Volatility

January 15, 2016

GMO News Summary January 15th, 2016

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*Soon, maybe next week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold his secret conference of “stakeholders” to hammer out a plan to prevent Vermont’s GMO labeling law from going into effect in July and destroy the labeling democracy movement (the state-level movement) once and for all. Campbell’s timed its public call for FDA “mandatory” labeling in order to coincide with the Vilsack conference and push this proposal as a major subject at the conference. It’s peculiar how many people purport to stick up for Vermont at the same time they’re saying “Go Campbell’s!”
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Meanwhile Mark Lynas says the Campbell’s plan is a great thing. NOW we know it’s anti-GMO!

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Lynas’ position on labeling has been clear for a long time. He thinks Dark Act Plan A won’t work and is bad politics, but that a weak and fraudulent, but “mandatory”, FDA policy which preempts real labeling at the state level (DARK Act Plan B) would not only destroy the labeling movement but destroy the rising trend of advocacy beyond labeling toward outright bans. He thinks this will help normalize and maximize GMOs in our food. Campbell’s is the first big industry “stakeholder” to agree completely with this position in public. There is a perfect consensus among establishment types – politicians, industry, insider NGOs. Wherever else they may sometimes disagree, they’re all firm that the #1 purpose of any federal standard is to preempt the labeling democracy movement and forestall the abolition movement.
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*Word is there’s worry within the EFSA about how they’re squandering what little credibility they have left faster than a Roundup Ready pigweed grows. Meanwhile EC’s health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis replied to 96 scientists who sent him an Open Letter demolishing the lies of the BfR and EFSA and calling upon him to support the IARC and uphold the science. Andriukaitis begged off in a shame-faced way, claiming he has no legal authority to reject the EFSA dictate. Meanwhile EFSA chief Bernhard Url continues with his exercises in public buffoonery. He keeps admitting that the IARC assessed glyphosate formulations which are actually used in the real world while the EFSA assessed only fantasyland pure glyphosate which is never used. Yet he’s so stupid he continues to think this is a good point for his EFSA, rather than absolutely shattering for its credibility.
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*At a workshop held at the University of Agricultural Sciences at Raichur in India’s Karnataka state, government and university officials joined farmer representatives in condemning the “Green Revolution” and its technology focus for economically ruining vast numbers of farmers and rendering farming the extremely precarious profession it has become in India. Well over 300,000 farmer suicides can attest to that. Destroying farmers and driving millions off the land was always one of the core goals of the Green Revolution and remains so today.
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*The record of Bt cotton remains perfect. Except where bolstered with massively subsidized inputs (and even then often just for a little while), the crop never performs well and quickly fails. Today Pakistan is hitting rock bottom as the world’s fourth largest cotton producer is suffering a 22% yield collapse and having to resort to importation for basic cotton needs. According to the USDA 95% of Pakistan’s cotton crop is GM. The industry’s own International Cotton Advisory Committee tells the story: “…adverse weather [i.e. climate chaos inducing drought], increased pest pressure from whitefly and pink bollworm [both secondary and target pests enjoying the feast], and the high cost of inputs discouraging farmers from better crop management.”
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Yes, with GM cotton especially the costs of inputs are indeed extremely high. But that’s a peculiar variation on farmer scapegoating – high input cost is what’s causing their “poor management”? But if your technology is too expensive for those to whom you make such a hard-sell marketing pitch, isn’t that the fault of yourselves and your technology, not the buyer who’s financially unable to use it? Indeed I’d call that consumer fraud myself. A massive, Nuremburg-level case of it.
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*Armed with an eviction order procured from a corporate-friendly judge, Monsanto is trying to drive off the Malvinas community camp blockading the company’s attempt to build a chemical seed factory. If built this factory would spew vast clouds of toxic fumes and leave regular spills of the neonics, fungicides, and the many other poisons it would be applying as seed coatings. This would add to the already devastating poison burden the people of the soy zone must endure every day. Citizen groups are rallying to the support of the people of Malvinas.
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As the people of Argentina continue their growing fight to take back their country from the tyranny of agribusiness, the poison industry has a friend in the new president: “President Mauricio Macri has also shown his support for big agribusiness in his first month in office. In a move he promoted as a boost to agricultural production, Macri scrapped export taxes on big agricultural corporations producing corn, wheat, and beef, and lowered taxes on soybeans.”
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This contradicts what has always been the number one argument offered in favor of the Argentine “soy republic” and other branches of agribiz, that these commodity export taxes are the basis of Argentina’s allegedly vibrant economy, playing the same role as oil does for Saudi Arabia. I.e., Argentina is the equivalent of a petro-state. Indeed, since industrial agriculture is 100% dependent on cheap fossil fuels, we can call Argentina a meta-petro-state, essentially reselling oil in a rudimentary value-added form. Now they’re admitting that the alleged economic need for all this was always a lie.
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*Here’s a state of the union for Bt toxins, and things are looking quite nullific. In Brazil Cry1AB (MON810) and Cry1F (1507) are both failing against the target armyworm. A new study is unable to conclude whether the longstanding trend of resistance to Cry1F is now becoming cross-resistance to Cry1AB, or whether the resistance to Cry1AB is evolving on its own. Whatever, the researchers who just proved failure recommend more failure: The poisons should simply be stacked ever higher. The cool-sounding term for this is the “pyramid” strategy. They don’t tell you that the pyramid is constructed upside-down, and is just as structurally stable as you’d expect. Doug Gurian-Sherman explains why stacks are already failing and why cross-resistance is likely to become more prevalent. He also explains why RNAi insecticidal GMOs are likely to fail for the same reasons. Just like herbicide tolerant GMOs, insecticidal GMOs are a failed product genre. Reality has completely refuted them. Only cartel monopoly and government power keep them in existence at all.
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*As if Bt cotton doesn’t have enough problems with its inherent shoddiness and great vulnerability to anything less than maximum irrigation (Australian cotton has been a victim of climate chaos drought in recent years), in Australia it’s also being destroyed by 2,4-D drift. 2,4-D and dicamba are among the most highly volatile and drift-prone herbicides, causing massive damage to wild plants and other crops every year. If Dow and Monsanto are able to go through with their plan to commercialize on a mass scale GMOs tolerant of 2,4-D (Dow) and dicamba (Monsanto), the collateral destruction will surge exponentially. This is one of several reasons we must find a way to stop this deployment before it really gets rolling. Of course the EPA and USDA ardently back this great escalation of the Poison War.
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In the piece linked, note the notion “incorrect spraying”. This is false – 2,4-D drifts unpredictably, often for great distances, even when the user adheres to the label directions with the utmost vigilance. That’s part of why drift and superweeds/bugs are allowed to be acknowledged in the mainstream media. The farmer’s alleged “incorrect use” or “overuse” is always scapegoated. (I also noted above the Pakistan industry group’s absurd attempt to blame the farmers.) The other reason is that the proposed answer is always escalated poison technology. Drift is the problem? Dow’s patented formula is non-drift. Roundup Ready superweeds? The answer is Agent Orange crops. Superbugs? As the researchers I mentioned above recommended, stack more Bt toxins, and then it’ll be gene silencing to the rescue.
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*A judge issued a $53.5 million judgement against GM tree company ArborGen and its corporate parents International Paper, MeadWestvaco (now WestRock) and New Zealand-based Rubicon for defrauding ten “employees”. The plaintiffs, judged to have been defrauded out of their equity position, are evidently the genetic engineers themselves:
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While working for ArborGen, Plaintiffs were productive. It is undisputed that, as one
former ArborGen officer testified at trial, Plaintiffs were “good employees” when they worked for
ArborGen. TT 224:1-7 (Mann). ArborGen’s Chief Technology Officer Maud Hinchee testified by
way of her deposition that the secunded employees, particularly the senior scientists including
Plaintiff Shujun Chang, were instrumental in making ArborGen successful by generating
intellectual property and technology when ArborGen was starting out. SeePX 530 (Hinchee Depo.
25:2-11). Indeed, several Plaintiffs made key contributions to the intellectual property of
ArborGen that helped ArborGen’s value grow over time. See, e.g., PX 487 & 489 (relating to
somatic embryogenesis patents generated for ArborGen by Plaintiffs Nehra, Clark and Stout). Dr.
Nehra testified that the number of patents held by ArborGen that had been originated by its
scientists probably numbered in the hundreds. 1-1 471:17-22 (Nehra). Mr. Clark testified he alone
has 10 patent applications from his tenure at ArborGen. TT 1226:14-18 (Clark).

