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Big Food has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat the country’s first mandatory GMO labeling laws. It’s time for us to step up and fight back. By Ronnie Cummins August 3, 2012

 

After 45 years of hard work and grassroots struggle, the organic community has built up a $30-billion organic food and farming industry and community. This consumer and small farmer-driven movement, under steady attack by biotech and Big Food lobbyists, with little or no help from the federal government, has managed to create a healthy and sustainable alternative to America’s disastrous, chemical and energy-intensive system of industrial agriculture. Consumer demand is behind strong organic sales. Conscious of the health hazards of genetic engineering and chemical agriculture, and the mortal threat of global warming and climate change, millions of Americans are demanding food and other products that are certified organic.

It’s a hopeful sign that, in spite of economic recession, organic foods now make up 4.2 percent of all grocery store sales. However given the magnitude of the country’s public health, environmental, and climate crisis, 10 percent annual growth in the organic sector is simply not enough to reach the proverbial ‘tipping point” before our current crisis metastasizes into what can only be described as a catastrophe.

In the food sector, we cannot continue to hand over 90 percent of our consumer dollars to out-of-control, biotech, chemical-intensive, energy-intensive, greenhouse gas polluting corporations and “profit at any cost” retail chains. The growth of the Organic Alternative is literally a matter of survival. After two decades of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered foods to animals and humans, it’s time to move beyond defensive measures – such as petitioning the FDA – and go on the offensive. With organic farming, climate stability, and public health under the gun of the gene engineers and their partners in crime, it’s time to do more than complain. With more than 1/3 of U.S. cropland already contaminated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), with mounting scientific evidence that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects, and serious food allergies, and with new biotech mutants like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops, and genetically engineered trees and animals being fast-tracked for approval by the government, with absolutely no pre-market safety-testing required, time is running out.

The burning question for us all then becomes how — and how quickly — can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming?

The first step is to change our labeling laws. Nearly 80 percent of non-organic processed foods, including so-called “natural” foods, contain genetically engineered bacteria, viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes, and foreign DNA. Yet none of these foods are labeled. No wonder only 30 percent of Americans realize they’re probably eating GMOs on a regular basis. Health-minded and environmentally conscious consumers actually buy more products marketed or labeled as “natural” ($50 billion a year) than they do organic ($30 billion), either because they don’t understand the difference between organic and “natural”, and/or because so-called “natural” foods are typically cheaper than certified organic. For instance, two-thirds of the foods sold in Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s are not organic, but rather “natural.” Polls indicate that consumers are confused about the qualitative difference between organic and natural products, with a near-majority believing that “natural” means “almost organic.”

It’s time to put an end to this massive fraud, and take back our right to know what’s in our food. Since the federal government and the White House seem to listen more to Monsanto and Big Ag than the 90 percent of Americans who support mandatory labeling of GMOs, OCA and allied activists have decided to bypass Washington politicians and take matters into our own hands.

What is likely the most important food fight in a generation is unfolding in California. The grassroots-powered Nov. 6 California Ballot Initiative (Proposition 37) to require labels on genetically engineered foods and to ban the routine industry practice of marketing GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural” is approaching a decisive moment. The outcome of this ballot initiative will determine whether GMO foods are labeled, not only in California but across the entire United States and Canada as well. It’s time for all of us who care about an organic and sustainable future to close ranks and support the Nov. 6 California Ballot Initiative (Proposition 37). Over 650 organizations, organic companies and retail stores have already endorsed the campaign. But we need thousands more.

We need volunteers to help out — in California and nationwide. Please sign up (see the link at the bottom of this story) if you are willing to approach the managers of the retail stores, CSA, restaurants, or farmers market where you regularly buy your organic food and ask them to join the more than 100 retail stores that have already publicly endorsed Prop 37. Once your neighborhood health food store or co-op has endorsed the campaign, you can get them further involved in distributing campaign information and raising money. CA and our allies in this campaign to pass Prop 37 have raised almost $4 million dollars so far, but Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers, and the Farm Bureau will spend $20-40 million to defeat Prop 37. Thank you to the 15,000 people who have already made donations to OCA or the OCF for this campaign, but we need to raise even more.

Restoring consumers’ right to know, banning the industry practice of marketing GMO-tainted foods as “natural,” and starting to drive genetically engineered foods off supermarket shelves will not solve all of the life and death issues that are currently staring us in the face: the climate crisis, endless wars, economic depression, corporate control over government, and the health crisis. But cutting Monsanto and the biotechnocrats down to size and restoring consumer choice are good first steps toward sustainability and a healthy food and farming system. Just as important, in political terms, by defeating the Biotech Bullies and indentured politicians, we can begin to restore the tattered self-confidence of the American body politic. A resounding victory by the organic community in the California Prop 37 campaign will prove to ourselves and the currently demoralized body politic that we can indeed take back control over the institutions and public policies that determine our daily lives. Now is the time to move forward. Support Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Foods Act. This is the food fight of our lives. Please join and support us in this historic struggle.

