If We Really Are What We Eat, It's Only A Matter Of Time Before We're All Mutants
Yummy American farm girl
Historically, George W. Bush had 3 of the most brazen shills of AgriBusiness as consecutive Secretaries of Agriculture: Ann Veneman, Mike Johanns and Ed Schafer. Each was charged with doing everything Big Ag Business wanted that would keep the money flowing GOP-wise. [Since 1990 Agribusiness has "donated" $350,366,008 in federal elections, almost twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats.] Obama's Agriculture Secretary, conservative former DLC chair and former Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack, seems to be driven by almost identical instincts. If you were concerned about the radiation reported in Tokyo's drinking water, you might also be concerned about the dangers of genetically engineered crops inexorably taking over American agriculture-- and the role of the USDA in this tragedy. Organic farmers and consumers have fought back but, except for a little window dressing here and there, Vilsack rules his fiefdom the same way Veneman, Johanns and Schafer did. Biotech triumphant in the march towards turning the human race into mutants for the sake of short term corporate profits-- kind of like the nuclear energy industry.
Vilsack has been making promises-- with fingers crossed behind his back-- to protect the interests of farmers and consumers who aren't interested in being part of a species-wide genetic experiment and prefer eating real food, "promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants."
But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.
The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their genetically modified organisms as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.
“It was boom, boom boom,” said Walter Robb, co-chief executive of Whole Foods Markets, a major player in organics. “These were deeply disappointing. They were such one-sided decisions.”
To a growing cadre of consumers who pay attention to how their food is produced, the agriculture wars are nothing short of operatic, pitting technology against tradition in a struggle underscored by politics and profits.
“Each side is so passionate,” Vilsack said in a recent interview. “And each side is convinced that it’s right.”
The two sides are not clashing over the ethics or safety of genetic engineering, in which plants are modified in the laboratory with genes from another organism to make them more pest-resistant or to produce other traits. Instead, the argument is over the potential for contamination: pollen and seeds from GE crops can drift across fields to nearby organic plants. That has triggered fears that organic crops could be overtaken by modified crops. Contamination can cost organic growers-- some overseas markets, for example, have rejected organic products when tests showed they carried even trace amounts of GE material.
Organics supporters also say that, as the number of genetically engineered crops grows, so does the risk. And some conventional farmers who don’t use GE seeds are also concerned about their crops. USDA has approved 81 GE crops-- it has never denied a proposal-- and 22 applications are pending.
“It’s really about the right to farm and the right to choose,” Robb said. “You shouldn’t farm in a way that affects the way others farm.”
Vilsack tried bribing the organic industry with a promise that it wouldn't "count" against them being able to call their produce "organic" if it was polluted by genetically engineered crap and he held out the promise of buffer zones between the freak food and the real food. But AgriBusiness and their Republican and Blue Dog allies freaked out and threw tantrums that there would be any restrictions whatsoever of Big Business. Regardless of which party controls Congress, Agribusiness controls the House Agriculture Committee and they weren't having any of this organic bullshit. They told Vilsack in no uncertain terms and he acquiesced.
With Republicans and Blue Dogs howling on behalf of the Big Business Farming Industry-- and with a White House on the defensive and trying to bend over backwards to prove how pro-business it is-- it was "screw the dirty hippies" (again); Vilsack announced approval of GE alfalfa, sugar beets and corn. No limitations.
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