Volatility

March 4, 2016

GMO News Summary March 4th, 2016

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*As we discussed last week the EU government shows what it thinks of the WHO-acknowledged fact that glyphosate causes cancer by calling for the re-approval of glyphosate in Europe for the next 15 years. This isn’t just an ongoing crime at the most monumental human and environmental level, but it even violates EU de jure law. (The latter is more important to most people who care at all.) The 2009 EU pesticides law requires that carcinogenic pesticides be banned.
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Six European NGOs are now suing on the grounds that the German BfR and EU’s EFSA also broke the law in the tendentious way they reassessed glyphosate, in particular the way they whitewashed the WHO’s finding that glyphosate causes cancer.
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Specifically, by its own admission the German BfR did nothing but regurgitate and launder the propaganda put out by the industry’s Glyphosate Task Force. The BfR then used fraudulent, industry-dictated methodologies to disparage the WHO’s procedure and falsely exculpate glyphosate. The EFSA then parroted the BfR’s whitewash, and the EU in turn will try to use this to justify re-authorizing glyphosate. The NGO suit is trying to have the GTF/BfR/EFSA fraud thrown out and force the regulators to start over.
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There’s one element of the regulator strategy to continue literally to force this cancer agent into our bodies.
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*Another element is what GMWatch hails as “a modest breakthrough” in the lies the European Union government is telling about glyphosate and other pesticides. Under stepped up pressure following the WHO’s 2015 finding that glyphosate causes cancer, such as the lawsuit I just mentioned, Germany’s BfR and the EFSA feel the need to go so far as to admit that maybe the commercial glyphosate formulations have some cancer risk. This was the only way they could try to assimilate part of the WHO’s finding while still politically exonerating glyphosate. One of the basic regulator frauds is to assess in ivory tower isolation only the so-called “active ingredient” in a pesticide and not the formulation which is used in the real world. In reality the terms “active” and “inert” have zero scientific meaning but are purely political, meant to facilitate this regulatory scam and fool people into thinking the dictionary definition of “inert” applies and that these ingredients are non-toxic. In reality these supplementary ingredients are there to render the primary ingredient more potent and therefore more toxic, and such supplementary ingredients as POEA (used in Roundup all over the world except in Germany itself, where it’s banned) are often more toxic than the primary ingredient. So a commercial formulation is actually far more poisonous by volume (in Poison Spring E. Vallianatos describes how one of the purposes of the active/inert scam is to greatly reduce the volume of poisons reported sprayed) and in its potency. (Not to mention synergy effects among the multiple poisons.)
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Now, under the spotlight of parliamentary questioning in anticipation of the upcoming vote of member states to reauthorize glyphosate in Europe for the next 15 years, the European Commission says it will start to think about revising its assessment procedure to include some account of the real world product and not the falsely isolated “active ingredient” which is used nowhere in reality. As the bureaucrat put it, “In the context of the regulatory system we are opening a new area of work. This is not something we have done a lot before, looking at the co-formulant, looking at the end product.” Looking at the end product, imagine that! What’ll they think of next? Actually they’re not really thinking of it now either, only about “a lot of concerns we have heard, including from MEPs and civil society.” As always only political pressure can make anyone do anything. As with the FDA’s promise to test for glyphosate residues in some food products, they’ll see how far they can get with just the announcement, how long they can delay actually doing anything, and then what minimal level of action will be sufficient to appease enough erstwhile “concerned” people. Cf. the new GMO labeling proposal below for a similar example.
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This is also meant to evade the Pesticides Law I mentioned above. The law applies to carcinogenic “active” ingredients. So if the EU can get away with blaming all the cancer evidence on tallowamine, it can claim that the continued authorization of glyphosate is legal as well as safe. But in fact regulators have known at least since the early 1980s that glyphosate by itself causes cancer. The fact that commercial glyphosate formulations are even more carcinogenic doesn’t exonerate glyphosate itself.
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*For an example of what these glyphosate co-formulants, these “inert” ingredients, actually do to our health, see the new study which measures the endocrine disruptive effects of the co-formulants of six glyphosate herbicides. The study found that the co-formulants by themselves as well as each of the formulations decreased aromatase activity (essential for balancing production of testosterone and estrogen) at doses far below standard agricultural uses. This is why there’s no safe “tolerance” level for pesticide exposure or ingestion: They’re all endocrine disruptors, and these effects occur at very low doses. Endocrine disruption in turn is a major cause of reproductive problems, birth defects, and cancer.
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*Given the standard operating procedure of regulators, it’s no surprise that the USDA muzzles scientists and persecutes those who adhere to the scientific method instead of the corporate science paradigm. Nor is it a surprise that the USDA concluded a review of this censorship process by congratulating itself and promising to stay the course. PEER, the NGO which has been organizing the pressure on this front, concludes, “Something now unmistakably clear is that no scientist in their right mind should report political manipulation of science inside USDA.” This is true, but the conclusion goes way beyond this. Something now unmistakably clear, if it wasn’t clear before, is that any citizen should recognize there is no science at the USDA, only corporate-dictated “science”.
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*I forgot to include legal immunity as part three of my regulator template. (See here for one of my many descriptions of this heuristic which I’ve found to be broadly applicable to all kinds of political phenomena.) Do you still believe now there’s such a thing as a “rule of law”?
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*BASF announces it’s rolling back the range of its genetic engineering projects. This follows the removal of its GE division from Europe to North Carolina a few years ago, a migration in search of a more favorable political habitat. If GMWatch’s take is right, this latest move sounds like Monsanto and BASF would not be a good match, since Monsanto can’t pretend to offer anything but more of the same genetic engineering hype which BASF may be gradually moving away from. Yet BASF was looking like Monsanto’s last chance to make the kind of diversification deal it needs. Monsanto needs to make a deal with someone who’s more product-diversified since it’s so dependent on Roundup, a product whose time may be running out. As we saw with Syngenta’s spurning of their suit last year, Monsanto may not have much that anyone else wants.
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*In news related to the sector calcification we touched on in the above item, here’s more fraud centering on the hype of genetic engineering. As with patent pumping in general, this is looking more and more like another stock-pumping scam. A few weeks ago I discussed how “hi-tech agriculture” is looking like another dotcom bubble in the making.
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*Purdue University is a liar. Monsanto publicists there have put out a fake “study” which claims to find that GM crops outyield non-GM. In order to obtain this result which runs counter to all prior evidence, they cherry-picked some answers from a USDA questionnaire which the agency itself said was completely unscientific, and then bogusly interpreted these extremely qualitative figures. Namely, they arbitrarily compared production figures for the variable “GMO” vs. “non-GMO” with zero knowledge of all other variables (such as fertilizer use) and fraudulently declared any differences to be caused by this variable. Anyone with a high school level knowledge of scientific method knows you can’t attain a result this way. But clearly Purdue professors never comprehended even this elementary concept. This kind of “science” is the norm under the corporate science paradigm.
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*Clearly nothing is more loathesome than what Republican propaganda consultant Frank Luntz dubbed “the patchwork”. Luntz’s term is now extremely popular among both Republican and Democrat types. Thus we have broad consensus, from Monsanto to Merkley: Monoculture good, diversity (and democracy) bad. They disagree only on some details.
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*Here’s a stark lesson in how the corporate system views the difference between real democracy, including real votes driven by the people, and the corporate-approved kangaroo elections being held this year for “president” and other corporate positions. In Washington the state supreme court is quashing ballot democracy in compliance with corporate demands. As the CELDF’s Mari Margil writes:
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“Let the voters decide.”

