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October 3, 2016

GMO Labeling Post Mortem, October 2016

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I don’t expect to write much going forward about GMO labeling. This is a post mortem, as labelism is dead and well buried, though it still may persist as an undead notion. By now we’re clear it was always the wrong idea and the wrong direction. Only various mistakes kept it in play at all. I myself was supportive in public beyond my stage of ambivalence in mind, and ambivalent in public beyond my stage of opposition in mind. I did this out of a misguided wish for concord, and the misguided belief that rational debate was possible on the subject.
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But it turned out such debate was always impossible, as I could never find anyone who was willing to defend the labelist position with argument and evidence. As for concord, I finally realize that concord centered upon a false idea is merely false concord which accomplishes nothing. (In all this I’m talking about people who embrace error as an article of faith and treat reality-based evidence accordingly.) On the contrary, one must insist first upon the right idea, then seek agreement upon it. Agreement centered upon error is simply error. It’s worthless and worse than worthless.
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Thus to reprise. These ideas predate and put in context the summer’s DARK Act debacle, always predicted by me and a few others. Fighting on an untenable line, refusing to move to more secure ground, they got the worst of all results. But this goes far beyond the DARK Act.
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This is an synthesis of what I’ve seen with my own eyes but doesn’t necessarily apply in toto to any particular rank and file person, though it certainly does apply to various system NGOs and especially to fraudulent corporate labelists from Big Food and Big Organic. Take this as a broadside against the “movement” Leaders and all who follow them.
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1. In my experience labeling advocates give every indication of wanting a label only, and as a rule will say “label then ban” only when ban advocates speak up. It seems very much an afterthought.
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2. As far as the canard that no one has a plan, if I must say so myself I’ve presented the only fully developed and coherent strategy which I’ve seen for how to accomplish the necessary goal of abolishing GMOs and pesticides. Meanwhile I’ve seen nothing but magical thinking from label advocates regarding how labeling is supposed to lead to ending GMOs. At most they offer a poorly drawn analogy with Europe. Of course they have zero idea where it comes to the more important necessity of abolishing pesticides.
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(In fact I don’t believe most labeling advocates when they claim to care about eventual abolition. I think they fantasize about real labels which would tell us everything that’s in a food, and advocating for this makes for great do-gooderism, but from there they’d leave it to the marketplace. If you have money to buy the good stuff, great. If not, tough. So, much like with many who say “let them eat organic”, I suspect many of the labelists of having the standard attitude “I’ve got mine Jack, screw you.”)
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3. Indeed, labeling advocates offer zero reply when you ask how we’re even supposed to get real labeling. Even Vermont’s law was full of loopholes, and GMOs are a very fast-moving target. What about NBTs? What about the fact that the “adventitious presence” which will be allowed before a label has to be applied will keep being raised by the label regulator in the same way they mechanically raise pesticide “tolerances”? These are just two of the things which render effective labeling impossible in practice. But ask label advocates what THEIR plan is to counteract this and you’ll get only crickets.
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4. To the best of my knowledge, I’m also the only writer who has published an analysis and theory for why, after the labeling idea always polls so well at first, people end up voting against it. Needless to say the answer isn’t “because of the GMA’s money”. That’s just begging the same question rephrased – why do so many people believe such obvious lies? The answer goes again to the inadequacy of the labeling idea as framed by these campaigns, a political inadequacy. But invite labeling advocates to respond to this and there’s nothing but crickets.
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5. I guess this inability to reply to questions is why the GMO Free USA Facebook group <a href="“>refused to publish several of my pieces. That’s when the term political monoculturist first occurred to me to describe most labelists.
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Here’s a basic question for everyone: Do you believe the anti-poison movement needs to thrash out all its questions in order to reach the right ideas and goals, or is labeling just a God-given dogma never to be questioned? Labeling of course is an idea which made some sense back in the mid 1990s, but seems to incarnate an extreme rut by now. Does this movement have any ability to learn and develop?
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Related to this: Do you believe the anti-poison cause thrives by driving controversy as hard as it can, or do you agree with Mark Lynas, the Cornell propaganda alliance, Vilsack and the Faber-types that the goal must be compromise and co-existence?
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6. My own position since I published my first series on labeling in 2013 had been: Support the state level movement, but labeling is insufficient and therefore labeling campaigns and/or policy must be seen only as partial steps toward abolition. But preemption seeks the death of the movement, and anyone who wants a preemptive FDA policy is Monsanto’s friend. Labeling, in principle, in practice, and in the act of fighting for it, can be worthwhile only in its state-level form. No one should want the federal government involved at all, and I don’t see how it’s possible that anyone who actually knows the slightest thing about the FDA, or who is the slightest bit sincere about principles like a “right to know”, would regard FDA preemption as anything but anathema.
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7. Thus my final disillusionment with most labeling supporters came when they slobbered all over the Campbell’s scam, and it turned out that almost all of them want a preemptive FDA policy just as long as the shiny dangly word “mandatory” can be put on it. Never mind that the FDA is 100% pro-GMO and would never under any circumstances promulgate anything but a weak, sham policy whose main purpose would be to preempt any better policy. The FDA would of course do nothing but enact the GMA’s proposed fake standards.