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I’m not sure who I would’ve preferred to see lose the case. That the corporation defrauded the engineers is certainly poetic justice and an occasion for schadenfreude. In researching my TTIP posts I noted that, according to the BIO’s submitted comments, they’re hoping the TTIP will increase “labor mobility”, i.e. drive down engineer salaries. Couldn’t happen to nicer guys.
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*A USDA study confirms the agency’s own original forecast that GM alfalfa would promiscuously the contaminate non-GM crop. This follows upon years of contamination incidents and China’s rejection of many hay shipments from the US. It contradicts the USDA’s own lies about “co-existence” and confirms that one of the goals of Roundup Ready alfalfa is to render organic meat and dairy production, which is heavily dependent upon non-GM hay, impossible.
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*The USDA continues to refuse to monitor glyphosate residues in food. Therefore, as per rational method where dealing with any such cover-up on the part of a derelict regulator, we must assume: 1. The USDA believes many common foods contain very high levels of glyphosate residue. 2. The USDA believes this causes cancer and many other health detriments. 3. That’s why they don’t want to know. “Plausible deniability.” If they were honest and self-confident, they would test. The same is true at every point of the entire system.
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Instead, they play their usual games of regulatory whack-a-mole (“the EPA says it’s safe, and anyway is currently conducting its own reassessment, so let’s wait for that”) and pleading that testing would be too expensive. Well, of course Monsanto, which should have to pay for the testing but NOT conduct it, would say it’s expensive. But why would a regulator allegedly concerned with the “public interest” be parroting Monsanto’s position? Why indeed.
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*When Monsanto hires a PR firm is that tax-deductible? And is that income tax-exempt for the firm? I’d think not. But when the company launders the same operation through a university, it’s tax-exempt and probably tax-deductible. Yet the money was handed over to Kevin Folta to use at his own discretion as a publicist, dirty trickster, and whatever else he felt like doing. This sure looks like what the IRS would call tax fraud if any small fish got caught doing it.
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*A new study in Nature traces the climate change denial propaganda network. It’s organized in the same way as the pro-GMO propaganda machine and overlaps to a large extent. The same professional liars often hired for both purposes, and in general there’s a very strong correlation of climate change deniers with pro-GMO activists and a strong anti-correlation of climate deniers and GMO critics. The new report (behind a paywall, so I couldn’t see the whole thing yet) undoubtedly traces many denier figures who are also GMO propagandists, and zero who are critics.
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Anthropogenic climate change represents a global threat to human well-being and ecosystem functioning. Yet despite its importance for science and policy, our understanding of the causes of widespread uncertainty and doubt found among the general public remains limited.