While we hear that slogan often – especially in a presidential election year – the truth is that at the local level, Washington voters rarely get to cast a ballot in their own communities on critical issues.

That’s because our authority to place issues directly on the ballot – through the citizens’ initiative – has been under siege by business interests affected by its use and by courts friendly to those interests.

In February, the Washington Supreme Court continued that trend, removing a citizens’ initiative from the Spokane ballot that sought to protect community, environmental and worker rights. In its ruling, the court declared that the people’s local initiative power isn’t really a right at all, but merely a privilege granted by state government to our communities….

More than a century ago, the people of Washington enacted the citizens’ initiative process to secure our rights to directly make law. With its recent ruling, the state Supreme Court effectively eliminated our authority to do so.

With the court’s action, going forward we should expect few, if any, local citizens’ initiatives – in Spokane or other communities across Washington – to be placed on the ballot for a vote. This includes in Tacoma, where opponents of the proposed methanol plant are seeking to place an initiative on the ballot to give residents the authority to decide whether to grant permits to large water users, such as the methanol plant, that seek to use more than one million gallons a day….

State governmental power exercised in this manner, of course, is nothing new. State governments guard their powers jealously, even to the point of forcibly preventing local communities from protecting their own people, workers and the natural environment….

Our state Legislature is not unique in seeking to preempt local governing authority, even when that authority is exercised to protect people’s rights to their own health and safety. Across the country, state governments have now eliminated the power of communities to ban hydro-fracking for natural gas, genetically modified crops, corporate water bottling operations, pipelines and other practices.

It’s precisely when we watch our elected officials restricting our democratic rights that the people need the initiative power more than ever….

It’s time to push back against the power of the state to tell communities what they can and cannot do. It’s time to recognize a right of communities to expand rights at the local level and to insulate the exercise of that right from the power of state governments to override it.

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Hostility toward participatory democracy and the technocratic lust for preemption of democracy is widespread and not limited to the corporations either. For example, this technocratic mindset is one thing upon which Monsanto and many GMO labeling advocates agree. As I mentioned above, nothing’s more abhorrent to monoculture believers of every sort than the “patchwork”, aka diversity, of ecology, democracy, and freedom.

