Sunday, June 24, 2012

You Are The Laboratory

While we as a nation suffer from being overweight at record levels, we talk about diet and exercise but are not as willing to make the connection between our health and what farmers put in the foods we eat. Farming, whether it's by huge corporations or the small farmer we insistently romanticize, is a for profit business. The prime goal in farming is to get plants and animals to balloon up as much as possible as quickly as possible, in order to have more to sell, and to sell it sooner -- and thereby  minimize feeding and fertilizing expense. Anything any corporation comes up with that facilitates this goal is quickly adapted by farmers, from pesticides to fertilizers to growth hormones to antibiotics to genetically engineered organisms.

If the things we eat are treated with all kinds of chemicals and Frankenstein processes to make them balloon up as much as possible as quickly as possible, why is there any question about why we are overweight? Americans work more hours, more than 50 per week, than anyone else. Over half of Americans no longer take vacation time. We don't have time to be couch potatoes.

The Senate this week passed a huge corporate farming subsidy bill called the Farm Bill, but defeated 73-26 an amendment to the bill (offered by, who else, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, the Socialist who the media labels as an Independent) that would have allowed states to require clear labeling of any genetically modified crops (GMOs) in food. The amendment was not a federal requirement that GMO foods be labeled. It merely would have let each state require the labeling.

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall voted for the amendment, that is, for our right to know what's in the food we eat. In this he agreed with a bevy of citizens groups and with 90 percent of the US population.

Udall (202) 224-6621
Bingaman (202) 224-552
New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman voted against the amendment, agreeing with corporations like Monsanto that we do not have the right to know what's in our food.

The only argument I've seen put forth against our right to know what we're eating is that it would create a bias in our minds against food containing GMOs. It would cause an unfair burden on corporations' rights to make record profits while our living standards decline and we experience an obesity epidemic. The American Medical Association did come out in the hours before the vote saying that GMO labeling was unnecessary, but what was not as widely reported is that the AMA's statement also said GMO foods should be tested for their health effects, which they are not.

The federal government does not test GMO foods. It merely requires that corporations "certify" (i.e., fill out paperwork stating) that the GMO being used is not "substantially different" than the natural ingredient a GMO replaces.

This again is all about profits and campaign donations. It's about lobbyists and making money after you leave political office. There's been nothing I've heard that would make me think GMOs are safe.

Project Avalon provides a handy summary of a report in which they list 32 reasons why GMO foods are not safe.  The original report is linked there and here.

One disturbing finding is that, despite proponents' claims that GMO foods reduce pesticide use, they increase it. That is because many GMO foods are engineered to withstand heavy doses of pesticides like the infamous Roundup. The report also raises serious questions about toxic effects of GMOs, and about how corporations have covered up their own testing that point to GMOs harmful effects.

Another disturbing finding is that once again Jeff Bingaman has sold us out. It's disturbing that New Mexicans are so ill informed about who they elect. Bingaman is nominally a Democrat, who most New Mexicans believe is on their side, but he's gotten away with voting like this time after time, whether it's allowing corporations to privatize the internet and snatch up for their own profit the one forum we have for the free exchange of information and ideas, or siding with the US Chamber or Commerce in the selling out of unions and our right to organize in the workplace.

One of the last things our former Republican Congresswoman, Heather Wilson, Miss Reaganomics, Miss Supply Side Economics herself, did before leaving office was to vote to make it illegal for California to require more strict food labeling than the anemic federal requirements now in place, which allow foods to be labled as "USDA organic" as long as they're pretty close to being organic, and allow disguising things like monosodium glutamate (MSG) under labels like "natural flavor" and "citric acid." So one of Ms Wilson's final gifts to the people of New Mexico was to raise her middle finger to the people and say 'You lose, corporate profit wins.' It's ironic that one of Senator Bingamam's last votes before he retires is for the same thing. Or maybe it's not.


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