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That in turn led me to revisit the labeling idea as such, where I analyzed the many ways in which it’s just a bad idea and a rat trap for movement energies, to the extent those energies really exist as a political, democracy force, and not just as consumerist whining within a technocratic mindset more in tune with Monsanto than with any real vision for a transformed agriculture and food system. Even though most people claim to disparage Scott Faber, there’s a reason he and the likes of him are nevertheless able to function as labeling movement “representatives”. It’s because they are truly representative of most labeling advocates. They represent the technocratic ideology and the basic will toward “compromise” and wanting to believe in “co-existence”.
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Everyone claims to agree that co-existence with GMOs and pesticides is impossible. But people’s actions contradict this. Labeling in principle is part of a co-existence framework.
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8. Would someone please explain the bizarre cult of the FDA among labeling advocates? As best as I can piece it together, they believe there’s two completely different FDAs, the “bad” FDA of substantial equivalence and GMOs-are-GRAS, and the “good” FDA which they want to put in charge of labeling and give preemptive power over states and counties. But in reality there’s only one FDA, and it’s extremely pro-GMO right to its ideological and institutional core. It’s pure lunacy (or treachery) to want ANY kind of FDA policy, including the soft-DARK Merkley version of faux-mandatory federal bills.
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9. As for the canned talking point that “the DARK Act and TPP would prevent bans too”, number one this implies another falsehood. Abolitionists don’t say “don’t bother fighting the DARK Act”. We do point out that evidently labelists intend to keep fighting this same war of attrition over and over again ad nauseum until the thing inevitably passes one of these times. [As it did in summer 2016.] Is that really where people want to remain, perpetually on defense? Again we see what a rut the whole thing has become. Number two, it demonstrates the extremely narrow, legalist, consumerist ideology of labeling.
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When the DARK Act and/or TPP pass, that’s when the real nullification struggle would have to begin. That’s how a real pro-democracy and/or abolition fighter would see it. When the DARK Act passes, who would then be willing to fight it in terms of constitutional defiance and civil disobedience? And who would be willing to fight the TPP? Only those who were real grassroots fighters in the first place. The same grassroots who seem to be so despised by most labelists. On the other hand, the kind of person who’s so exhausted by the labeling campaign that they want to wash their hands of it and hand it over to the FDA is an unlikely candidate ever really to fight for anything.
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10. I have to mention that when I first started learning about GMOs and found that labeling was the near-consensus goal, I was taken aback by the extreme contrast between the dire forecasts about the dangers of pesticides and GMOs, and such a lame proposal as far as what to do about it. It seems hard to believe people really believe all the things they’re saying.
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Do you believe Roundup causes cancer or not? The actions of labeling advocates seem to contradict their words on this.
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The fact is that compromise would be impossible even if anyone on the pro-GMO side, such as Vilsack or the FDA, really wanted to compromise. But they don’t want to, and all their versions of “compromise” are lies. Co-existence is impossible, physically or politically. Pesticides are literally murdering us in real time. The fact is that total abolition is the necessary goal, and anything else, including labeling, must never be viewed “in itself” but only in terms of “does this help or hinder us in the necessary motion toward the abolition goal?”
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There’s no doubt whatsoever that ANY FDA policy which would preempt the states or anything else below the central government level would be a great hindrance. The entire history of grassroots movements proves this. Lynas and Campbell’s fully expect that a preemptive sham-“mandatory” FDA policy would destroy the movement once and for all. Many labeling advocates seem to agree that they want the whole controversy and struggle to just “end”, no matter how.
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So I look again at the position I developed from the start: Abolition is the necessary goal, the state-level labeling movement can help toward this goal, FDA preemption is absolutely wrong and evil in every way. So my only “anti-labeling” action is my opposition to any FDA preemption. But since support for preemption is tantamount to betrayal of everything which labeling advocates themselves claim to want in principle, it’s they who are splitting from the movement, or hijacking it, and seeking some kind of meeting of the ways with the likes of the GMA and Lynas.
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Today I modify this since I recognize that labeling was always the wrong idea in principle, and that it was always a vain hope that activists and advocates would treat the campaigns as abolitionist consciousness-raising events, as opposed to exalting the labeling fantasy for its own sake. Most of all, it was a fantasy on my part to think that any significant proportion of labelists would firmly reject FDA preemption. After all, the kind of person who would reject this would have been unlikely to commit to such a picayune consumerist program in the first place. The real abolitionists, if they’re ever to exist in the West, will have to come from elsewhere.
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So I now reject labelism in principle and would teach anyone to embrace a more holistic, fully ecological philosophy, based in knowledge of history, politics, science, and human psychology, which would compel the one and only idea of abolitionism and the one and only prescription of fighting relentlessly for abolition, with no compromises.
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Of course I respect the decision of anyone who opposes preemption and wants to continue to fight for labeling at the state level. Although it seems like that position is no longer around. I never saw anyone who had fought in Vermont giving their viewpoint on the near-consensus, among both labeling opponents and advocates, that their law represents some kind of loathesome “patchwork” which needs to be purged one way or another. Was I alone in sincerely wanting the Vermont law to go into effect? It seems like I was.
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Well, this whole FDA/Scambell’s/DARK Act debacle is all the more reason to grow out of the entire labeling concept and move on to more practically aggressive and politically smarter ideas and modes of organization.
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4 Comments