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February 26, 2016

GMO News Summary February 26th, 2016

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*As they try again to pass a version of the DARK Act (Plan A version), let’s look ahead to a possible world where it’s been passed.
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I recommend, and will always myself use, a form of ju jitsu. If the DARK Act passes, let’s try to turn the tables on them by telling everyone far and wide that this proves all industrial food is GMO unless otherwise labeled, but that the alleged need for such a law proves that the manufacturers are desperate to hide this fact. After all, Pompeo’s own flunkeys said so: “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO. Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don’t.” Exactly right. Monsanto forecast that putting a label on things would be like a skull and crossbones? Let’s turn this into a reverse skull and crossbones. Let’s loudly catcall every manufacturer, in every forum where consumers who might care will see it: Campbell’s is willing to label and confirms that it won’t cost anything extra. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Let’s stick that DARK version of the skull and crossbones on everything.
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According to the draft this version of the DARK Act will give the agriculture secretary a formal pro-GMO propaganda mandate. Of course this would just formalize the status quo, and highlights how purely political the government’s version of “science” is. Anyone who knows the slightest bit about science knows it’s a contradiction in terms to order that someone simultaneously be “science-based” and be automatically “for” anything. You can have one or the other, not both. Just as you can have secrecy or science, never both. There we have just two examples of how radically anti-science the pro-GMO activists are. Of course by now the very term “science-based”, in the mouth of anyone from the establishment, is an Orwellism just like the Big Tobacco lobbying term “sound science”. Wherever you see either term you can be assured it means the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to sound like. Wherever anyone from government, corporations, or their media says “science”, it automatically means corporate “science”.
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Ah well, the ag secretary already has the power to shill and does so. To my way of thinking, a law giving him a formal mandate to do so ought to further discredit the government in the eyes of anyone who’s still in any doubt about how committed the government is to corporate imperatives.
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With the endless iterations of the DARK Act we have a war of attrition which, in the end, the corporations are bound to win, if anti-poison types keep fighting primarily on these grounds. Which brings up another point, which is that this mode keeps the anti-GMO movement firmly on the defensive, really just fighting the DARK Act over and over. As for Non-GMO labels or any other kind of labeling, let’s always keep in mind that the corporate plan, no matter what kind of labeling were ever to exist, is that the allowed level of “adventitious presence” below which something could still be called “non-GM” (or not have to be labeled as GM) will keep mechanically being raised as GM contamination proceeds. The corporations expect this to happen in the exact same way regulators mechanically keep raising the allowed pesticide “tolerances”. There’s no doubt about it, any kind of labeling strategy is doomed to fail completely in the end, because co-existence is impossible, physically and politically.
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*For example, transgenic contamination has been afflicting maize in its Mexican center of origin and biodiversity ever since NAFTA was instituted in the 1990s. This is in spite of the fact that GM maize has never legally been cultivated in Mexico. Transgenic pollen also contaminates the wild progenitor of maize, teosinte. Thus this contamination compromises not only the existing genetic diversity of maize, narrow as that has become under corporate monoculture farming; it’s also compromising the genetic wellspring necessary for the future of the crop.
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Today the public is learning something the Spanish government and Monsanto have known at least since 2009, that teosinte has established itself as an “invasive” in Spain. (For some reason they don’t call maize itself an invasive, though; but both reached Spain in much the same deliberate way.) This brings the danger that MON810, the only GM crop grown legally in Europe and widely grown only in Spain, may contaminate this teosinte stock in the same way the contamination has spread to teosinte in Mexico.
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By law GM crops can be authorized for cultivation in Europe only if they pose no cross-contamination threat. Governments and corporations, in this case Monsanto, have an obligation to monitor this potentiality. In practice this kind of requirement is invariably flouted, and there’s never any penalty for flouting it. In fact, this systematic condoning of systematic flouting proves that the law itself is really a propaganda sham which was never intended to be enforced, much like Bt refuges. In this case both Monsanto and the Spanish government have failed for many years to report the presence of teosinte to the EU government, and in 2014 Spanish officials lied about it in response to questions from the European Parliament. See below for more on the EU’s own refusal to meet its legally mandated reporting standards.
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*Among the basic scams of regulators is to pretend there’s no such thing as synergy effects when multiple poisons afflict an organism, or indeed that there’s more than one poison at all. Instead they pretend that whichever chemical is the topic of the moment is the one and only chemical in existence, and they undertake their bogus “assessment” and set the “tolerance” based on this lie. Thus there’s no such thing as a maximum cumulative tolerance, e.g. for all pesticides combined, nor is there any assessment of the combined effect of multiple pesticides even though there’s conclusive evidence that this combined effect is often severe. Indeed, the EPA’s recent temporary revocation of the registration for Dow’s Enlist herbicide was triggered by EPA’s embarrassment during a lawsuit. In the course of telling EPA there was no synergy effect while telling the patent office there is one (this self-contradiction in itself is standard procedure and is no problem for the EPA or for the FDA’s “substantial equivalence” lie), Dow was so assertive in its synergy rhetoric that in the context of the public interest lawsuit this embarrassed the regulator. So there’s Dow itself claiming glyphosate and 2,4-D together have a greatly more severe effect than just adding together the effects of each by itself. (And to repeat, the EPA never even does this basic adding, let alone takes synergy into account.)
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There’s now a new report assembling the evidence for combined effects, as well as the cumulative effects of exposure over time, which is another thing regulators never test. According to their junk science paradigm, the one and only thing to test is short-term acute exposure, and even this is done in bogus ways. Regulators will continue to do all they can to stall, obfuscate and deny, throwing up a fog of obscurantism and lies to go along with the literal poison fogs they help inflict upon us all.
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*”The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and Iowa Agribusiness Association opposed the liability bills (House Bill 289 and Senate Bill 1190), testifying that commercial applicators wouldn’t be able to qualify for or afford these levels of insurance.” That’s as clear as testimony gets that an industrial activity is unviable according to the mythology of capitalism, which claims that a worthwhile good or service can always pay its own way. But here’s the state of Iowa and its poison-marketing trade group openly admitting it’s not possible for those who profit from the action to pay for its costs, and that those costs have to be borne by others. Of course the damage to other crops caused by pesticide drift is just one part of the destruction wrought by poison manufacturers and users. As we see in this case, if we intend to do anything about this we’re going to need to be rather more severe in return than just advocating laws about regulating and monitoring pesticide drift. For starters, we can resolve to abolish 2,4-D and dicamba completely and focus completely on this and only this goal. As we see in Iowa, the enemy is so totalitarian that it will not tolerate even the most modest restraints, and is willing openly to say that third parties should have to pay for poison harms, not the sellers or users. Is it possible to be more clear about what a zero-sum game this is?
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*CAFOs are among the most hideously filthy places on Earth. The animals are permanently sick and require massive doses of antibiotics, not just to put on weight but to remain alive at all. They are veritable bioweapons labs, incubators of every kind of pathogen, the most perfectly crafted habitat for bacteria-borne disease. Dust from these CAFOs and their manure lagoons then spreads the potential for infection as far as the wind carries the infected particles. According to a new study CAFO drift has greater potential than previously documented to contaminate produce with potentially pathogenic bacteria. This joins with pesticide drift and transgenic contamination via pollen drift to prove that coexistence is impossible. This puts in reality-based perspective the lies about how “precise” and “controlled” industrial agriculture is, and how much of a lie the ideology of scientific control is in the first place. It also demonstrates how all the pretensions of control so pompously touted by engineers, corporate bureaucrats, and their political and media flunkeys are really lies, and how they premeditate the systematic spread of disease and poisoning. They know all this and they persist.

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Persistence Proves Intent.
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.*The EU’s ombudsman finds that the EU systematically abuses its institution of “confirmatory data procedure” for special regulation of poisons where the original submissions are proven to be so fraudulent that even the regulator can’t just cover up. Just like with the EPA’s “conditional registration”, when there’s incontrovertible evidence of a severe problem the EU allows poison sellers to say “the data’s in the mail” while they keep selling. In her ruling on a suit filed by the Pesticide Action Network of Europe the ombudsman also criticized EU regulators for lack of environmental protection assessments, lack of required follow-up monitoring (as I described above in the case of Spain’s teosinte, this scofflawing is so standard that we can call it a systematic lie among all regulators), and the health agency’s blithe approval of poisons which even the EFSA says give “critical areas of concern”. The ruling has no enforcement power and hands down no penalty, it merely demands that the EU submit a report within the next two years. In this report the liars are supposed to tell how the lies they used to tell are no longer being told. Because we know how credible such a report will be.
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Therefore it’s no surprise that the European Commission is responding to the WHO’s finding that glyphosate causes cancer by proposing to extend glyphosate’s official endorsement for the next 15 years and expand the allowed range of uses. The “European Council” of various national ministers is slated to meet in March to vote on the proposal.
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The WHO has summed up the decades of evidence, and the EU responds that it wants to give all Europeans cancer. It would be difficult for a government to more openly, starkly express its conscious, willful, homicidal intent. Certainly no ombudsman’s ruling, however harsh, will ever be sufficient for meeting this crisis.
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*Here’s the FDA temporarily backing down on its planned assault on raw milk cheesemakers. By its own testimony it’s backing off, for the moment, because of strong opposition from the Community Food sector, the producers and customers. But as the communication says, the agency still plans to use the power it was given by the “Food Safety Modernization Act” to carry out the intention of that act: To attack small farms, the cottage food industry, and any other rising rival to the poison-based Big Ag and Big Food system.
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Like the USDA and EPA, the FDA is dedicated to maximizing corporate control of agriculture and food, in particular maximizing the production and use of poison and the presence of this poison in our food. The FDA is also the lead federal organization seeking to strangle the rising Community Food sector which is working to restore rational and healthful agricultural and food economies based naturally on foodsheds and watersheds. This is a civil war, so far being waged mostly through chemical warfare which seeks to destroy our ecosystems, soils, and bodies. The FDA’s assault on community food continues, on behalf of the poison-based agriculture and food sectors. They plan to greatly escalate the assault under the “Food Safety Modernization Act”, a name Orwell would’ve had trouble bettering.
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*Among the lesser known of Israel’s crimes against humanity is its systematic chemical warfare against Palestinian agriculture, conducted under the rubric of a nebulous, ever-changing “security” policy. This is really a typical control measure, arbitrarily deployed and expanded at the will of the military. With only minor modification we can describe poison-based agriculture in general, including its increasing poison drift, in the same terms. Pesticide technology and the poisoner mindset historically have migrated to civilian use from prior military use, and there’s never been any clear dividing line between civilian agricultural use of these poisons, their military and police use vs. crops in Vietnam, Colombia, Palestine, and elsewhere, and their fully weaponized use against human beings in combat and the Nazi death camps. Most formally, the exact same scientific researchers, engineers, and government personnel, and the exact same corporations selling the exact same chemicals, span this entire spectrum.

