Eroding Democracy: Why GMOs are About More Than Food

Nearly 50 countries worldwide severely restrict or outright ban the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  Here in the United States, President Obama just signed Bill HR 933 which included a rider that bars the federal government from halting the sale and planting of genetically modified seeds, even if they are found to be harmful to human health or the environment.  The Farmers Assurance Provision, dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act from its critics, allows biotech companies to circumvent normal regulatory pathways, essentially allowing companies to plant now and assess the impact later.  While the safety and ethical implications are a concern, the Monsanto Protection Act also sets a precedent for allowing corporate disregard of consumer safety protections.

How it Happened?

While the world had their eyes on the Supreme Court case on DOMA, this provision was slid into the emergency spending bill with little notice or uproar. In fact, provisions similar to the Monsanto Protection Act have been attempted in the past and successfully halted by the very active food justice movement.  This time however, they were unsuccessful. Many of the people voting on Bill HR 933 had no idea it included this provision. Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, crafted this provision with Monsanto’s help and despite a petition containing over 250 000 signatures, it was signed into law on March 26th, 2013.

Why it Matters?

Although this is set to expire in 6 months, the environmental impact of planting genetically modified seeds could carry on for many generations to come.  In truth, we just don’t know what the impact will be and unfortunately, it is largely up to the biotech industry to research and self regulate. What we do know, is that the propagation of the genetic material that is carried within the seeds cannot be recalled if found unsafe.  We are currently conducting a large-scale environmental experiment without a safety net.  Because this provision allows the biotech giants to bypass the normal environmental evaluations and are even shielded from judicial scrutiny or litigation, we are giving a free pass to companies that are not beholden to the people, but only to its bottom line. 

Eroding Democracy

Now maybe my expectations have been set too high, maybe it is not the corporations that have a social responsibility to preserve Mother Nature and allow us informed consent, but certainly government officials do.  As a society we should be nothing short of outraged by the growing prowess and power of corporate lobbyists and should be having public discourse about the insidiousness of corporate campaign contributions from biotech companies to our elected officials.  Now this isn’t to say that all corporations are evil, but we need to be acutely aware of their influence on public policy and legislation.  The revolving door in Washington, that allows for the conflict of interest between corporate executives and lobbyists and they’re appointed positions of power, is another deceptive way that corporations can ensure their sway over our political process.

The Monsanto Protection Act in an unprecedented display of power that undermines federal oversight and is in direct contradiction to our constitutionally guaranteed separation of powers.  It circumvents all the normal checks and balances put in place to ensure due diligence and protection of the public interests.  If this is not a concern to you, it should be.  There are growing concerns about the health implications, the ethical implications and even, spiritual implications of allowing these GMOs to flourish while greatly under researched and unevaluated - all the while being sold to us without a label.

What Can We Do?

While all of this may leave you feeling disempowered, there are a few things we can do.  

1. Vote with your Wallet 

The best weapon we have against the biotech industry and over reaching legislation such as this, is to spend our money in alignment with our values. How we spend our money is vitally important in creating change in the marketplace.  This may take a little more work on your part, as until now we have been unsuccessful at requiring GMOs to be labeled. However, a sure fire way to avoid them is to buy organic.  Not only will organic food not contain GMOs, you are supporting a sustainable, agricultural model that aims to work in conjunction with Mother Nature rather than against it.  If you are unable to buy organic then avoid processed foods.  Up to 80% of processed foods contain some type of GMO.  A great resource to find certified, non-GMO products is the Non-GMO Project.

2.  Use your Voice

Speak loud and from the heart.  Let your concerns be heard.  Maybe once proper research and evaluations are done, GMOs will be proven safe, but until then, the risk is too great to sit on the side lines. Social media is a great vehicle to get the word out about GMOs.  With the click of a mouse, you have the opportunity to spread the word within your sphere of influence.  Share petitions, documentaries, articles and opinions.  Express your concern to anybody that will listen.  Growing awareness of this issue is our second best weapon against this powerful force and their disinformation campaign.

3. Get Involved

Find people in your area that share your concern and take action.  There is nothing more important than our food and the environment in which it is grown.  Speak to your local political representatives, express your concerns, write letters and sign petitions.  There are many great organizations out there.  Here are a few great resources to get you started:  The Institute for Responsible Technology, Food Democracy Now and The Center for Food Safety.

The issue of GMOs reaches far beyond just the health and environmental concerns.  What is happening in the biotech industry is a symptom of a much larger issue. Our voices are being drowned out by special interests and corporate lobbyists.  It is time to speak up and fight for our food, our health, the environment and our democracy.  

Angela Levesque is health educator, writer, exercise physiologist and energy healer. She hosts 2 weekly online radio shows on a2zen.fm. Angela teaches several classes on self-care, meditation & weight loss. Visit www.hestiahealth.com for more information. Follow on https://twitter.com/HestiaHealth and http://www.facebook.com/hestiahealth.

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