US Government Brokers Deal Between Big Biotech and Big OrganicSunday, January 30, 2011
Our Agriculture Czar, a Big Biotech guy, has brokered a deal for his biotech manufacturer clientele. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the USDA will allow genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa to be planted without restriction (which means a government-brokered deal to force Big Biotech’s genetically-engineered products on those who oppose them).
Organic and sustainable farming advocates were disappointed by the decision. “This creates a perplexing situation when the market calls for a supply of crops free of genetic engineering. The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, and consumers will not tolerate the accidental presence of genetic engineered materials in organic products yet GE crops continue to proliferate unchecked,” said Christine Bushway, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association in a statement.
Here’s a little bit of Vilsak history: former Iowa Governor Vilsack, a short-term presidential candidate in 2008, was named “Governor of the Year” by the Biotechnology Industry Association. He was also a founder and the Chair of the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership, which is described as a “clearinghouse for biotechnology information.” Hmmm – a little bit of government-private sector intermingling there?
Back in 2002, a group of biotech companies voluntarily agreed to not plant corn for pharmaceutical or industrial uses in the Midwestern states to prevent contamination of corn grown for food, and this was because the grain handlers, grocery manufacturers, food processors, and grain exporters, etc. requested that they do so for fear of contamination that could adversely affect their products and reputation. Vilsack, along with his congressional Friend of Biotech (FOB) Charles Grassley, immediately condemned the voluntary decision and referred to the decision as “knee-jerk” and a “policy that sets a dangerous precedent.” “King Vilsack,” as they called him in Iowa communities, was a frequent flyer on Monsanto corporate jets as took away citizens’ right to vote on what to grow in their own communities. (See a video dedicated to Vilsack here.)
We have a huge and exponentially growing market for organic products in the US because consumers, as they become more informed, are demanding food free of hormones, steroids, and genetic engineering. So pressure is being exerted upwards to satisfy consumer demands. Yet our favorite Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow concluded that this decision on the part of the US government was “guided by science.”
However, writer Ronnie Cummins describes this as an occasion where the organic elite (read: not the small organic growers) surrendered to Monsanto. Writes Cummins:
…The CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as “Governor of the Year” in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
Consumer organic groups have been pressuring retail food sellers to voluntarily adopt truth-in-lending practices to label GM foods to help serve their customers and assist them in making informed choices. The next step for these groups is trying to use political power to force labeling. While this is statist and unfortunate, the Big Food Corporatocracy continually uses the power of government to keep from being forced to capitulate to the same labeling laws to which other food manufacturers are subjected. This is because genetically modified food, for the masses who are becoming educated on the matter, carries a very negative connotation, and if these manufacturers who sell genetically modified foods were subjected to the same heavy-handed labeling laws as other food manufacturers, sales would plummet and profits would tumble.
The congressional, corporate-state Monsanto jet set, however, won’t allow any such thing to happen to their friends who supply the dough that will keep their congressional seats intact forevermore. So indeed, the tunnel-vision libertarianoids can continue to write me and tell me about this wonderful “free market” for genetically-engineered foods.