June 1, 2013

Supermarkets as GMO Battleground


1. Four British supermarket chains – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, and “the Co-Op” – have announced that they will begin selling poultry and eggs from chickens which were fed GM soy. The items won’t be labeled. This reverses their previous policy banning such items from their stores. They join Asda and Morrison’s who previously broke off from the boycott. That leaves only Waitrose among large British retailers maintaining the no-GM poultry/egg policy. All the chains sell unlabeled GM meat and milk.
2. Tesco put out a press release telling three lies about why they’re doing this.
A. LIE: There’s not enough non-GM soy available. TRUTH: ABRANGE, the Brazilian Association for Producers of Non-GMO Soy, and the certification groups CERT-ID and ProTerra, quickly put out releases and reports denying this. They say there’s more than enough non-GM soy to supply all of Europe. Retailers in Germany, Austria, and France confirmed this.
(Further confirmation came at the same time in China, where a consortium of Brazilian soy producers met with Chinese government officials about future soy exports to China. In response to Chinese requests for large amounts of non-GM soy, even the regular Brazilian trade group (primarily pro-GMO) assured them that Brazil could fill that order. So it’s not just the non-GM trade group saying so, but the regular industrial trade group saying so as well.
This is also another example of China showing up the West on GMOs.)
B. LIE: Genetically modified DNA doesn’t persist in the meat or eggs of animals fed GM feed. TRUTH: Many studies have found that, contrary to longstanding pro-GM dogma, GM DNA often does survive cooking and digestion. Even the British government, pro-GMO Food Standards Agency (FSA – analogous to the FDA, where it comes to food) has found that GM material may persist in animal tissue. Tesco is doing nothing here but regurgitating an old lie which was disproven long ago.
C. LIE: GM soy is a beneficial product vs. “pests and diseases”. TRUTH: There’s no GM soy which has any special qualities vs. pests and diseases. Indeed, the domination of proprietary GM varieties, worthless for this purpose, has suppressed the availability of public domain varieties which do have such resistance. The only commercialized GM soy is herbicide-tolerant, specifically “Roundup Ready”. It does nothing but enable ever more massive amounts of poison to be sprayed upon it. But this crop is failing, as superweeds resistant to glyphosate are becoming more and more prevalent. Roundup is collapsing around the world. That’s why the corporate system is trying to commercialize GM varieties resistant to even more toxic herbicides – 2,4-D, dicamba. These are precisely the virulent poisons Monsanto originally promised to render obsolete. We see what a lie that was, and we know that these poisons will also fail the same way glyphosate has. What, even more viciously toxic, poisons will be next? Isn’t this insanity? Why are we doing it? Ask yourself that.  
3. What’s the basic position of the abolition movement on these supermarkets?
In principle, this is a squabble within the system, a squabble within globalization. No matter how you shell them, these are commodified and globalized industrial soybeans, GMO or not. They’re part of rainforest-destroying, climate-change-driving industrial agriculture. We have reformists who want Better Globalization, and Better Big Ag. It’s similar to the labeling movement in the US, to the extent that labeling is advertised as a panacea. In themselves, these kinds of fights aren’t significant steps toward Food Sovereignty.
Big picture, this is a squabble within the malign and doomed industrial sector. But targeted, from the point of view of a GMO abolition movement, we can launch a precision strike by forming an alliance with the reformists for a supermarket boycott campaign. The goal would be to halt GMO progress, help non-GM producers, and open up space for POE (democracy Participation, Organization, Education).
This is a potentially winning tactical battleground, because supermarkets are vulnerable. The longstanding targeted campaigns of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) provides a blueprint for how to conduct the campaigns. One chain at a time. Since Tesco has chosen to be so obnoxious, maybe them first? The campaign must start right away, in order to take advantage of the current media spotlight on the issue.
It would be tougher to get started in the US. But if the CIW can do it, we can do it.
But real abolitionists and fighters for Food Freedom must treat this, and labeling, the way democracy activists must treat any fight for reform within the hierarchy. We can support examples like Card Check or workplace discrimination fights, but we take the opportunity to point out that efforts like these aren’t sufficient, that they rely on system attrition which is not favorable to the people, and that no nominal success can ever be taken as a sign to relax our efforts. On the contrary, each proximate fight is also the occasion to build a permanent abolition movement. The real, fully conscious goal is always to abolish GMOs and build the Community Food sector.



  1. I found this article on NC this morning -the first GOOD news in years and thought of you Russ -for your tireless work on behalf of humanity. Hopefully, this is JUST THE BEGINNING although I recall last year in Germany that a ban on some form of genetic engineering by some company other than Monsanto immediately moved their work from there to the US -home of the formerly free and formerly brave -now a cesspool for breeding oligarchical corporatism.

    Lobbying And GMO Giant Monsanto Buckles In Europe
    Friday, May 31, 2013 at 6:49PM

    The “March Against Monsanto” in 52 countries, an unapproved strain of its genetically modified wheat growing profusely in Oregon, cancelled wheat export orders…. A rough week for Monsanto.