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I can help them with that. The general public sees lots of politicians and insider NGO types issuing the most dire warnings about climate change, yet without exception these persons continue to advocate economic Business As Usual, as we just saw in Paris. The vast majority of them also live the most gluttonous personal lifestyles and have huge personal carbon footprints. So it makes perfect sense that members of the public would take an attitude, if not denying the actual physical science, still denying the political contention that this is really a crisis. After all, the actions of the likes of Obama, his negotiators at Paris, the Big Green environmental groups, all directly contradict their rhetoric. Clearly they’re liars when they claim to believe climate change is a growing crisis that must be faced honestly, rationally, morally, and without sham.
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Those who do recognize the full magnitude and peril of the crisis know there’s only one path: Greatly reduce GHG emissions, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks. All else is vanity and sham.
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BTW, bona fide climate change deniers are proportionally more common among the more highly formally educated, and especially among STEM types, than among the general public. (Just as Christian fundamentalists and evolution deniers are more common among engineers than among the public.) I just wanted to point that out, apropos of the implied elitism of the abstract quoted above.
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*Public health author Pam Killeen eulogizes Joe Cummins: “He didn’t keep his mouth shut, and that made him the renegade scientist, the renegade professor.” Very high praise in the time of the dominion of corporate science. He died of the cancer he spent his life fighting, in forms from PCBs to GMOs.
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*Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski is threatening to block FDA nominee Robert Califf until he pledges that FDA will require that GM salmon be labeled. The Alaska delegation cares so much about this particular GMO only because they want to protect Alaska’s wild salmon industry, and indeed they should be concerned. But just as we suspected, Murkowski is quick to stipulate that she doesn’t want labeling for any other GMOs, offering a completely unscientific and irrational distinction between genetically engineered crops and a genetically engineered animal. Is there any such distinction? No one knows, and there’s zero reason to think that anything unsafe about GM salmon wouldn’t also be unsafe about GM plants.
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*One thing Campbell’s confirms once and for all, though common sense always knew it and studies proved it – GMO labeling will have zero effect on food prices. The piece is better than many. While “thanking” Campbell’s it makes clear that the company is saying these things only under duress from consumer pressure, the state-level movement, and Vermont. That’s the same state-level movement so many “labeling advocates” have suddenly shown such eagerness to throw overboard, the moment a so-called “mandatory” FDA policy is on the table.
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January 12, 2016

