There’s a growing ambivalence among we who oppose GMOs where it comes to GMO labeling. Most obviously, it implies the continuation of industrial agriculture and food commodification, and globalization as such. It merely seeks Better Consumerism within that framework.
If people saw labeling as a temporary measure within the framework of an ongoing movement to abolish industrial ag and build Food Sovereignty, that could be good. If people saw the campaign for labeling as primarily a movement-building action, an occasion for public education, for democratic participation in a grassroots action, and to help build a permanent grassroots organization, that would be good. (POE as I call it – Participation, Education, Organization.)
But many of the advocates seem see it as a panacea. They at least claim to expect miracles from it: Labeling = the end of Monsanto. This is highly doubtful. Just because a labeling initiative or law is passed doesn’t mean it will be enforced with any alacrity. It’s still the same old pro-Monsanto government which would be in charge of enforcement. That’s why I always said getting the California initiative passed was just the first and easiest step; then the real work of vigilance, forcing the enforcers to follow through, would begin. That, too, was a reason why the campaign needs to be, even more than just an intrinsic campaign, the building ground of a permanent grassroots organization.
Then there’s the fact that most if not all of these initiatives and laws are riddled with loopholes, categories of food which don’t need to be labeled. That almost always includes GMO-fed meat and dairy. Actually, labeling would apply mostly to the same corporate-manufactured processed foods we ought to be getting out of our diets and economies regardless.
When we combine the picayune content of these labeling proposals with the fact that their advocates do often call them a self-sufficient panacea, and with the fact that the California effort was designed like a one-off electoral campaign rather than as a process of building a permanent grassroots organization, we gather a sinister picture of what’s going on here. Namely, GMO labeling often looks like another kind of liberal fenceline patrolling, meant not so much to fence GMOs out as to fence anti-GMO activism in.
States like Vermont and Connecticut have previously been the scenes of a scam. Facing a groundswell of anti-GMO verve among the citizenry, the state government hijacked this groundswell by going through the motions of proposing labeling legislation (which is conceived and drafted in a lame way), then saying, Br’er Rabbit fashion, “please Monsanto don’t sue us!” When Monsanto then made this briar patch threat, the governor, crying crocodile tears all the way, rued how “we can’t pass this law because mean old Monsanto will sue us.” The legislature then quashed the law it had never intended to pass in the first place. The whole thing was just a pantomime. It was the same basic briar patch scam in both cases.
In reality it’s doubtful that Monsanto, 100% government-dependent, without even the slightest iota of a natural base, would actually sue a government that really intended to make life difficult for it. (Although a lawsuit the government never really intends to fight could be the occasion for a different form of the scam.) Regardless, it’s the duty of a government to fight for the public good (so the good-civics textbooks tell me), even if the going gets tough. So no matter how one looks at it, these state governments have abdicated, and intend to continue doing so.
So it follows that getting legislation introduced, and getting initiatives on the ballot, are just part of the time-dishonored, field-failed, disproven set of within-the-system tactics, alongside petitions, “voting” etc. The liberals will keep saying, “that doesn’t work, so let’s try it again, and again, and again, and again, forever and ever!” The goal is to ensure that nothing is done until we’re enslaved once and for all.
The real answer is that we need to build a true Food Sovereignty movement, which is also an abolition movement. No goal short of the total abolition of GMOs will suffice. We know that GMOs cannot be prevented from contaminating other crops and the environment at large. We know that GMO corporations and their government thugs are totalitarian in intent. It’s proven that neither organic agriculture, nor the environment, nor our political and economic freedom, can co-exist with GMOs. But labeling, in itself, is another version of the “co-existence” scam.
I’m not saying all this to oppose labeling activism. But I would be suspicious of anyone who’s implying that it’s a panacea. I’d say, “If we get this passed, then what’s next? How will we organize the necessary public education and government pressure work? How do we prevent ourselves from being co-opted and corrupted like the anti-tobacco groups?” If they have no coherent answer, you know it’s a scam. In that case the goal is just to go through the motions. Even if the thing passes it’s meant just to be cosmetic. In that case the corporate liberals would then say indefinitely, “we got the law passed, now you have to be patient and give it time to work.”
I’d be suspicious of anyone viewing, running, organizing things like an election campaign. I’d say, “First of all we need to use actions like this toward movement-building. In what ways are we building permanent organizational and publicity structures? What underlying principles dictate our support for labeling, and how are we working to propagate those principles?” If they have no coherent answer, or directly say ”this isn’t movement-building, this is a one-off campaign”, you know it’s a scam, or at any rate that they have in fact no coherent principle or strategy, just a vague feeling and a handy tactic. Needless to say, this mindset will never win the war of attrition it will take to bring down Monsanto’s tyranny.
Most of all, I’d want clarity on the ultimate goals. Do labeling advocates really support Community Food and Food Sovereignty? Do they really oppose food corporatism? Do they really seek to constitute an abolition movement vs. GMOs and industrial ag as such? Nothing short of this will work for humanity.
Does labeling have a coherent rationale at all? We mentioned how, in itself, it still rationalizes industrial ag, food commodification, unhealthy processed foods, passive consumerism, and the “co-existence” scam. In the end, it still rationalizes food corporatism and “market solutions”. These are all unsustainable evils, politically, morally, and practically. But in itself, the kind of solution labeling purports to be sees these evils as normative.
Once again we see how corporatist “solutions” cannot solve problems generated by corporatism, and are not intended to. If taken as a self-sufficient panacea (and as I said, the evidence is that most of its advocates and organizers see it that way), GMO labeling is part of the same instrumental, non-holistic NPK thinking which is destroying humanity.
The organic place of labeling activism, as part of a movement to restore the primacy of organic agriculture, would be as a movement-building opportunity. It would provide the occasion and the practice to build a permanent movement structure. It would also provide the forum for movement and public education about not just labeling, and not just the evils of GMOs, but about the evils and unsustainability of the entire corporate food sector. It would bring home the need to build Community Food as a full-scale economic and political movement.