Bill Moyers talks to scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who’s become a rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.
Look what just showed up in my inbox..
Texas Farm Bureau and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance is hosting the Food Dialogues: Austin Sept. 18. We will have two, 90-minute panels and will accept questions from the live audience and social media.
The first panel, “Animal welfare: Beyond the hype” is set for 10:30 a.m.-noon.
The ways we raise cattle in the Lone Star State are as diverse as Texas itself. Grass-fed, grain-fed, cow-calf, stocker, purebred operations—all play a unique role in providing a safe, nutritious product for niche and mainstream consumer markets. A priority shared by Texas cattlemen is providing proper care to raise livestock efficiently and healthy. How we get there—animal handling methods, antibiotics, beta-agonists, growth-promoting implants—can be controversial. Should consumers be concerned? A panel of cattle experts will discuss the variations on animal husbandry techniques and technologies used in the Texas beef business.
The second panel, “Farming methods. Consumer interpretation.” is set for 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Texas consumers have bountiful opportunities when it comes to the food they eat. But are they making wise choices? How do they distinguish between information and misinformation in the daily bombardment of food messages. Organic, conventional, local and natural–consumers read these labels, but do they understand their meaning? Their decisions shape food supplies, and in turn, farming practices. A panel of experts—representing all aspects of food production in Texas—will address health and safety concerns related to the foods we eat and the technology used to grow them.
We would love to have you, and some friends, attend.
For more information about the panelists and event logistics or to RSVP, visit http://www.fooddialogues.com/events/fd-austin.
If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them. A formal invitation will be emailed soon. If you are interested in attending, please let me know and we will have an invitation emailed to you.
Texas Farm Bureau Assistant Editor
by Anna Lappé
This past weekend, biotech giant Monsanto paid bloggers $150 each to attend “an intimate and interactive panel” with “two female farmers and a team from Monsanto.” The strictly invitation-only three-hour brunch, which took place on the heels of the BlogHer Conference, promised bloggers a chance to learn about “where your food comes from” and to hear about the “impact growing food has on the environment, and how farmers are using fewer resources to feed a growing population.” Though the invitation from BlogHer explicitly stated, “No blog posts or social media posts expected,” the event was clearly designed to influence the opinions — and the writing — of a key influencer: the mommy blogger.
Another invite-only event in August will bring bloggers to a Monsanto facility in Northern California for a tour of its fields and research labs. Again, while no media coverage is expected, the unspoken goal is clear.
Stealth marketing techniques, such as these by Monsanto, reveal how the food industry — from biotech behemoths to fast-food peddlers — is working surreptitiously to shape public opinion about biotechnology, industrialized farming and junk food.
The uptick in these stealth-marketing strategies coincides with growing popular outcry about agricultural chemicals, soda and junk food and genetically modified ingredients.
Monsanto is not the only food company engaging with the blogosphere. Mommy bloggers are the food industry’s newest nontraditional ally. McDonald’s has been wooing them aggressively too, offering sweepstakes in partnership with BlogHer for the company’s Listening Tour Luncheon, an exclusive event with the head of McDonald’s USA — framed as a two-way conversation about nutrition, but more likely a gambit to garner the support of a powerful group of influencers. And in Canada, McDonald’s offers All-Access Mom, behind-the-scenes tours of the company’s inner workings.
It’s not just through blogger meet-and-greets that industry is attempting to sway opinion. Video is an increasingly popular (and shareable) medium for PR disguised as content. This summer, for example, Monsanto is funding a Condé Nast Media Group film series called “A Seat at the Table.” According to a casting call, each three- to five-minute episode will cover questions such as “Are food labels too complicated?” and “GMOs: good or bad?” and will feature “an eclectic mix of industry and nonindustry notables with diverse viewpoints.” It’s hard to imagine truly free-flowing discussions resulting, paid for as they are by a company with a definitive take on — and stake in — the food-labeling wars.
Last year, according to Nielsen, foods labeled “natural” generated $43 billion in sales.That’s more than five times the figure for foods carrying an “organic” label ($8.9 billion).
Meat from livestock fed genetically modified corn, for example, can still be labeled “natural,” as can animals raised with regular doses of antibiotics. And the USDA has no regulations at all for labeling natural foods that do not contain meat or eggs.
More than half of those surveyed said that they specifically looked for a “natural” label on their foods.
There’s just one problem: There are no real federal regulations around the word “natural.”
Even with the lack of regulation, plaintiffs can sue companies individually for false advertising—and in recent years, consumers have done just that. In 2013, PepsiCo. agreed to a $9 million class action settlement fund after plaintiffs complained about Naked Juice’s “all natural” labeling that belied ingredients like genetically modified soy.
When companies like Monsanto try to pass a law that makes them immune from prosecution, and get away with it (if only temporarily) by paying off the politicians, the game is rigged.
When the Grocery Manufacturers Association spends millions lobbying Congress so Congress members will introduce a bill to preempt state food labeling laws, the game is rigged.
The game may be rigged. But thanks to you, we’re un-rigging the game. One vote, one purchase, one protest, one signature at a time.
One of these days, it’s gonna be game over for companies like Monsanto and Coca-Cola.
Until then, we need your support.
Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)
Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our legislative efforts in Oregon, Vermont and other states)
HONOLULU — Mayor Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113 into law on Thursday, prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the Big Island and banning farmers from growing any new genetically altered crops.
The bill exempts the island’s GMO papaya industry.
Kenoi said that the new law signals the county’s desire to encourage community-based farming and ranching, as opposed to playing host to global agribusiness corporations in a letter to council members announcing his decision to sign the bill.
None of the biotech companies that have taken up root in Hawaii in recent years, such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer, operate on Big Island. The new law makes sure that remains the case.
“Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources,” Kenoi wrote to council members. “We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world.”