOs themselves that cause an estimated 90 percent of Americans to want food containing them to be labeled. Why aren't they? Because in 1992, the United States Food and Drug Administration decided — with a subtle nudge from the biotech industry — that genetically modified crops were not "materially" different from conventional ones. As a result, according to a new calculation from the Environmental Working Group, we each eat an estimated 193 pounds of genetically modified foods annually.

All of this could begin to change on Election Day, when California’s Proposition 37 — which would require the labeling of most foods containing GMOs — goes to a vote. On Sept. 15, I wrote that "polls show Prop 37 to be overwhelmingly popular: roughly 65 percent for to 20 percent against, with 15 percent undecided." But thanks to an infusion of big bucks by the opposition (led by Monsanto, DuPont, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association[2]), support for labeling is eroding. By some accounts the "no" advocates are spending $1 million a day, and a recent poll says the margin is now just 8 percent.

A million a day is not much for the chemical companies, who are and should be panic-stricken — because labeling GMOs is inevitable. It's already the norm elsewhere: more than 50 countries require it, including the entire European Union and China, which, despite being notoriously lax on food safety, sees the light on this.

And the trend is toward more caution, not less: just last week a court-appointed panel in India recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of genetically modified food crops to allow time for strengthening regulation and research.

We should have such luck. The closest we have to a GMO oversight agency is the United States Department of Agriculture, probably the friendliest watchdog imaginable. The U.S.D.A. has consistently declined to regulate GMOs and in many cases has helped them become dominant in much of American agriculture.

When asked about Prop 37, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: "Obviously we’re watching it…. Maybe it's time to think about it from a national perspective."

Vilsack and his boss (who once supported labeling, or said he did) will certainly give more consideration to labeling GMOs than would their wannabe replacements, who have in fact shilled for the biotech industry, but right now a "yes" vote on Nov. 6 is the best way we can move toward having a choice about consuming GMO foods. Which probably makes Prop 37 the most important popular vote on food policy this decade. If California resists the chemical companies’ scare tactics and votes "yes," GMOs in food could be over.

That's why Prop 37 is being fought by an opposition as unscrupulous as it is rich. Its opponents have told voters that labeling would increase their average food budget by hundreds of dollars a year. (It won't.) Their lead scientist, Dr. Henry Miller, was portrayed in a television ad as a Stanford University professor. (He isn't.) An ad (as well as the state's official voter guide!) also identified him as a senior official for the F.D.A. (Nope.) In fact, Dr. Miller led a tobacco front group that aimed to discredit the link between cigarettes and cancer. Nice.

That these tactics are working surprises no one, and is further argument against Citizens United and super PACs, and for big time campaign finance reform. [3]

In the meantime, the Right to Know creators of Prop 37 are relying on talent and humor. Will that — and, of course, having right on their side — be enough to counter a million bucks a day? Stay tuned.

1. They also like to claim that only by employing GMOs can we "feed the world," a ridiculous claim that will have to be disputed at another time.

2. Six of the top funders are the six largest pesticide companies, and three of them are European companies that can't grow GMOs in their own countries.

3. The editorial boards of major California newspapers are also lining up to help squash the yes vote.
2.Farmers For The Win!
Tom Fendley
Yes on 37, October 22 2012

Ted Sheely grows cotton in the San Joaquin Valley on his 8,700-acre farm.  Food companies aren’t required to tell us if the cotton is genetically engineered, even if it winds up in our food as cottonseed oil. [1-2.jpeg]

Ted appears in one of the many TV ads deliberately lying to California voters about Proposition 37.  This particular ad asserts that Prop 37 will raise food costs by “billions of dollars”.  There is no independent evidence---nor coherent logic---supporting that claim, of course.  Prop 37 simply requires a label on genetically engineered foods, which will cost consumers, well, nothing.  Food companies change their labels every 6-12 months on average; Prop 37 gives them 18 months.

Ted Sheely doesn’t speak for most farmers, more than 2,000 of whom have endorsed Proposition 37.  Why do farmers support Proposition 37?  For the same reasons most of us support it: because they believe we have the right to know what’s in the food they’re growing for us.

“When the CA Right to Know ballot initiative started to develop and the movement progressed, we thought it was a great idea: to label the product, to let the consumer make a choice about what they want to eat,” said Jessica Lundberg of Lundberg Family Farms.

Farmers and farmer organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, also support Prop 37 because having a simple label is the best way to find out if consumers want to eat genetically engineered food.

“The folks who are selling genetically engineered food need to tell the consumers the benefit,” said Lundberg.  “If consumers don’t have the ability to make that choice--because it’s not labeled--they don’t understand the value, and the owners of the technology don’t have a way to understand what’s valuable to the consumer.”

Farmers of genetically engineered crops also support Prop 37, including Troy Roush.  Troy said, “It comes down to people’s right to know what they eat, which is, to me, pretty obvious.  I mean, shouldn’t we all know what we’re eating?  As a farmer, I invite labeling, I encourage labeling, I’d love to see labeling.  Labeling is a win for farmers, and a win for consumers.”

Meanwhile, the lead funder of our opponent’s TV ads is pesticide giant Monsanto, and they’re no friend to the farmer.

“Monsanto has a policy that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown, ensuring that farmers have to buy new seeds every year,” reported the Washington Post.  “The company has filed lawsuits around the country to enforce its policy against saving the seeds for the future."

Indeed, Monsanto sues farmers who save their seeds----as farmers have done for more than 10,000 years--- and those farmers are fighting back.  Monsanto sued farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman for alleged unauthorized use of their seed, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Hugh’s appeal.

Farmers are profoundly and intimately connected to the food we eat every day.  And, overwhelmingly, they want us to know what we’re eating---and what they feed their own families.  And that’s why they’re voting Yes on 37.

Labeling is a win for farmers and a win for consumers
Dave Feral of Feral Family Farms
California Farmers Ask: "Why Hide What's In Our Food?"