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. http://www.organicconsumers.org.
Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/02-0

 
Goats butting heads.

Image via Wikipedia

As I write this, I am eating my breakfast.  It consists of six eggs, soft cooked(actually overeasy), fried in bacon grease and gathered from my own chickens.  My coffee has raw goat milk in it and I made the bread that I am dipping in the soft runny yolk.  By recent bureaucratic actions and rulemaking, I am a criminal.  The juice I am drinking is actually a mixture of a water kefir that I ferment on my countertop and herbal tea gathered from my yard and garden.  Later, I will probably refresh myself with a glass of kombucha made with my own spring water.  I sort of regret that I need to import the tea…

In the last few years, I have been vaguely aware of the increasing numbers of regulations regarding just what it is we are all supposed to eat.  What business is it of the first lady how much barbecue I eat?  Who elected her as my personal dietician.  Lately, big city mayors have trying to get in on the act.  While I don’t often go to the city, and even less often I drink a soda pop, why exactly does Mayor Bloomburg of New York care how big my coke is?

I salt my food liberally, with sea salt, and occasionally with colt’s foot ashes if I haven’t been to town lately to buy groceries.  I eat a lot of the things that are bad for you.  I also eat an awful lot of the thing that are good for you.  Balance in all things.  But to make this asinine trend worse, these self appointed mothers have somehow decided that I can’t even know if my store bought items contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).  In case you don’t know, these are the same familiar food items you have always bought, but the plants or animals they come from have been modified by literally blasting  a culture of their genetic material with genetic material from some other, often unrelated, species.  The resulting “Frankenfood” has new traits that nature has not seen fit to put in the original.  Often the material comes from unrelated things like putting crustacean genes into plants and lightning bug lights into corn.  Or like potatoes or corn that can produce their own toxic pesticides to protect them from bugs and weeds.  These pesticides would not be allowed if they were applied by the farmer, but they are virtually unregulated.  The EPA says its not their problem since these are food items, the FDA (don’t get me started) says they are pesticides so they don’t need to cover them.   I know I don’t want to eat anything that is too noxious for even a bug to eat.   Yet these  and other genetic monstrosities are fast becoming ubiquitous in the grocery store.  Since we are supposed to be making healthy choices, should we be able to decide whether or not we eat such things?  The FDA says no, GMO foods do not have to be labeled as such, and big corporations often sue any companies that apply a label to their foods stating that they DO NOT contain GMO ingredients.  Are they serious?  I can’t even be trusted to know what IS NOT in my food?  If they are so good for us, why the secrecy?  (I encourage you to do even a small amount of research on this topic, and I will post a few links here later after I come back from the barn.)  And I won’t even touch here on the fact that these modified plants pass their traits along in their pollen and seed, often “infecting” neighboring farms.  Or the fact that the big corporations have been able to sue the infected farms for “stealing” their patented genetics.  Or the fact that someone really thinks it is ok to patent life forms…

And why all the fuss over raw milk?  Without getting into the great (and often misleading) argument of whether milk is better or safer raw or cooked (pasteurized), most every farmer I ever knew drank and fed his family raw milk as a matter of convenience.  It was out there in the bulk tank or fresh from the udder, and “why the heck should I bother to cook it?  Never hurt me or anyone I know, and my family is my most important livestock I raise!”  If an informed choice has been made, then whose business is it, really?  And yet many states, at the encouragement of the federal government, are raiding farms and families “suspected in dealing in raw milk”.  Really?  Armed raids on the Amish?    I would think that the state of California (or Ohio or Pennsylvania…) would have better things to do or to spend their borrowed money on than raids on folks selling organic produce and raw milk, especially since it is labeled as such, along with government mandated health warnings to boot…  Perhaps they haven’t noticed it yet, but they have somewhat of a reputation (with those of us in the flyover states) as having something of a drug problem, and a certain level of crime that many of us would be uncomfortable with.  (I’ll also post a couple of links here when I am done in the barn.)

I missed a lot of this, living out in the woods, and am only just catching up.  That being said, it seems most folks are as unaware as I have been, but they have not been protected by their ignorance.  I know what I have been eating, because I generally know where it grew.  Other folks have not been as lucky.  They, and probably you, have been lied to, and the lies continue.  Go meet a farmer, you’ll be glad you did.