The Two Versions of the DARK Act

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1. The only solution to the great ecological crises of our time, from the cancer epidemic to the chemical poisoning of ecosystems to the decimation of natural and agricultural biodiversity to climate change, is for humanity to abolish corporate industrial agriculture and transform civilization on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty. This is easily possible and would be in accord with science, reason, morality, and spirit. It would have every kind of benefit. In every way, except from the point of view of the greedy and power-hungry, it would be a great boon and end or greatly diminish all banes. It’s desirable and necessary. The facts are all known, the science and empirical practice fully demonstrated. All humanity needs is the will to do it.
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The starting point for this greatest human mission will have to come from the people, from the grassroots up. Centralized regulators are completely alien to the vast diversity of foodsheds and watersheds which naturally exist. By their inherent character such unaccountable bureaucracies wouldn’t be able to make rational, safe, and ecologically sound agricultural and food policy even if they wanted to. Of course their entire history proves they don’t want to.
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2. GMO labeling is worthless if it’s not inherently for the sake of public health, food safety, and democracy, and ultimately toward the Food Sovereignty goal. This has to mean real GMO labeling as aspired to by such state-level initiatives and legislation as those of Vermont, Washington, and California. It cannot mean the fraudulent standards promulgated by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), and in any event real GMO labeling can never come via central government preemption.
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Therefore we have one core, non-negotiable premise for real vs. fraudulent GMO labeling: No preemption. This is self-evidently true if labeling is supposed to be an exercise in democracy. This includes the principle of a right to know, which can be argued only on a pro-democracy basis, what Karl Popper called the open society. On the other hand if one’s willing to throw democracy in the garbage by supporting preemption, then one also disarms oneself against those who claim there’s no such thing as a “right to know”. Other than democratically, what could that even mean?
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It’s also empirically true that any preemptive federal policy, “mandatory” or otherwise, would follow closely the sham standards promulgated by the GMA. It’s pure fantasy to even talk about a “strong” mandatory federal labeling policy. We have all we can handle just in staving off the DARK Act, i.e. just in blocking extremely bad federal policy. What could be rational or constructive in daydreaming about good federal policy? Such a thing is impossible. We’re not talking about those who mean well but are weak or confused or scared. We’re talking about those who mean us harm.
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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get to what’s happening.
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3. Sometime in January 2016 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will convene a secret meeting of corporate and government “stakeholders” (that term’s always a tip-off that the goal is to gut the people) to discuss how to prevent Vermont’s GMO labeling law from going into effect.
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This is the #1 proximate goal: Prevent Vermont.
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As Vilsack has proclaimed, the longer-run goal is to lay to rest the GMO labeling controversy, and implicitly the entire controversy, once and for all.
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An implicit criterion for achieving this is the need to buy off as many labeling advocates as possible as cheaply as possible.
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Another, related need is to reach some status which would appease enough GMO critics and skeptics that it would either prevent the abolition idea from gaining ground, or at least delay it for several more years. They know humanity doesn’t have more years to give.
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4. Even though there’s legislators in Congress promising to reintroduce the so far thwarted DARK Act, it seems that some of the stakeholders think the DARK Act as so far conceived won’t attain these necessary goals even if it passes. The most pressing matter they all agree upon is to somehow prevent Vermont’s law from going into effect. That’s why Vilsack’s calling this conference now, without waiting to see if the DARK Act fares better in 2016.
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5. This is where the January Campbell’s announcement comes in. The idea of mandatory FDA-controlled labeling on a pro-corporate basis has been around for awhile. Obviously the GMA and its members preferred to preempt all mandatory labeling and offer at most a “voluntary” basis (and this too according to weak, sham standards). The DARK Act as we’ve known it so far has been written on this basis. But there was always the option of taking these same weak, fraudulent GMA standards and making them mandatory while preempting all stronger, far more truthful standards. That’s what Campbell’s proposes.
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Let’s be crystal clear:
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*Campbell’s is very strongly pro-GMO.
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*Campbell’s shares the goals of Vilsack conference: #1, Prevent Vermont. Longer run, make an end of the entire GMO controversy on the basis of a complete victory for GMOs.
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No one can dispute this, since Campbell’s explicitly pledges its support to GMOs*, explicitly condemns the state-level movement, and explicitly says its political proposal is meant to replace and obliterate the state-level movement. This automatically brings along the strong implication that the content and timing of the company’s announcement is targeted especially at Vermont’s law (which Campbell’s singles out for special mention), and that the company’s number one proximate goal is the same as that of Vilsack, to prevent Vermont’s law from going into effect and to destroy any possibility of any such laws being enacted in the future.
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For a detailed analysis of the weak and scam elements of the GMA’s labeling standards which Campbell’s wants to make mandatory, see here.
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If a labeling policy would not label the Arctic Apple and Innate Potato (any “mandatory” FDA policy would not label these nor any other “second generation” GMO, and it would forbid states to require the labeling of these), the most dangerous kind of GMOs of all for food safety, is it a policy worth supporting?
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Lest anyone mistake me, it’s possible to be glad that Campbell’s says it will voluntary label its own products, assuming they really go ahead and do it, while firmly rejecting its call for preemptive federal labeling. What’s been disturbing is to see how many self-alleged labeling advocates don’t separate the two and implicitly or even explicitly embrace preemption. This is a complete abdication and is completely irrational, assuming meaningful labeling was ever really their ideal in the first place.
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[*In addition to the standard Big Lie rhetoric, the Campbell’s announcements also contain a pure factual lie: “[T]he science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.” There is in fact zero science supporting this assertion (and an assertion is all it ever was: the FDA promulgated “substantial equivalence” as a purely cultist, pseudo-scientific dogma), while all the science which exists contradicts it. (At that link, cf. “The sham of substantial equivalence” and the next two sections.) Because of Roundup Ready GMOs, Campbell’s products almost certainly are loaded with cancer-causing glyphosate. So in addition to the usual political lies, we see how Campbell’s is a liar in the straight factual and scientific sense as well, including about the literal life-and-death matter of cancer. I’m sure I’m not being sufficiently “grateful”, but somehow I just can’t find my way to feel good about someone trying to sell me cancer-causing products and lying about it.]
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6. That brings us to what’s really going on here. Campbell’s and probably others have lost confidence in the GMA’s preferred “voluntary” DARK Act strategy, just as the GMA itself previously lost confidence in the scorched-earth 100% anti-labeling strategy which Monsanto prefers. We can assume Campbell’s wouldn’t have gone out on a limb alone, but that they satisfied themselves there would be more support coming for its position, probably at the Vilsack conference. It’s obvious that Campbell’s timed its announcement to mesh well with the upcoming Vilsack conference and looming Vermont deadline. They wanted to ensure that the idea of a “mandatory” version of the DARK Act, what we can now call DARK Act Plan B, would become a major topic of discussion at the Vilsack conference. Campbell’s and any like-minded “stakeholders”, and perhaps Vilsack himself (who in 2011 tried to broker a “co-existence” scam with the support of the industrial organic sector), see this as the best way to head off the Vermont challenge and preempt any further state-level policy while peeling off a sufficient number of labeling advocates. They think there’s a significant faction who oppose DARK Act Plan A but would accept or even support DARK Act Plan B.
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7. So what strategic and tactical prescription follows if all this is correct? What’s at stake is to fight a morphed version of the same old DARK Act. We should simply continue with the ongoing opposition to the DARK Act, whether in its Plan A “voluntary” or Plan B sham-“mandatory” version. If all those who ever said they were firmly against preemption would stick with that point and oppose ANY preemptive measure as the same old DARK Act and in exactly the same way, refusing to be distracted by the shiny thing “mandatory labeling” which is pure misdirection, then it would be the same fight against the DARK Act as we’ve already been fighting so effectively.
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By DARK Act Plan B I’m referring technically to whatever legislative proposal eventually arises from the Vilsack conference or any similar conclave. Campbell’s timed its announcement in order to make its proposal a major topic of discussion there. But I’m also referring to the general idea being propagated by Campbell’s.
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Opposition to preemption was one of the core reasons everyone gave for opposing the DARK Act (just as the right to know and therefore democracy is always given as a core reason to want labeling in the first place), so why should any other version of preemption be any different. Such organizations as the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now have said preemption would be a deal-breaker for them. If everyone who ever said this would simply continue to hold firm on it and continue to call a DARK Act a DARK Act, whether it be in the Plan A or Plan B version, then it would be a continuation of the same fight in the same way that people intend to oppose the new proposals for the Plan A version which various Congress types are promising for 2016.
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So the way to view it and the way politically to express it is to call it the same DARK Act in just a different shade of dark. Or if people decided it needed a special name, how about DUSK Act – Denying Us Sufficient Knowledge. But I’d stick with “It’s the same old DARK Act, since it preempts and therefore denies our real right to know.”
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And with this knowledge, state-level campaigners would also continue to fight for real labeling at the state level and not pack it in. They’d have to make the same argument to the public and potential activists and donors: The state level remains the only viable level to attain real labeling, while at the federal level there would only be the DARK Act.
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7. In the end we the people must, can, and will take back our agriculture and food and put an end to the onslaught of poison-based agriculture. What’s negative is to feel such deep doubts about this that one looks for plausible ways to give up, or to not share this great and necessary goal in the first place. A purely consumerist fad, committed only to the idea of labeling while not caring at all about the substance, was never worth having in the first place. That’s what’s negative. What’s worth having is a real democracy-committed movement which is on the vector toward the necessary abolition goal. That’s what’s positive.
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Let’s keep faith with Vermont and the fighters there who forced its GMO labeling law into being. Ironically, Vermont’s impending policy is the proximate trigger for all this – Campbell’s desperation move, the Vilsack conference, these are all being undertaken under duress. This proves the movement has been on the right course. Campbell’s desperation is evidence that everyone should want to continue on that course, not throw Vermont overboard and surrender everything.
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To say it one more time if anyone mistook me on this, the Campbell’s announcement is indeed a significant development. A major player has broken openly with the GMA’s preferred front and said DARK Act Plan A isn’t working, and that they want to move on to DARK Act Plan B.
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This is a heartening development, but the positive response is to say “Look how we have the bastards running scared! Now’s the time to redouble our efforts on the course we’re already on – keep opposing the DARK Act in both its forms and continue with the vigorous grassroots state-level movement.” This includes exposing attempts to hijack and co-opt the movement for real GMO labeling.
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January 9, 2016