    But now it threw in the towel in Europe – where its genetically modified seeds have faced stiff resistance at every twist and turn. Even its deep corporate pockets and mastery of lobbying have failed: “It’s counterproductive to fight against windmills,” its spokesman told the Tageszeitung

    And now Neal Kashkari’s name, formerly of Goldman, Sachs is being floated for Governor of California. Remember him from the Goldman Sachs/U.S. Treasury, Paulson Plumber Protection Dow decline of 700 pts. takeover of the US Treasury 2008? The last time we saw Kashkari (you gotta love that name ‘cash carry’) after his appearance before a Congressional hearing when he was living log cabin style in some wilderness. At least that’s what the photo said. This recent crawling out from under a phony resignation from the world of banking liar liar liar says a lot about Lloyd Blankfein’s PR on behalf of the Goldman Sachs poison squid he’s been presiding over. He must believe he’s won the PR battle for the team of oligarchs now ruling over Western countries, and now going for the biggest state of the union -northern Mexico. We don’t see the word bankster much anymore. But I believe it is the beginning of another phase since the people’s awareness has heightened dramatically; the result of the work of people like you Russ who demonstrate their love of humanity every day by painting a bright red line between the rights of the people and those who are attempting to rule the people of the world through sociopathic corporate protected oligarchical gangsters.

    Comment by LeeAnne — June 1, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    • Thanks for the good words, LeeAnne. I’m sure waiting for the next round of public awareness of these things. I recall the name Kashkari as some bankster (you say people aren’t even using that word much? typical), but I forget what he did. Was he the TARP administrator or something?

      Why not make him governor. Who has a position like that hardly makes a difference.

      Thanks for the link. You were referring to BASF who announced they were quitting Europe and moving to a new headquarters in North Carolina.

      When we experience the policy and hype where we are within the GMO cesspool, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the juggernaut has mostly stalled out around the world, for several years now. That’s why the US government is moving on to a more broad-based planned-economic strategy to force GMOs and food corporatism upon Africa, the “New Alliance” for a second colonial onslaught.


      Comment by Russ — June 1, 2013 @ 11:00 am

      • Yes, your memory is much better than mine. I looked it up. He was a Paulson minion in charge of administrating TARP. I agree with you that it doesn’t matter who. But another Goldman Sachs guy head of state is chilling. He’s talking like a competitor, but its obvious the fix is in for him. He hasn’t had anything but sure things so far -appointment this, appointment that.

        Kashkari, One time $700 Billion Man at Treasury, Weighs Political Bid


        Comment by LeeAnne — June 1, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

      • I would just call it “voting for the revolving door”. Keep calling it that, ignoring the fungible, incidental traits like the name of the individual or which branch of the corporate party he nominally adheres to. (Not having followed this, I have no idea whether Kashkari prefers to call himself a “Republican” or a “Democrat”. I’m sure that decision was purely calculated, since there’s no difference between these branches in their willingness to bail out, prop up, and aggrandize Wall Street.)

        Comment by Russ — June 2, 2013 @ 2:21 am

  2. thanks for the update…My activism has been in another context of bring mfg back to the local community, But the pattrens of corpartism and captialism unbridaled continue to rear its ugly head in other areas such as this. Only the resolve of the peopel can address this issue globally. The muck rakers will need to rise up once again to fight the system that will wonder and stray as people of low self esteem continue to take them over and feed the symptoms with greed…

    Comment by Dave Outlaw — June 1, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  3. Thanks for writing this. I’m aware of the supermarkets’ vulnerability, having taken part in a campaign against our government’s ‘workfare’ programme, which has involved mass posting on retailers’ social media sites and also roving pickets outside shops where we handed out leaflets. Many retailers, including Sainsburys, have pulled out, and no longer use the enforced free labour. Unfortunately Tesco seem to be very obstinate in the face of this kind of protest and still use the scheme, so I have my doubts about forcing them to back down on anything.

    I would like to see something along the lines of the successful ‘boycott workfare’ programme organised for GM food, and will also look at the CIW blueprint you suggested. Obviously, the workfare campaign has a huge pool of highly motivated unemployed people to recruit to the cause, and some very well organised organisers – unfortunately the anti-gm groups in the UK seem very disorganised at present. I wish I had more strength for this…

    Comment by sophie — June 7, 2013 @ 5:16 am

    • It’s great that you’ve had partial success against the “workfare” depredation. Check out the CIW – it’s been very successful with retailers. I hear you on finding the strength. I’ve had to focus completely on food issues and lose close sight of everything else, because I can’t muster the energy and time to follow the rest of it. We each have to combine our passion with a practicable goal, and then fight from there.

      I don’t know too much about the UK anti-GMO movement, but to me it looks like it’s in better shape than the American one. How do you describe the disorganization?

      Comment by Russ — June 7, 2013 @ 6:34 am

  4. […] few days ago I wrote about how people who want GMO labels and bans ought to focus on pressuring supermarket chains. This is more direct and potentially fruitful than the same old song of trying to get Better […]

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