Enough ranting, I gotta go milk.

 

G. .K. Chesterton was born this day (May 29th) in London, 1874.

 

.Writer

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

 

In Heretics he writes of George Bernard Shaw:

After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.”

In the same book, he says of Oscar Wilde.

“The same lesson [of the pessimistic pleasure-seeker] was taught by the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion; but the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people. Great joy does not gather the rosebuds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw.”

He wrote in Orthodoxy concerning the necessity of making symbolic sacrifices for the gift of creation: “Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.”

 
Red Fox cubs.

Red Fox cubs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning was clear and bright and the kind of blue that seems you are looking all the way into outer space.  Spring is just waking up here and it has been alternatively hot and cold, varying back and forth from 80 degrees in March to below freezing and a several inches of snow at the end of April.  I have been moving my goats to different parts of  my overgrown woodlot to clear the multi-flora rose and other invasive nasties from the understory so that I can pasture there.  After milking we wander up to the new areas and the goats browse, and the hens follow us.  As the goats clear the taller stuff, the hens scratch clean and aerate the soil, allowing good grass and other tasties to flourish.

The upper reaches of my woods are fenced with 4 foot tall cattle panels.  They are easy to move, relatively strong, and can be repaired easily by one man as trees and branches occasionally fall on them.  My panels were all bought at different times, and have different sized spaces at the bottom.  Some are small enough that a chicken can slip through, and some are not.  As a rule I try to keep the hens inside with goats as it seems to add a layer of protection from predators.  My sovereign, almost feral hens have never felt the sting of predation although they daily roam several hundred yards through the woods from the open barn where they roost at night – that is until today.

I was bending over a white thorn sapling for the goats to reach, and was vaguely aware that a few of my hens, some of the Black Austr0lorps, had slipped through the fence and were scratching the pasture to be on the other side.  I figured they knew what they were doing, and it was so peaceful with everyone eating their breakfast as the spring birds serenaded.  They would come back in as we made our way back around toward the barn.

A sudden quick squawk and rustle caught my attention, and turning I saw two hens hightailing it back through the fence as another squawk and the sounds of a struggle sent a jolt of adrenaline through me.  Without seeing the hen, I guessed that a fox must have grabbed her, and somehow, I found myself on the other side of the fence, pistol drawn and following the sounds of a struggling, screaming hen as they receded into the woods beyond my property.  I raced through the muck below my spring and scrambled up the steep, brushy bank on the other side.  Multi-flora rose and Japanese Honeysuckle vines tore at my clothes and grabbed my boots as I raced along the hillside.  Having passed beyond my property line, I was in unfamiliar territory, and I ran with my head cocked to the side to hear the fewer and fewer sounds of my valiant hen receding ahead of me in the distance for guidance.

Finally, I burst out into a small swamp, and had to stop to try to hear my hen.  Alas, all was quiet and peaceful but for the beating of my own heart and the rushing blood in my temples.  Slowly looking around, still listening for the sounds of the struggle, I began to realize where I was.  I found myself in the back yard of some neighbor I do not know, whose drive leads onto a different road than mine and whose property I had never been on.  Figuring the sight of a wild eyed man in torn green flannels waving a pistol was probably not a good first impression, I faded back into the brush while I listened and thought.  The fox must have finally won, and though she put up a valiant fight, was now going to be breakfast herself, perhaps for a small brood of future predators.

I turned and considered my way back.  The heavy brush was foreboding.  Somehow I had covered a huge distance and a few moments.  As I made my way back I considered that what had taken but a few moments would now take about ten minutes of slogging though heavy brush and crossing the outflows of my spring and at least one other spring I had never seen before.  My flock was diminished by one but I had learned more about my own land, its residents, and the lands nearby.  I still don’t know how I got over that fence.

 

 

American flag

American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.naturalnews.com/035478_freedom_tyranny_philosophy.html

 

 