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February 24, 2016

What if They Pass the DARK Act?

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1. What would the preemption of labeling mean in itself? Labeling is not sufficient, and is conceptually flawed if envisioned as a worthwhile goal in itself. It implies the continuation of industrial agriculture and food commodification, and globalization as such. It merely seeks Better Consumerism within that framework.
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If people saw labeling as a temporary measure within the framework of an ongoing movement to abolish industrial agriculture and build Food Sovereignty, that would be good. If people saw the campaign for labeling as primarily a movement-building action, an occasion for public education, for democratic participation in a grassroots action, and to help build a permanent grassroots organization, that would be good. POE as I call it – Participation, Education, Organization.
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But labeling never could be a panacea. Especially the claim that we can expect miracles from it: Labeling = the end of Monsanto. This is highly doubtful. GMO labeling only indirectly tells us some things about the pesticide content, which is a far worse crisis. I think the most meaningful labeling campaign would have to fight for pesticide residues to be labeled/listed among the ingredients, since by any objective measure they’re intentionally inserted food additives.
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Also, just because a labeling initiative or law is passed doesn’t mean it will be enforced with any alacrity. It’s still the same old pro-Monsanto government which would be in charge of enforcement. That’s why getting an initiative or law passed would be just the first and easiest step. Then the real work of vigilance, forcing the enforcers to follow through, would begin. That, too, was a reason why the campaign needs to be, even more than just an intrinsic campaign, the building ground of a permanent grassroots organization.
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Then there’s the fact that most if not all of these initiatives and laws are riddled with loopholes, categories of food which don’t need to be labeled. That almost always includes GMO-fed meat and dairy. Actually, labeling would apply mostly to the same corporate-manufactured processed foods we ought to be getting out of our diets and economies regardless.
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When we combine the insufficient content of these labeling proposals with the fact that they are often called a self-sufficient panacea, and with the fact that the efforts have often been designed like one-off electoral campaigns rather than as processes of building permanent grassroots organizations, we can see the some of the inherent political limits of labeling campaigns.
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[See here and here for more on what the DARK Act is about; it seeks to enshrine the “voluntary” labeling sham, along with ferocious pre-emption as I described here.]
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2. The people consistently indicate that they don’t really want labeling. That is, they don’t want it as a stand-alone consumerist feature, sundered from the context of a complete affirmative (Food Sovereignty) and negative (abolitionist) movement.
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It’s clear that although the people overwhelmingly support the idea of GMO labeling in theory, their commitment to it is skin deep. As soon as the money starts flying and the propaganda noise starts booming, people are easily thrown off balance. They focus pre-existing feelings of dread on the controversy and recoil from such a meager thing as labeling, which seems to offer only a greater sense of helplessness.
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A survey done in California in September 2012 prior to the vote found that even the mention of an increase in food prices would “slightly diminish support”. This was prior to the big propaganda surge which hammered away with this lie. This musters every kind of inchoate fear. Since these days people are fearful and conservative, they shy from stimulation and don’t want anything to change. They’re easily convinced that any change will only make things worse. At any rate, they’re disinclined to undertake any change themselves. Here we have a one-off political campaign which is prone to muster elemental anxieties about poison in our food and the food we’re feeding to our children, about our ever more beleaguered personal financial position, about corporate power over us. This campaign becomes the scene of a media firestorm where people are asked, as consumers, to do nothing but vote a certain way and then implicitly to lapse back into their usual passivity. Their only payoff for having had all these fears aroused is that they gain even greater knowledge of what there is to fear, but get no new sense of what to do about any of it. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that so many people choose to believe the lies and vote No?
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People don’t really believe the propaganda but are numbed into passivity by the volume and omnipresence of it. This is part of the job of the corporate media, to instill a sense of hopelessness in the individual, a false sense that she’s all alone with whatever objections she has, alone with whatever dissent and activism for change she’d like to undertake. The labeling campaign also instills fear about the safety of the food but doesn’t offer a productive context and course of action for this fear. It implicitly wants to leave you alone with your Yes vote and your new information.
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This is why many consumers don’t want to exercise their right to know. They’re settled in certain habits, have so many other stresses, they already know their food is poisoned and try to exist in a precarious psychological complacency about that. So they’d rather not hear about GMOs on top of everything. This supposition fits the data, that as the No propaganda surges and the noise level of the whole fight escalates, the weakly committed Yeses and the Undecided move toward No. If you’re going to stay within the bounds of passive consumerism, then does a GMO label really give you much of a new choice? Especially if you suspect, in most cases correctly, that the only result will be to discover that all your available choices have GMO labels, so that you really didn’t get more choice anyway, merely more stress.
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Labeling advocates point out that there is an individual, consumerist course of action available – change your eating habits, shun GMO products, petition manufacturers to purge them, retailers not to carry them. (Here we’re talking about doing these in an individual consumer context, not as part of a movement context.)
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But is this the likely result? What about the opposite possibility – that if labeling is enacted, people will just shrug and not change their buying and eating habits? Indeed, it might even help normalize GMOs.
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Since consumerism is inherently passive and not active, since “choice” is a pseudo-ideal that few people really want (their political and economic actions prove it), and since fear-itself induces conservatism in the choices people make, the campaign to label GMOs is bound to be at a disadvantage as soon as it becomes embroiled in a struggle. People naturally support the idea, but not enough so that they don’t abandon it as a kind of “rocking the boat” the moment they’re given a reason to fix their fears upon it.
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In itself labeling is a meager, insufficient measure. Most importantly, it’s conceptually insufficient, as it frames this critical political, socioeconomic, environmental, agronomic, and scientific issue as a matter of consumerist choice. Finally, the labeling idea is ripe to be hijacked by corporate interests or preempted by the central government, as we’re now seeing with this latest attempt in Congress.
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We can’t expect people to rouse themselves and go against the grain of their mass consciousness in any kind of ad hoc way, let alone in a way which they’ll have strong psychological reasons to resist. In order to get organic change, we first need to build an organic movement. We need to take the time and put in the work to build a movement culture where individuals find themselves as citizens, community members, members of a movement. We need to build a movement where people develop the individual self-respect to know that their action which seeks change will bring them a better world, and where they develop the political self-confidence to know that their collective action will work to bring about this bountiful change.
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We need to build a true grassroots movement, this movement has to be affirmative, and it has to seek the stark goal of total abolition of pesticides and GMOs. If we can offer people the opportunity to fight to abolish pesticides and GMOs, or to support this abolition movement with money, a vote, etc., and to do so toward affirmative goals like food freedom, food sovereignty, this offers vastly more on a psychological level than labeling by itself, which is more like yet another annoying consumer “choice”.
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(If anyone’s doubting the implicit criticism here of consumerism as such, keep in mind that poisoned food as a paradigm product class could never have arisen in the first place other than within a context of corporate/state-driven consumerism.)
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3. Consumerist labeling is really part of the “co-existence” notion. A core part of campaign rhetoric lauds “choice”, thereby echoing a standard pro-GM lie and implying that GMO agriculture can co-exist with any other kind of agricultural practice. But co-existence is impossible, politically as well as physically. Corporate agriculture envisions its own total domination of agriculture and food, and all its actions are dedicated to this goal. GMOs were developed as a classical public-private partnership and are aggressively supported by governments because they’re designed to attain the twin goals of physical (genetic) and economic (commodification and patents) domination. Therefore the only possible outcomes for humanity are complete abolition of GMOs or complete surrender to them. Given this circumstance, the constructive place of a labeling campaign or policy, or just the idea of labeling as such, is as a tactical element of the abolition movement. Anything outside of this movement context is at best a misdirection and waste of effort and time we don’t have to spare.