Scambell (Real GMO Labeling vs. Preemption)

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We in the GMO labeling movement have good cause for pride today as we see how our educational, publicity, and grassroots efforts are driving one faction among the corporate food system, the manufacturers and retailers, to a partial split with the GMO cartel. Namely, there’s increasing momentum among manufacturers and retailers toward support for what they call a “mandatory” federal labeling policy. The most symbolic public step yet is the Campbell’s announcement that in theory it wants a mandatory federal standard. In fact the only thing Campbell’s is really promising to do is “seek guidance from the FDA and approval by USDA.”
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Let’s start with two clarifications. First, let’s clearly state the Campbell position. Campbell’s is openly and strongly pro-GMO. It wants the normalization of GMOs. It wants any significant controversy over them to end once and for all. It believes that a weak, watered-down, and in many ways fraudulent “mandatory” label policy at the federal level is the best way to attain these goals. It has decided to gamble and make this announcement, long on flash and light on substance, to push the sham preemption plan while getting a PR boost for its “transparency”.
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Campbell’s opposes real GMO labeling and openly implies this. The company is part of the same anti-labeling coalition which has always opposed state-level policy, and Campbell’s openly says it has not changed its mind on that. (Its announcement that it will no longer participate in campaigns against labeling is ambiguous. Does this apply only to federal-level policy, or to state-level campaigns as well?) The only difference is that since 2013 the manufacturers have been moving toward accepting a very weak but “mandatory” central government policy whose main feature would be to preempt state-level policy such as in Vermont. The only thing special Campbell’s has done is make a bold propaganda statement, and they’re doing it only because Vermont’s policy is a few months away from going into effect.
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Now, it may be possible to argue that Campbell’s is misguided in this and that its strategy will be harmful to the GMO project in the long run. (It may be possible to argue this, though I haven’t actually seen anyone argue it. I’ve seen only assertions.) But it’s not possible rationally to dispute that Campbell’s intends a pro-GMO plan.
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This leads to the second clarification. GMO labeling of course is not a two-position Yes or No issue. There are at least three positions on GMO labeling. The main three are: 1. One can completely oppose labeling. 2. One can support a strong mandatory labeling policy. This can be accomplished only at the state level. The state level is also the most workable level for democracy to function where it comes to this policy issue. 3. Finally, one can support sham, weak, watered-down labeling controlled at the federal level, whether in a nominally “voluntary” or “mandatory” form, which would preempt any stronger state-level policy and be anti-democratic in principle and in the particulars.
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We can call these latter two positions the strong, democratic labeling position, and the weak, technocratic labeling position.
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In order firmly to establish these points, let’s review the history.
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From the Campbell’s announcement.
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Today, consistent with our Purpose, we announced our support for mandatory national labeling of products that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) and proposed that the federal government provide a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging.