This is perhaps the best article Mike Adams of the NaturalNews.com has ever written!  I too raise chickens and dairy goats, urinate in my garden and have never used drugs, and since I have always lived far out in the mountains, I have watched with disdain the erosion of freedom and liberty from afar.  However, I now have made the mistake of living in an area where these things are against local laws and ordinances, and it has made me look more closely at these issues.  For those that would say that a law against abortion, for instance, is a good idea, I would say that abortion is already covered in laws that prohibit murder.  Just as there are exceptions in the prohibition against killing (defense, food, etc.) so there could be made some arguments for abortion.  That is for courts and the God of your choice to decide on a case by case basis, just as in individual murder cases. For those that would say that a law against prostitution is just and cite examples of forcing or children, I would again counter that forcing anyone to do anything is antithetical to the founding of our country as is the abuse of children, and any law beyond that is unnecessary.  The basics of our society already cover it.  To the pot smokers, smoke up.  but don’t let your side stream smoke bother anyone else, and don’t expect food stamps or welfare because you are just too mellow to work, or free mental health care when you can no longer focus, or the freedom to operate equipment where others may be harmed.  I frankly don’t care what anyone does in their own home or land, even though I teach my children to uphold a strict moral code that some (perhaps most) “modern” Americans would probably think oppressive.  Would I accept such behavior from myself or my children?  Of course not.  But the very founding of our country can be summed up in an old Hank Jr. song “I Gotta a Right to be Wrong”.  Just consider and then don’t impact others.  And don’t get hung up on the details or let the exceptions guide the rule.  We have way too many laws already.

To this I would add that the oft spoken rule about “do unto others” seems to be forgotten but it underlies – or at least it should underlie – any law and should  be the guide whenever dealing with other people.

 
A goat squeezing through a fence

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter, age two, can whistle and has been using sentences for at least 6 months.  Today, my goats broke a fence panel down and escaped.  After I got them in, I found myself in the foolish position of holding up the panel, and the goats in, without means to fasten it.  Kate was standing some distance away, crying about her cold, wet hands.  I called to her and asked her to go look in my milk supply tote, and get me two clips.  She stopped crying and went over to the tote.  She held up a clip and said “These?”  I said yes two of them. She reached in and grabbed another and brought them both to me, saving me the effort of dropping the panel and starting over rounding up the goats.

Did I mention she is two?

 

Bread and butter pickles in a mason jar. There...Image via Wikipedia

It has been particularly hot this summer.  Oh sure there was that late freeze, back when my apple trees were all in bloom, that destroyed my fledgling raspberry plants and seriously stunted my baby strawberries, and just generally insured that we would have no fruit on the farm this year.  Add that to the discovery that the power company, which has a right of way across the back of our land, mysteriously sprayed only the quarter mile or so where last year we picked a bumper crop of wild blackberries (which were ready around the same time as the baby!), and it adds up to little or no jam to make this year.

 

Jam is a staple here, with all of the lunches we pack each day for school and work, homemade jam from our own fruit is a special, as well as economical favorite around here.  However, in some sort of divine balancing act, we have had the best year ever for cucumbers.  I planted just four plants, perhaps a tad early, and we have been literally over run.  They even outproduced the zucchini!  I have taken three or four bushels out so far, and despite the fact that the dreaded cucumber bug is now starting to attack as evidenced by the drying dead leaves, I still have maybe half a bushel more waiting down there. With that many cukes, you just gotta make pickles.  So far we I have made about 35 quarts of bread and butter pickles, and 7 quarts of dill.  All hot water bathed and stacked neatly on the shelves in the pantry downstairs, they await the school year when they will be turned into pickle and cheese sandwiches and fill lunchbags and stomachs.  (This year I have used a packaged brand of pickling spices by Mrs. Wages® , though, I must try to find my mother’s recipe, handed down from her mother and her mother.  They were better, though just slightly, but they were a lot more work.  If and when I do I will post it.  (The Mrs. Wages are nearly as good though, and way easier)

 

Of course, all that pickling and canning had to take place as usual, during the hottest, muggiest weather of July.  Today, though, I awoke to the sound of a Thunderstorm overhead.  It is cooler, and not a lot will be done outside this morning.  Oh how I wish I had some fruit to make at least a pie.  We may just have to buy in…

 

 

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A Northern Mockingbird spreads its wings. Pict...Image via Wikipedia

I am listening to a northern mockingbird outside in the big maple below the garden, as I have most mornings this summer.  I delight each day in listening to his enthusiastic impressions of all the birds around here and some I can’t even identify.  I have even tried to count them several times, but I get lost as he occasionally repeats a favorite and he offers them in random order.  He is usually so passionate and energetic that I can’t help but join his mood as I sip my morning coffee.  It has been a particularly rain free and hot summer, so he has had a lot of good mornings to sing.  This morning, though, he seems a bit off.  His delivery is not as crisp, he takes breaks – usually he goes on for hours – and he seems to be using just a few of his favorites, the robin, the kill deer.

 

I think I know why.  For the last several nights, my baby has been waking up hungry, and I have had to get her a fresh bottle.  As I pass through the the hall to the kitchen, illuminated by a bright full moon, I can hear a hundred bird songs out in the maple.  At midnight.  I can’t help but wonder why he is up singing in the moonlight.  Oh, I was young once too and may have sung the occasional midnight operata, but I put that down to the foolishness of youth.  But what biological imperative, what evolutionary adaptation – what the heck is that crazy bird doing?