  1. […] oppose. We haven’t this luxury in action, which follows divided on account of this duality, derelict from the great need and necessity even as it acknowledges the need. We haven’t this luxury in […]

    Pingback by Black Horse Chronicle, October 3rd | Volatility — October 3, 2016 @ 10:38 am

  2. How do we prove harm without labeling?

    Comment by kbeavin — October 3, 2016 @ 6:40 pm

    • Prove to whom? I assume you don’t mean to the scientific establishment*. Those who keep dreaming of that are just banging their heads against a brick wall.

      As for proving it to the people, the best way to do that is to drop all the pretenses (again, pretenses which the criminal establishment tells us we must undergo; but why on earth would a populist listen to them, other than as a hint about what NOT to do?) and directly proclaim the truth: We know all pesticides cause cancer and many other evils, we know GMOs are unsafe and at any rate comprise a single unit with pesticides, and we know that all the processed food is poisoned.

      We certainly don’t need any further evidence or “more research”, as procrastinators everywhere in the “movement” keep saying because they have no ideas. The evidence for the universal toxicity of pesticides started piling up in the 1940s and by now is reared as vast and high as the Himalayas. Anyone who isn’t already fully aware of that hasn’t done his research. And the people are ready to listen to this, IF it’s presented within the framework of a comprehensive movement analysis, culture, and affirmative plan to build something better.

      But it should never have been a big mystery why the people haven’t responded to labeling campaigns, when these were overtly presented as purely consumerist, unanchored from any broader philosophical framework, and offering no plan of action, nothing but information worthless to anyone who can’t afford to switch their family’s whole diet to certified organic, and which would therefore serve no purpose but to add to people’s radically increasing anxieties.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/gmo-labeling-and-movement-strategy-6-of-6-labelphobia/

      Mustering fear-itself can be very powerful, but only where it’s done within a framework which will organize the fear toward a great affirmative idea and great goals.

      But then, that’s what truly political activists work to do. But like we’ve seen, labelism has so far been for the most part not a political campaign at all, but a consumerist one. And that’s also why almost everyone remains so fixated on playing by establishment rules. It’s bizarre to me, since my starting point was doubting the establishment. That’s why I distrusted GMOs in the first place. I’m not sure how the consumer types came by their distrust, but it certainly wasn’t because they think politicians, regulators, CEOs, and scientists are liars in general. Some kind of “ick” factor, I guess.

      Well, the ick factor can be potent, but it has to be organized the right way. Just as we already have vastly more than enough scientific evidence to ban all pesticides and GMOs. We don’t need “more research”, “more evidence”. We need much better, much more cumulative and systematic use of the evidence we already have.

      *Indeed the establishment journals are becoming increasingly brazen in coming out as corporate media. Here’s the lastest example of the increasingly standard phenomenon of nominally independent, allegedly “scientific” journals which are really front publications for Monsanto and other powerful corporations. Today we must assume any academic journal is more or less committed by ideology and financial dependency to propagating the point of view of corporate marketing departments. This has long been true of the scientific establishment.

      http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/17253-surprise-monsanto-funded-papers-conclude-glyphosate-not-carcinogenic-or-genotoxic

      Comment by Russ — October 4, 2016 @ 4:04 am

    • In my reply I mentioned populists. But I’ve noticed that most labeling advocates aren’t populists, but are technocrats themselves. (As are the NGOs which are critical of agricultural poisons.) Many seem to despise populism. So their dispute with Monsanto seems to be more of a squabble among technocrats rather than part of a world-historical war of humanity and the Earth vs. corporate poisonism. The ideologically picayune and politically inept character of labelism seem to fit with this analysis. These campaigns themselves, much like GMOs, are not rooted in history and nature.

      Wanting to put a label no one’s even going to read on food which is inherently poisoned anyway…no wonder Mark Lynas keeps trying to convince the pro-GM activists that they should love the labeling idea. Monsanto made a big mistake in opposing it in the first place. If the US had had labeling from the start, not only would GMOs probably be completely entrenched by now but not even controversial.

      The idea of labeling has served a very good purpose in firing up controversy in the first place. But now it’s time for evolution, it’s time for a real socioeconomic and cultural abolitionist movement to rise up to organize all the passions of the controversy and direct them toward real goals.

      Comment by Russ — October 4, 2016 @ 4:22 am


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