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These two planks reflect the two main concerns of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA promulgated a set of labeling standards hoping these could be enshrined as the basis for a “voluntary” policy, which would also preempt mandatory state policy and set restrictive standards for all voluntary labeling. Today Campbell’s is among those who have decided it’ll be politically necessary to take this as the framework for a mandatory FDA policy. But it would still include all the same sham and restrictive provisions, the same exemptions, and preempt stronger state policy.
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So let’s review the GMA’s “summary of discussion draft” for an FDA labeling policy, keeping in mind that any mandatory policy hammered out among the likes of the FDA, USDA, Campbell’s and other industry “stakeholders” will closely follow this blueprint. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in a mandatory label at all? Let alone one which would preempt much better state-level labels.
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Title I purports to describe “Bioengineered Food”. Section 101 defines this to exclude all food which includes genetic engineering as part of the processing, but which does not actually include a GMO as an ingredient. So anything which used GE enzymes, yeast, etc. – a vast array of foods – would be excluded from the purview of this policy, and no one could ever apply any label voluntarily (e.g., “this bread was made without genetically engineered yeast”) or make it mandatory (“made with genetically engineered yeast”). All this would be preempted by the FDA.
(The lethal Showa Denko epidemic was caused by contaminants in an over-the-counter supplement which used genetic engineering in the processing. The contaminants were produced by the GE process.)
Although it doesn’t explicitly say so here, this would also apply to the gaping void in GMO awareness, meat and dairy from GMO-fed animals. It would probably also forestall BGH labeling once and for all. Here’s a particularly deceptive part from <a href="“>the Campbell’s communication: “However, [Vermont’s] legislation does not include products with meat or poultry, because they are regulated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under Vermont law, SpaghettiO’s original variety, guided by the FDA, will be labeled for the presence of GMOs, but SpaghettiO’s meatballs, guided by the USDA, will not. Yet these two varieties sit next to each other on a store shelf, which is bound to create consumer confusion”.
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This is deceptive in every way. Under Vermont’s policy all varieties would be labeled for the FDA-purview GM ingredients. On the other hand, any “mandatory” FDA policy which could possibly be enacted would exclude meat and dairy from GM-fed animals as well. So on that score, nothing Campbell’s is proposing would change anything from the Vermont policy or from any other proposed state policy. It’s ironic how unctuous Campbell’s is about “consumer confusion”, even as it’s doing all it can to confuse consumers as much as possible. In reality any conceivable FDA policy would apply only to GM crops and directly engineered animals like the Aquabounty salmon.
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It’s a foregone conclusion that the “second generation” GMOs which the USDA claims it has no authority to regulate, CRISPR and the like, would not be included in this labeling.
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Section 102 changes existing FDA notification policy. As things are, GMO developers don’t have to have any contact at all with the FDA. They deal only with the USDA, and the USDA grants commercialization approval. But the corporation may send a voluntary notification letter to the FDA. This letter says nothing more than, “we think this GMO product is safe”, and the FDA replies, “we understand that you think this product is safe”. That’s the entirety of FDA “oversight”. The Clinton administration had wanted to make this farce mandatory, but the cartel resisted even that, and the Bush administration encoded the voluntary status quo.
Now the GMA is willing to revert to the Clinton mandatory notification. The reason for this is that one of the “principles” listed in the GMA draft is that the policy will “Mandate FDA Safety Reviews”. Of course there won’t really be any safety review whatsoever. But the GMA hopes that if the sham letter exchange is made mandatory, they’ll then be able to depict this in GMO propaganda as a mandatory safety review. Indeed, this may turn out to be the entirety of what’s “mandatory” about any policy which is enacted. It may be that the label can and will say only, “passed by a mandatory FDA review” or something like that.
In the course of boilerplate about the FDA’s mandate to “protect the health and safety”, the draft reaffirms the FDA’s ideological dogma of “substantial equivalence”: “The use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.”
So the FDA will pretend it’s on the lookout for “material differences”, when in fact it ideologically defines all material differences out of existence. (GMOs are self-evidently radically different in principle from the true crops from which they’re derived, as well as materially different in many unpredictable secondary ways.) The real teeth of this part are found here: “..or to prevent the label of the bioengineered food from being false and misleading.” This means that the FDA will severely regulate the content of voluntary, privately certified non-GMO labels and force them to include pro-GM dogma like, “The FDA has determined that there is no material difference between genetically engineered food and other foods.” I’d bet money this would be part of the quid pro quo for any “mandatory” labeling policy.
Section 103 describes how the GMA would want the actual GMO labeling, whether voluntary or “mandatory”, to work. Corporations will be able to apply “non-GMO” labels to anything with a so-called “adventitious presence” of GM material. This means collateral contamination will be let through under non-GM labeling policy. Voluntary outfits like the Non-GMO Project will be encouraged or if necessary forced to allow their certification to be applied to whatever the FDA considers “low level” contamination. No one will be allowed to institute a more rigorous voluntary non-GM certification process. The goal here is to co-opt and discredit non-GMO labeling as such, and to help normalize the increasing contamination of food and agriculture with collateral GM contamination. (Indeed, with the mandatory FDA policy, there would be at least strong propaganda pressure for the likes of the Non-GMO Project to shut down the shop, since their services would allegedly no longer be necessary.)
It explicitly says that GM-fed dairy, as well as food which used GE processing aids like yeast, could be labeled “non-GMO”. Labels cannot say or imply that “non-GMO” is better, or that GMOs are potentially harmful. Instead, the FDA will place restraints on voluntary non-GMO labeling as I described above.
The draft does include a vague passage which seems to give corporate producers free rein to make the label say anything they want, including touting an alleged GMO benefit or even the benefit of something being non-GMO. The FDA’s oversight is clearly to apply only to the organic and non-GM sector.
Section 104 is explicit on preemption: “This section would preempt any state laws that are not identical to the Federal program.”