 

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This is my first post of any kind in a really long time. My old blog was just getting started when I completely changed my life. I still need to edit my profile as a lot has changed. No longer am I the socially challenged bachelor living deep in the mountains of Penn’s great woods. First my children joined me, then a wonderful woman came into my life. We all have moved to a great little piece of property, a farm some 30 or 40 years ago (and soon to be again), I have a great new big family and a new project. No longer hunting and gathering on my ridge, like mankind before me I am progressing into agriculture. I still intend to catch up and share my ideas thoughts, opinions and techniques from the Indigenous Gourmet and Backpack Bistro days, but now the focus is on my Back-Yard Farm.

 

No longer content to eat and feed what I find and where I find it, I am intent on producing much and someday all of my food. Not forgetting what I have learned, but adding to my repertoire. The Indigenous Gourmet is not hanging up his hat, just changing it.

 

I am posting my old profile here mostly as a reminder to myself of who I am and where I came from as I begin my new journey.

 

Profile circa 2004 – 2008: I live with my two noisy children on a quiet mountain stream, still searching for the quiet balance and simple life that continues to elude me. To that end I am regularly visited by my beautiful fiance who humors my eccentricities and encourages my explorations.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to work.

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This morning my son and I are trying to replant the entire garden that has been destroyed by the deer. The deer here are a mixed blessing; venison is an important part of the local diet, and a part of the beauty of the local landscape. They are fewer here lately, some say due to recent changes in the game laws. I don’t know. Just a few years ago there were so many deer they were a danger when driving and even a nuisance to be fenced out of your garden. Not it seems they too have joined in the flight to suburbia. To their detriment. By moving among the masses they have attracted the attention of the media.

 

“Hazardous and out of control,” the headlines read. And so, for whatever the reasons, the game laws changed. I don’t pretend to understand the bigger plan, but since hunting doesn’t take place in suburbia, but rather out here in the hustings, the result I have seen is fewer deer in local freezers and on local tables, while deer seem unchecked in the more populous areas.

 

The increase in hunting and hunters flows outward from suburbia. “Sport Hunters”, Folks who often do not like, much less eat venison, none the less feel the yearly urge to brag about the deer they got. Recently, talk about the size of “the rack” have been giving way to tales of the numbers of doe or the several tags the intrepid hunters were able to fill out and thus prove their prowess. Many of these deer are wasted, a few perhaps given away. The ones that do make it into a freezer are still often discarded. Much meat will sit unused until next year when it must be thrown out to make room for the next deer.

 

A few years ago, when I first moved here, the winding mile or so of road up over the top of my mountain might have had two or three cars of hunters on opening day of buck season. Everyone had a reasonable amount of meat and the braggadocio of the size of the rack was often answered with “you don’t eat the antlers”. Though deer were more common, we had, really, less trouble avoiding the nuisance aspects. Perhaps we were just more used to it. The last several seasons, I have counted over two dozen cars, with several hunters each on the same road on opening day. Most of theses cars are not even local, but out-of-towners coming to “the mountains” for a little fun. This is on a road that gets fewer than a dozen cars every day.

 

Which brings me back to my current day. Lately I have been watching a (very) few doe in the evenings, only one of which seems to have a fawn with her. Thus, far in the season, my garden has been relatively untouched, and I suppose I have been a little lax in its defense. After all, I reasoned, there is plenty of food for the deer to browse, and if I share a little, it will mean more meat this winter.

 

This morning as I make my rounds, coffee in hand, I see my entire garden has been decimated. Stems devoid of leaves where my tomato plants lived, basil, uprooted and devoured, only the woody root ball remaining. Where my lovely rows of peppers with their promise of colors and flavors only tiny footprints and piles of pellet-like scat. Radishes, lettuce, everything but the onions gone.

 

Once, I might have been more philosophical about the loss, balancing the disappointment in vegetables with the promise of meat. Now, I’m not so sure. The young does and the sole fawn stand a greater chance of ending up in a suburban landfill. It is little wonder many of the daughters of the suburban sportsmen forgo meat as a social statement, considering the current trend of disrespect for all of our food sources, animals, plants, even the soil.

 

As my son, an early riser goes to the house to stir his sister and we all begin the process of salvaging, replanting, strengthening our barriers, I wonder. Is there a parable in all of this?

 

I hope America always has the resources to recover these losses.

 

Thank goodness for CSA.

 

 

 

 

 

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