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4. We know the history of corporate lobbying for an FDA preemption policy, the central government’s complete support for GMO domination, its disdain for and hostility toward any meaningful labeling, the Monsanto Protection Act, and now the yearlong attempt to pass the DARK Act. We have clear proof that the central government will not allow political life and democracy to prevail on this, including at the state level, let alone the regional. Even if the DARK Act is forestalled in the Senate, the US government won’t give up. In the end, the only thing which will work will be defiance of the central government power, by whatever means, at lower government levels and especially through political action of the people from the ground up. This includes organized renunciation and replacement of the corporate industrial food system.
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If this is right, then our time requires a far more comprehensive goal.
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5. Abolitionists must use this crisis to reinforce the Community Food movement and goal. Just “buying organic” won’t suffice. Anyway much of organic is the industrial organic sector which is part of the overall corporate problem, and which has previously indicated its own desire to bring “organic” under Monsanto’s domination. We do have the Right to Know, but we’ll know little and have little until we rebuild the Community Food sector and protect it, toward the great affirmative goal of Food Sovereignty.
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We must lift our vision and expand our goal. We need the will to renew political life from the ground up, where necessary in defiance of the central government and corporate rule. We must use the government’s assaults as a political/moral lever to change the political consciousness from an individual consumerist consciousness (uncontexted labeling) to the abolitionist movement commitment, and the broader consciousness aspiring to freedom and demolishing the corporate-imposed bottlenecks against our prosperity.
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The corporate state’s goal is all-encompassing of the political and economic realms, from globalized corporate rule to strangling the rising Community Food movement in its youth. We can see how the DARK Act is not only anti-labeling but, with measures like preemption of local and state pro-democracy, anti-corporate laws, it’s also designed to provide more government power against the Community Food sector and movement as such. It will seek to do this in tandem with the Orwellianly named “Food Safety Modernization Act”, really a pro-big ag Food Control Act. But with the right kind of education campaign about how the government is trying to make it impossible for the people to know how toxic the industrial food supply is, we might be able to turn these assaults to our advantage. Certainly the one and only way to really KNOW what’s in our food and be citizens of agriculture and food production is to support local/regional retail agriculture, visit and know our farmers and processors, build up that sector. The central government and corporations are doing all they can to prove this.
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6. In the past I’ve sometimes been fatalistic about what the system “will do”, and how possible it is for political action to stop it. I’ve said things like, “the system will extract all the economically viable fossil fuels”, acknowledging various impersonal natural/physical/economic constraints on extraction while discounting political action as potentially such a natural force.
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Where it comes to fossil fuel extraction this is no doubt true for the low-hanging fruit, the reserves easiest and least expensive to extract. But as extraction proceeds along the line of deteriorating cost effectiveness, increasing complexity costs, and mounting physical difficulties, political action against it becomes more potent in proportion to the increasing overextension of its opponent. This can happen in the same way that various technical alternatives to fossil fuels become economically viable as oil prices rise.
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So it follows that corporate agriculture is finding its own position ever more costly and physically difficult to maintain, as costs increase, as natural (pest and weed) resistance mounts, as each new set of GMOs is more dubious, its economic rationale less coherent, its lies less viable, the legitimacy of establishment “science” and mainstream media more eroded, while public fear, skepticism, and opposition continue to rise. As this process evolves our action shall become more effective, and our ability to propagate all-encompassing ideas and desires more potent. There will be an ever greater will on the part of the people to organize against this enemy and to realize our affirmatives.
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In making these criticisms, I’m not disputing the basic truths of the pro-labeling argument. On the contrary, I avow these myself. I’m pointing out why, where labeling is presented as a typical ad hoc consumerist electoral campaign, rather than from within a movement context, the labeling campaigns are ineffective politics.
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At the moment the labeling campaigns comprise the main anti-GMO vehicle, and they can serve as good occasions for participation, organization, education – POE. In principle and in action abolitionists should support and join the campaigns. But we insist that labeling is insufficient, is no panacea, and that the fight for labeling is just one step toward building the consciousness toward building what’s great and necessary, a true abolition movement.
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For the moment, what’s a good proximate strategy?
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1. It’s important to defeat the DARK Act through whatever conventional within-the-system means, if possible. This is the system’s attempt to kneecap our movement through legalistic preemption. If this fails, they’ll try again, or else try for a more subtle “mandatory” scam. Anti-GMO people must reject any subsequent “softer” FDA scam, any form of DARK Act Plan B. The same goes for the TPP and TTIP, which are intended to do things like outlaw any labeling whatsoever, right down to the warnings on cigarette packages.
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If the DARK Act is passed, our campaigns must pressure the states and localities to go ahead anyway on democratic moral-political and constitutional grounds, including legal challenges (though we shouldn’t hold our breath in expectation of the court route succeeding). The central government’s ability to enforce its tyrannical policy will be a direct measure of the people’s willingness to crumble and obey, or our determination to stand tall and fight. Again, this applies most of all to globalization assaults like NAFTA, the TPP and the TTIP.
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2. Nevertheless, labeling in itself could never suffice. What we must have, what is necessary, is to drive out pesticides and GMOs completely. Indeed, the worst aspect of the DARK Act is the legal assault it would make on county-level pesticide and GMO bans.
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3. So in addition to POE, the main purpose of labeling campaigns is to provide an occasion to pressure manufacturers and retailers, and to supplement campaigns directly pressuring them.
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4. In this connection, a primary publicity component is to continue hammering away, not just at Monsanto, and not at the GMA, as for example who is providing the funding for the lawsuit against Vermont. Rather, it is Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, General Foods, who are most responsible for inflicting these physical and political assaults upon us. The campaigns have often done a good job of this and should escalate. Combine this brand-condemning publicity campaigning and boycott organizing against these manufacturers with targeted pressure on retailers. These kinds of actions have the best track record, among reform campaigns.
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5. As I described in the strategy posts I linked here, both direct pressure and labeling advocacy must be enfolded within a comprehensive abolition movement and serve the abolition goal. Once we have a movement whose members and sympathizers see the world with the eyes of active citizens of a community, rather than with the eyes of atomized passive consumers among an unfathomable mass, then we’ll have the social foundation from which to launch any kind of political campaign. The campaigns will be organic, they’ll be part of an ongoing social and political context, and they’ll be waged and supported by citizens speaking to potential citizens who can see the living reality of the movement before them, rather than just a seemingly disposable campaign and stand-alone ad hoc policy proposal with no context for systemic change or human hope.
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If we want to do what’s necessary and do it right, in the process inspiring people to join a movement or support it (and this is what’s needed, rather than any quick fix electoral solution), we need to build a true movement toward a goal that’s necessary and great. The great goals available to us are the complete abolition of GMOs and breaking the power of corporations over our agriculture and food, in the process putting an end to their onslaught poisoning our food, water, soil, and air. The companion goal is to rebuild our community food economies on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty, thus combining the best of freedom, health, democracy, and science. There’s no substitute for the patience and hard work required to build this new, affirmatively ecological and democratic, anti-corporate movement from outside the system. Along the way this movement can absorb whatever existing forces are available, so long as they’re compatible with the stark and non-negotiable goal of the abolition of poison-based agriculture. But its inception and the main thrust of its action must always be toward building a new human world.
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If the DARK Act is passed and the TTIP/TPP globalization compacts are forced upon us, raising our sights and escalating our demands upon fate is one of our options. Giving up is another. But it seems that the status quo will no longer be an option.