That, of course, is the #1 goal of the whole corporate endeavor here. Under the guidance of Monsanto, the GMA originally wanted there to be no labeling policy at all.
Title II is on so-called “Natural Foods”. Here the GMA merely wants the FDA to encode the scam which allows the term “natural” to be applied to foods containing GMOs and almost any other kind of poison. As things are now, “natural” can be slapped on anything except for foods containing anything from a short list of specific additives. It’s therefore basically a scam term. There are retailers and manufacturers whose whole business model is to produce and sell conventional GMO-based food as some kind of “natural” higher quality food.
One of the goals of some labeling campaigns, California’s in particular, was to put an end to this consumer fraud by banning the use of the term “natural” for any food which contains GMOs. With this part of the proposal the GMA wants the FDA to preempt such a derogation of this terminological scam. Here too its call for preemption is explicit (section 203).
That concludes the GMA’s commentary on the legislative proposal. The rest of the draft is a combination of blather and straight lies, meant to provide talking points to supportive lawmakers and bureaucrats. It concludes with the list of “principles” which the policy will allegedly embody. “Mandate FDA Safety Reviews” refers to the scam I described above. “Require Federal GMO Labeling for Safety” refers to the part about “material difference”; you can rest assured that the GMO labels will be mandatory in any case where the ever-vigilant FDA considers it necessary. If the FDA says it’s not necessary, you can rest easy and go back to sleep, since the food is safe. “Create a National Standard for Voluntary Labels” refers to the Gleichschaltung of all voluntary certification programs such as the Non-GMO Project, like I described above.
It concludes with the two Orwellian and anti-democratic expressions of contempt for the people, “Increase Transparency” when it will do the opposite, and the hoary lie about “Preventing Consumer Confusion”.
Consumers, in fact, to the extent the information has been readily available to them, have been far less confused about GMOs than any other group. Unlike most others, consumers have rightfully been suspicious of such a counterintuitive product. Sure enough, 100% of the evidence to date has supported this consumer unease.
Monsanto’s default has been to oppose all labeling. But the fact that the GMA, under pressure from such members as Walmart and Coca-Cola, is now promulgating this proposal for FDA preemption is proof of how fearful the corporations are of the GMO labeling movement. There’s a growing consensus among manufacturers and retailers that FDA preemption is preferable to continuing to fight a scorched earth war against labeling at the state level. Monsanto itself supports the FDA’s existing draft guidance on voluntary labeling, which is hostile to labeling and would like to censor it in the way I described above.
Part of the point of the GMA’s promulgation of this preemptive “voluntary” scheme is to position a sham mandatory FDA preemptive policy as the middle position, in case this sham-voluntary and preemptive policy is politically rejected as being too lax. So far this is what has happened with the DARK Act.
The GMA will continue to do all it can to get the “voluntary” FDA preemption policy enshrined in law. Several pro-GMO activists in Congress are promising to introduce new versions of the DARK Act. But failing this, the GMA and the manufacturers and retailers will settle for a sham “mandatory” policy. In any event it wants to strangle the rising local and state movement, especially since the idea of outright bans on GMO cultivation is gaining ground as more and more citizens come to realize that labeling would not be sufficient.
I’ll add that although some people may have forgotten about the TPP and TTIP, Campbell’s certainly hasn’t. These would rule out even a watered-down mandatory labeling policy. In general, if these globalization pacts are forced upon us, the only recourse left will be defiance radiating up from the grassroots. The same grassroots so many people are implying such contempt for today, to the extent they’re willing to accept any kind of central government preemption. The fact is that in principle and practice the FDA is incapable and unwilling to effectively regulate GMOs. Nothing but a democratic movement of the people, taking direct action, putting direct pressure on manufacturers and retailers, and putting direct pressure on the lower levels of government, will be sufficient to defeat the GMO enemy.
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So the “mandatory” labeling Campbell’s claims to want is just the GMA’s plan B, to be resorted to if the DARK Act-type plan A for “voluntary” labeling doesn’t work out. It’s axiomatic that any FDA standard, which is what Campbell’s says it wants, will be so weak as to be a sham but will preempt state level policy, which is the only place where real policy could possibly be enacted. That’s what the upcoming Vilsack conference is supposed to be about. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (a Biotechnology Industry Organization “Governor of the Year” awardee) is convening a conference meant to get enough politicians and corporate “stakeholders” on board with some version of the GMA plan, whether this be another DARK Act version or the Campbell’s-advocated fake-mandatory-preemptive version. It’s the culmination of the process retailers and manufacturers such as Walmart and Coca-Cola first set in motion in 2013, wanting a weak federal policy to forestall any real policy at the state level. Federal preemption is always the death of grassroots movements which seek to create real policy by direct citizen vote or pressure. And the “patchwork”, to use the Frank Luntz propaganda term which everyone seems to love so much when applied to GMO labeling, is a good thing. Those who want real labeling and believe in freedom and democracy want the patchwork in all its diverse glory.
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Technocrats, by definition, despise democracy and think unaccountable secretive “experts” should devise and execute policy. Today Campbell’s is trying to muster enthusiasm among labeling advocates to have FDA and industry bureaucrats take complete control of labeling from the very people who forced it into being as a mainstream controversy in the first place.
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Indeed, it’s unanimously agreed, and Campbell’s concedes, that Campbell’s is doing this only under the duress of the state-level agitation. So why, when the state-level campaigning is making such progress and is such a fine display of democracy at its finest, would labeling advocates be eager to join with industry in quashing this democratic movement? Only anti-democratic ideology could explain it. And this fits well with the consumerist ideology within which the establishment has wanted to corral the labeling and anti-GMO movement. It’s a textbook example of trying to co-opt a movement which threatens corporate interests and lay it to rest.
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Campbell has opposed this state-by-state patchwork approach, and has worked with GMA to defeat several state ballot initiatives. Put simply, although we believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, we also believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers. More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.

