Originally published November 6 2012
Michael Pollan voices support for GMO labeling initiative, stresses importance of the rising food movement
by Summer Tierney
(NaturalNews) In Proposition 37, the California ballot initiative that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods, the health-minded community has an important opportunity to put some muscle where its mouth is. If the measure passes on Tuesday, it could very well demonstrate the growing strength and numbers of an active food movement to a Congress and a White House who may, as yet, remain unaware that there are serious votes to be had on this issue - particularly among the mothers and young people who seem the biggest champions for the cause. That's the message from journalist, author and activist Michael Pollan, to members of what he's calling the "Dinner Party."
In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Pollan emphasized the significance the ballot measure could have in garnering enough attention for the constituency supporting it, finally to be taken seriously within the legislature, which is ultimately where regulatory policy changes must occur. As goes California, so goes the nation, it is said. Pollan reminded listeners that this is because California represents 13 percent of the country's economy, and that's apparently a sizable enough majority to continue to help clear the way forward for other states.
Pollan's specific emphasis was less on the potential health risks related to genetically modified foods, and more on the transparency required in order for consumers to be able to make informed decisions about what they eat and what they feed their families. There has been a veil between consumers and the foods they eat for too long, he suggests. Over the objections of scientists, the government bodies that be declared GM foods to be "substantially equivalent" to nature's version - raising the question of how the GM varieties, if they really are considered to be like the real thing, were ever recognized as unique enough to have qualified for patent protection.
If genetically modified foods are so wonderful, Pollan asks, then why aren't the biotech companies bragging about their presence in so much of our country's food supply, beyond merely "the elite precincts of the op-ed and business pages" and directly to the consumer in the form of labeling? Rather than promoting their own products this way, industry leaders have so far spent at least $40 million dollars working to defeat the Proposition 37 measure, which would do little else than simply require companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta to take credit for their apparently successful biotechnological "advances"... So then why are they so shy of the spotlight?
What they actually fear, Pollan posits in an article published recently, is the "irrationality" or "skittishness" of consumers. By their definition, these terms might apply to the masses who went berserk after learning the truth about "pink slime," ammonia-laden slaughterhouse scraps which had apparently been fed for years to unwittingly ignorant consumers. Its widespread use in fast-food hamburger patties and its inclusion in the federal school lunch program was made public in an online petition earlier this year, resulting in an explosion of consumer outrage and the swift subsequent removal of the product from certain locations, as well as the closing of some of the plants which had produced it.
"So it appears the loss of confidence is mutual: the food industry no longer trusts us, either, which is one reason a label on genetically modified food is so terrifying: we might react 'irrationally' and decline to buy it..." Pollan writes. "The industry has never liked to talk about these practices - which is to say, about how the food we eat is actually produced... [and] still would rather not mention it to the consumers who actually eat the stuff. Presumably, that silence owes to the fact that, to date, genetically modified foods don't offer the eater any benefits whatsoever - only a potential, as yet undetermined risk. So how irrational would it be, really, to avoid them?"
And how ready is the food movement's "Dinner Party" to stand up and be recognized as a serious force for change in the political arena? These are questions that could be at least partially answered by Tuesday's vote. Still, Pollan speculates, if the measure passes, Monsanto is likely to challenge the initiative in court, claiming that states may not preempt federal regulation. Pollan argues there is a problem with that rationale; however, "there is no federal regulation on labeling, only an informal ruling, and therefore nothing to preempt."
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