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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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August 1, 2015

The DARK Act and Going Forward, Labeling and Beyond

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A few more thoughts on labeling and the DARK Act.
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1. I oppose the DARK Act because it’s an intensified centralizing preemptionist legal assault on democracy and community rights. Not just state-level labeling but any kind of lower-level bans on pesticides and/or GMOs as well as initiatives supporting food sovereignty and community food would be outlawed. While in theory this could help hasten a motion toward the civil disobedience/extralegal mindset, in practice this isn’t happening much so far.

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2. As for the effect on labeling in itself, this isn’t as important since the labeling-as-panacea mindset is something we need to get beyond anyway. If anything, I think the idea of labeling as something martyred to corporate power is more useful than the thing itself could ever be.

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3. We already know from examples like that of Scott Faber and Just Label It that labeling advocacy is compatible with a basically pro-Monsanto position. Indeed, labeling advocates used to point to how in Europe Monsanto made a virtue of necessity and pretended to embrace labeling. Of course Monsanto didn’t mean it, but the point is that although Monsanto doesn’t want labeling, it can coexist with it if necessary. Now that kind of “coexistence” is further disproof of the notion that labeling can enable a peaceful coexistence between GMOs and any kind of healthful, democratic food and agriculture.

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The fact that labeling advocates have always touted how their proposed policy can coexist with Monsanto also puts in perspective any claim they ever had that Labeling = Anti-GMO.

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4. I’ve already written many times about why labeling is physically and politically insufficient. Also, non-GMO labeling deals with only one kind of agricultural poison, but lets through many others. The rise of a non-GMO testing and certification sector generates yet another group with a vested interest in the continuation of the GMO regime. Here I’ll make one more point about the politics of it. To whatever extent people are supposed to see labeling as sufficient, and therefore the fight for it as sufficient, it can only function to misdirect energy and passion and delay the abolitionist consciousness and movement. We can be sure that wherever labeling is actually enacted, the party line from both the mainstream system and from professionalized labeling advocates will be, “Now we have to give the labeling system time to work. For now go about your business and stop worrying about it.” This is meant to buy time for Monsanto, and we don’t have time, perhaps many years, to waste.

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5. On the other hand, many people fear and loathe GMOs and other agricultural poisons and want to get rid of them, and turn to labeling because that’s the only action they see being touted. They turn to it because they haven’t yet been able to see an alternative.

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6. So where we talk about labeling, and where we support and get involved with labeling campaigns, and where we oppose measures like the DARK Act on behalf of the idea of labeling, our goal has to be to encourage the latter mindset and oppose and discredit the former. The goal is to use the idea of labeling, and the example of its suppression by Monsanto’s system, to move the discussion and consciousness along the vector from “better consumerism” and “coexistence” to abolitionism.

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July 25, 2015

If the DARK Act Passes, What Then?