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I know that when I’m looking for a company I can trust, the fact that they say consumers are idiots is always high on my list!
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Michelle Simon summed it up with her warning on preemption: “The junk food lobby’s “federal solution” is to make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling. Period. End of story.” She says that in the context of discussing the GMA’s plan A, the DARK Act-type policy. But plan B is to do the exact same thing as the DARK Act, just making the sham voluntary labeling guidelines “mandatory”.
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Here’s what Simon and others said when she wrote about the gambit early in 2013.
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However, any federal standard must set a floor and not a ceiling, and not hand preemption over to industry. The role of the federal government is to set minimum standards, while still allowing states to go further. This, however, is not the end-game that Walmart et al. have in mind.

I asked Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now! and leader of the grassroots GMO labeling efforts about this issue. He told me it was a huge concern among movement leaders: “Ultimately the conversation represents a seismic shift in where we were four years ago on GMO labeling. But we know that anything coming out of Washington D.C. will be a weaker standard, which would not be good for either farmers or consumers. The goal is to make sure that a federal law doesn’t undermine state efforts.”

As Cummins noted about the meeting: “We should be wary of any compromise deal at the federal level, one that would preempt the passage of meaningful state GMO labeling laws that have real teeth.”

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So for years there’s been a strong awareness against the specter of preemption in the context of a DARK Act-style sham-voluntary labeling policy. But as we see, to take the same weak and phony standards and render them mandatory is hardly an improvement, and absolutely is not worth waffling on preemption.
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So if we’re anti-GMO, what’s the right initial default here? Let’s see.
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1. Campbell’s is openly and unabashedly pro-GMO.
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2. Therefore, they believe the steps they’re taking are good for the future of GMOs in food. They’re doing this for the sake of preserving the GMO food regime.
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3. So it follows that this is a pro-GM ploy. Therefore it also follows that anti-GMO campaigners, writers, and anyone from the public who opposes or is skeptical of GMOs, glyphosate, etc. should look askance at this. Even if one thinks this can have beneficial effects, the right attitude is still to be dispassionate and skeptical toward any part of the corporate system.
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4. Most of all, we mustn’t waver for a moment in our primary support for state-level campaigns for strong labeling and food sovereignty measures and our strong opposition to any preemption of these. Any FDA policy has to be a floor which does not preempt the states. This has to be non-negotiable.
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Which grassroots movements fell far short of what it was possible for them to achieve, or failed completely? Those which let themselves be preempted, those among whom industry was able to peel off the less committed and more technocratic. less democratic element. Which movement has attained great successes? The smoke-free public space movement, in large part because it resisted all preemption attempts.
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The GMO labeling fight was always likely to come down to decisions. Labeling has long had a latent divide between centralization and its grassroots, laboratory of democracy aspect. Many labeling advocates have followed the lead of the semi-industry group “Just Label It” (JLI). JLI’s ideology is that labeling is about nothing but “transparency”, a vague term. They explicitly reject the contention that GMOs (or pesticides) are harmful to health, explicitly call for “co-existence” with Monsanto, and have nothing to say about the malign agronomic and socioeconomic aspects of corporate agriculture. It’s a purely consumerist ideology, and they say GMOs are a purely consumerist matter which should be dealt with on a purely consumerist level. As we see today, that also means it has nothing to do with democracy, and is in fact anti-democracy since it exalts preemptive central government power over lower-level power, and especially over the ability of the people directly to vote policy, as the ballot initiatives in California and Washington represented opportunities to do.
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Beyond that, agriculture and food production and distribution are naturally and rationally local/regional economic and ecological sectors. The more centralized and alien a governmental structure is, the less rational its agricultural and food policies could be, and the less legitimacy it inherently has.
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With these facts, it’s hard to understand what some of the labeling advocates ever wanted. If they agree with Campbell’s and JLI that GMOs are safe for human health, and agree that this has nothing to do with political democracy and rebuilding a safe, rational food system, but on the contrary are eager to side with the same illegitimate, malign, and stupid central government power which forced GMOs and Roundup upon us in the first place and will continue to do so, then why did they ever get started? “Transparency” in itself is not an ideal or a goal, but would have to be in the service of something intrinsically valuable. But what’s being exalted here isn’t even transparency toward the goal of greater democracy. On the contrary, more democracy means keeping this on the state level. But we know how anti-democratic the preemption advocates are. We see the kind of technocratic policy they prefer. And to say it again, any real, strong policy could be enacted only at the state level, while any federal policy will be very weak at best. So it turns out some people just like the idea of labeling, and in practice would settle for “labeling, any labeling”, rather than good labeling.
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This goes back to my original analysis of why the people of California and Washington, after initially expressing strong support for labeling, ended up failing to vote for it. They recognized that labeling as envisioned by the labeling movement is at best a pointless exercise lacking any comprehensive political and strategic concept and from which no further step follows. At worst, and as we see today far more likely, its a scam intended to misdirect away from any kind of meaningful action. Today the misdirection is proximately away from the relatively stronger labeling policy set to be put into effect in Vermont, or which would have been effected in California or Washington.
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The much bigger misdirection is to put the whole controversy to sleep and prevent the rise of the necessary abolition movement. As we see today, they’re off to a great start with that.
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The struggle over GMOs, pesticides, and other evils of corporate agriculture is about our core human values, the physical and spiritual integrity of nature and our place within it, and also about our bodily health and the health of the ecology in the most direct physical sense. No element of these can be encompassed within consumerism or technocracy. On the contrary, the moment we set out the entire efflorescence bursts completely and gloriously free of such picayune and conservative bounds, bounds which are conservative in the most profound political sense of the term. These bounds are also insufficient for all the needs of humanity and the Earth. The necessary goal, and therefore the only ultimately meaningful goal, is the abolition of poison-based agriculture and humanity’s transformation to agroecology. Strong state-level GMO labeling policy, and even more important, the grassroots campaigns for it, can be steps toward this great and necessary goal. But a technocratic, preemptive, and intrinsically weak federal labeling policy, however “mandatory”, can only be counterproductive, can be only another barrier, weight, hindrance, and waste of time we do not have. In itself this is no goal, and is indeed a malign misdirection and weapon of Monsanto against the necessary grassroots human movement and this movement’s necessary goal.
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