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See here and here for more on what the DARK Act is about; it seeks to enshrine the “voluntary” labeling sham, along with ferocious pre-emption as I described here.
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1. What would the preemption of labeling mean in itself? Labeling is certainly not sufficient, and is conceptually flawed if envisioned as a worthwhile goal in itself. It implies the continuation of industrial agriculture and food commodification, and globalization as such. It merely seeks Better Consumerism within that framework.
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If people saw labeling as a temporary measure within the framework of an ongoing movement to abolish industrial agriculture and build Food Sovereignty, that could be good. If people saw the campaign for labeling as primarily a movement-building action, an occasion for public education, for democratic participation in a grassroots action, and to help build a permanent grassroots organization, that would be good. POE as I call it – Participation, Education, Organization.
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But many of the advocates seem to see it as a panacea. They at least claim to expect miracles from it: Labeling = the end of Monsanto. This is highly doubtful. Just because a labeling initiative or law is passed doesn’t mean it will be enforced with any alacrity. It’s still the same old pro-Monsanto government which would be in charge of enforcement. That’s why getting an initiative or law passed would be just the first and easiest step. Then the real work of vigilance, forcing the enforcers to follow through, would begin. That, too, was a reason why the campaign needs to be, even more than just an intrinsic campaign, the building ground of a permanent grassroots organization.
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Then there’s the fact that most if not all of these initiatives and laws are riddled with loopholes, categories of food which don’t need to be labeled. That almost always includes GMO-fed meat and dairy. Actually, labeling would apply mostly to the same corporate-manufactured processed foods we ought to be getting out of our diets and economies regardless.
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When we combine the picayune content of these labeling proposals with the fact that their advocates do often call them a self-sufficient panacea, and with the fact that the efforts have often been designed like one-off electoral campaigns rather than as processes of building permanent grassroots organizations, we can see the some of the inherent political limits of labeling campaigns.
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2. The people consistently indicate that they don’t really want labeling. That is, they don’t want it as a stand-alone consumerist feature, sundered from the context of a complete affirmative (Food Sovereignty) and negative (abolitionist) movement.
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It’s clear that although the people overwhelmingly support the idea of GMO labeling in theory, their commitment to it is skin deep. As soon as the money starts flying and the propaganda noise starts booming, people are easily thrown off balance. They focus pre-existing feelings of dread on the controversy and recoil from such a picayune thing as labeling, which seems to offer only a greater sense of helplessness.
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A survey done in California in September 2012 prior to the vote found that even the mention of an increase in food prices would “slightly diminish support”. This was prior to the big propaganda surge which hammered away with this lie. This musters every kind of inchoate fear. Since these days people are fearful and conservative, they shy from stimulation and don’t want anything to change. They’re easily convinced that any change will only make things worse. At any rate, they’re disinclined to undertake any change themselves. It’s clear that to undertake a one-off political campaign, which is prone to muster such elemental anxieties – about poison in our food and the food we’re feeding to our children, about our ever more beleaguered personal financial position, about corporate power over us – and which becomes the scene of a media firestorm, where people are asked, as consumers, to do nothing but vote a certain way and then implicitly to lapse back into their usual passivity, with the only payoff for having had all these fears aroused is to gain even greater knowledge of what there is to fear, but with no greater sense of what to do about any of it – is it any wonder that so many people choose to believe the lies and vote No?
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People don’t really believe the propaganda, but are numbed into passivity by the volume and omnipresence of it. This is part of the job of the corporate media, to instill a sense of hopelessness in the individual, and a false sense that she’s all alone with whatever objections she has, alone with whatever dissent and activism for change she’d like to undertake. The labeling campaign also instills fear about the safety of the food, but doesn’t offer a productive context and course of action for this fear, but implicitly wants to leave you alone with your Yes vote and your new information.
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This is why many consumers don’t want to exercise their right to know. They’re settled in certain habits, have so many other stresses, they already know their food is poisoned and try to exist in a precarious psychological complacency about that. So they’d rather not hear about GMOs on top of everything. This supposition fits the data, that as the No propaganda surges and the noise level of the whole fight escalates, the weakly committed Yeses and the Undecided move toward No. If you’re going to stay within the bounds of passive consumerism, then does a GMO label really give you much of a new choice? Especially if you suspect, in most cases correctly, that the only result will be to discover that all your available choices have GMO labels, so that you really didn’t get more choice anyway, merely more stress.
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Labeling advocates point out that there is an individual, consumerist course of action available – change your eating habits, shun GMO products, petition manufacturers to purge them, retailers not to carry them. (Here we’re talking about doing these in an individual consumer context, not as part of a movement context.)
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But is this the likely result? What about the opposite possibility – that if labeling is enacted, people will just shrug and not change their buying and eating habits? Indeed, it might even help normalize GMOs.
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Since consumerism is inherently passive and not active, since “choice” is a pseudo-ideal that few people really want (their political and economic actions prove it), and since fear-itself induces conservatism in the choices people make, the campaign to label GMOs is bound to be at a disadvantage as soon as it becomes embroiled in a struggle. People naturally support the idea, but not enough so that they don’t abandon it as a kind of “rocking the boat” the moment they’re given a reason to fix their fears upon it.
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In itself labeling is a meager, insufficient measure. Most importantly, it’s conceptually wrong, as it frames this critical political, socioeconomic, environmental, agronomic, and scientific issue as a matter of consumerist choice. Finally, the labeling idea is ripe to be hijacked by corporate interests or preempted by the central government, as we’re now seeing with this latest attempt in Congress.
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We can’t expect people to rouse themselves and go against the grain of their mass consciousness in any kind of ad hoc way, let alone in a way which they’ll have strong psychological reasons to resist. In order to get organic change, we first need to build an organic movement. We need to take the time and put in the work to build a movement culture where individuals find themselves as citizens, community members, members of a movement. We need to build a movement where people develop the individual self-respect to know that their action which seeks change will bring them a better world, and where they develop the political self-confidence to know that their collective action will work to bring about this bountiful change.
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We need to build a true grassroots movement, this movement has to be affirmative, and it has to seek the stark goal of total abolition. If we can offer people the opportunity to fight to abolish GMOs, or to support this abolition movement with money, a vote, etc., and to do so toward affirmative goals like food freedom, food sovereignty, this offers vastly more on a psychological level than labeling by itself, which is more like yet another annoying consumer “choice”.
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3. Consumerist labeling is really part of the “co-existence” notion. A core part of campaign rhetoric lauds “choice”, thereby echoing a standard pro-GM lie and implying that GMO agriculture can co-exist with any other kind of agricultural practice. But co-existence is impossible, politically as well as physically. Corporate agriculture envisions its own total domination of agriculture and food, and all its actions are dedicated to this goal. GMOs were developed as a classical public-private partnership and are aggressively supported by governments because they’re designed to attain the twin goals of physical (genetic) and economic (commodification and patents) domination. Therefore the only possible outcomes for humanity are complete abolition of GMOs or complete surrender to them. Given this circumstance, the constructive place of a labeling campaign or policy, or just the idea of labeling as such, is as a tactical element of the abolition movement. Anything outside of this movement context is at best a misdirection and waste of effort and time we don’t have to spare.
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4. We know the history of corporate lobbying for an FDA preemption policy, the central government’s complete support for GMO domination, its disdain for and hostility toward any meaningful labeling, the Monsanto Protection Act, and now the yearlong attempt to pass the DARK Act. We have clear proof that the central government will not allow political life and democracy to prevail on this, including at the state level, let alone the regional. Even if the DARK Act is forestalled in the Senate, the US government won’t give up. In the end, the only thing which will work will be defiance of the central government power, by whatever means, at lower government levels and especially through political action of the people from the ground up. This includes organized renunciation and replacement of the corporate industrial food system.
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If this is right, then our time requires a far more comprehensive goal.
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5. Abolitionists must use this crisis to reinforce the Community Food movement and goal. Just “buying organic” won’t suffice. Anyway much of organic is the industrial organic sector which is part of the overall corporate problem, and which has previously indicated its own desire to bring “organic” under Monsanto’s domination. We do have the Right to Know, but we’ll know little and have little until we rebuild the Community Food sector and protect it, toward the great affirmative goal of Food Sovereignty.
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We must lift our vision and expand our goal. We need the will to renew political life from the ground up, where necessary in defiance of the central government and corporate rule. We must use the government’s assaults as a political/moral lever to change the political consciousness from an individual consumerist consciousness (uncontexted labeling) to the abolitionist movement commitment, and the broader consciousness aspiring to freedom and demolishing the corporate-imposed bottlenecks against our prosperity.
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The corporate state’s goal is all-encompassing of the political and economic realms, from globalized corporate rule to strangling the rising Community Food movement in its youth. We can see how the DARK Act is not only anti-labeling but, with measures like preemption of local and state pro-democracy, anti-corporate laws, it’s also designed to provide more government power against the Community Food sector and movement as such. It will seek to do this in tandem with the Orwellianly named “Food Safety Modernization Act”, really a pro-big ag Food Control Act. But with the right kind of education campaign about how the government is trying to make it impossible for the people to know how toxic the industrial food supply is, we might be able to turn these assaults to our advantage. Certainly the one and only way to really KNOW what’s in our food and be citizens of agriculture and food production is to support local/regional retail agriculture, visit and know our farmers and processors, build up that sector. The central government and corporations are doing all they can to prove this.
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6. In the past I’ve sometimes been fatalistic about what the system “will do”, and how possible it is for political action to stop it. I’ve said things like, “the system will extract all the economically viable fossil fuels”, acknowledging various impersonal natural/physical/economic constraints on extraction while discounting political action as potentially such a natural force.
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Where it comes to fossil fuel extraction this is no doubt true for the low-hanging fruit, the reserves easiest and least expensive to extract. But as extraction proceeds along the line of deteriorating cost effectiveness, increasing complexity costs, and mounting physical difficulties, political action against it becomes more potent in proportion to the increasing overextension of its opponent. This can happen in the same way that various technical alternatives to fossil fuels become economically viable as oil prices rise.
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So it follows that as corporate agriculture finds its own position ever more costly and physically difficult to maintain, as costs increase, as natural (pest and weed) resistance mounts, as each new set of GMOs is more dubious, its economic rationale less coherent, its lies less viable, the legitimacy of establishment “science” and mainstream media more eroded, while public fear, skepticism, and opposition continues to rise, our action shall become more effective, and our ability to propagate all-encompassing ideas and desires more potent. There will be an ever greater will on the part of the people to organize against this enemy and to realize our affirmatives.
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In making these criticisms, I’m not disputing the basic truths of the pro-labeling argument. On the contrary, I avow these myself. I’m pointing out why, where labeling is presented as a typical ad hoc consumerist electoral campaign, rather than from within a movement context, the labeling campaigns are ineffective politics.
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At the moment the labeling campaigns comprise the main anti-GMO vehicle, and they can serve as good occasions for participation, organization, education – POE. In principle and in action abolitionists should support and join the campaigns. But we insist that labeling is insufficient, is no panacea, and that the fight for labeling is just one step toward building the consciousness toward building what’s great and necessary, a true abolition movement.
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For the moment, what’s a good proximate strategy?
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1. It’s important to defeat the DARK Act through whatever conventional within-the-system means, if possible. This is the system’s attempt to kneecap our movement through legalistic preemption. If this fails, they’ll try again, or else try for a more subtle “mandatory” scam. Anti-GMO people must reject any subsequent “softer” FDA scam. The same for the TTIP, though here it looks like our only chance is for European Parliament and/or member countries to reject it.
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If the DARK Act is passed, our campaigns must pressure the states and localities to go ahead anyway on democratic moral-political and constitutional grounds, including legal challenges (though we shouldn’t hold our breath in expectation of the court route succeeding). The central government’s ability to enforce its tyrannical policy will be a direct measure of the people’s willingness to crumble and obey, or our determination to stand tall and fight.
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2. Nevertheless, labeling in itself could never suffice. What we must have, what is necessary, is to drive out GMOs completely. Indeed, the worst aspect of the DARK Act is the legal assault it would make on county-level GMO bans.
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3. So in addition to POE, the main purpose of labeling campaigns is to provide an occasion to pressure manufacturers and retailers, and to supplement campaigns directly pressuring them.
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4. In this connection, a primary publicity component is to continue hammering away, not just at Monsanto, and not at the GMA, as for example who is providing the funding for the lawsuit against Vermont. Rather, it is Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, General Foods, who are most responsible for inflicting these physical and political assaults upon us. The campaigns have often done a good job of this and should escalate. Combine this brand-condemning publicity campaigning and boycott organizing against these manufacturers with targeted pressure on retailers. These kinds of actions have the best track record, among reform campaigns.
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5. As I described in the strategy posts I linked here, both direct pressure and labeling advocacy must be enfolded within a comprehensive abolition movement and serve the abolition goal. Once we have a movement whose members and sympathizers see the world with the eyes of active citizens of a community, rather than with the eyes of atomized passive consumers among an unfathomable mass, then we’ll have the social foundation from which to launch any kind of political campaign. The campaigns will be organic, they’ll be part of an ongoing social and political context, and they’ll be waged and supported by citizens speaking to potential citizens who can see the living reality of the movement before them, rather than just a seemingly disposable campaign and stand-alone ad hoc policy proposal with no context for systemic change or human hope.
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If we want to do what’s necessary and do it right, in the process inspiring people to join a movement or support it (and this is what’s needed, rather than any quick fix electoral solution), we need to build a true movement toward a goal that’s necessary and great. The great goals available to us are the complete abolition of GMOs and breaking the power of corporations over our agriculture and food, in the process putting an end to their onslaught poisoning our food, water, soil, and air. The companion goal is to rebuild our community food economies on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty, thus combining the best of freedom, health, democracy, and science. There’s no substitute for the patience and hard work required to build this new anti-corporate movement from outside the system. Along the way this movement can absorb whatever existing forces are available, so long as they’re compatible with the stark and non-negotiable goal of the abolition of corporations. But its inception and the main thrust of its action must always be toward building a new human world.
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If the DARK Act passes and the TTIP/TPP globalization compacts are forced upon us, raising our sights and escalating our demands upon fate is one of our options. Giving up is another. But it seems that the status quo will no longer be an option.

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