Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on August 28, 2006
Consumers drive America’s economy and very often advertising drives consumers. We are beginning to see a shift in that model as conscientious buyers, lead the way to healthier products and practices, by making choices that aren’t driven by mainstream media. Millions have made change in their lifestyles. Those changes are translating into a social shift in the marketplace.
Whether we focus on foods or fashions, transportation or trade, the way we spend our dollars has created a booming new industry of Greener choices. Every dollar sends a vote to the market and Green voices are growing louder. Green consumers are the wave of the future and the corporate world is working to win your support. On the other hand the corporate world is paying for Congressional support. Our voices are not yet a force in the legislative arena.
We know democracy is based on the idea that government must serve the public interest. Unfortunately, money talks and corporate interests have gotten much better support for their agenda than individuals have. From the standpoint of green consumers with ethical and fair trade policies, the new Millennium has seen monumental progress. Our values are shaping the free markets for the better. It is time to move those better values and practices to Washington.
By electing Members of Congress who support Green Living values, we can make even greater strides in America and around the globe. The first step is to have a clear understanding of our candidates and the policies they really promote. To help identify the candidates positions, Organic Consumers has created a nationwide candidate survey that will profile the contenders.
The effort will require thousands of grass roots supporters to request their candidates complete the “Organic Consumers 2006 Political Candidate Survey.” Once your local, state, and Congressional candidates respond, the OCF website will automatically rank them in terms of their response on key issues of health, justice, and sustainability, thereby helping you know who to vote for in November.
This will help to create a political voice that can effect real change. Powerful corporate interests have been buying legislation, which favors them for too long. Now is the time to change the balance of power. While most of us can not really afford to give much, none of us can afford to let the Congress, State and local elected officials continue business as usual. The newsletter summarized the situation and noted that a supporter has agreed to match every dollar in donations.
Let’s Drink To It
“The new Organic Consumers Fund (OCF) is the only citizen driven lobbying group of its kind focused on moving the country in an organic and sustainable direction. In order to do this, we need your help. Unlike corporate lobbyists, our only source of funding is you. The OCF’s goal is to raise $50,000 in grassroots donations in the next 30-60 days”.
The issues are on our tables now. We need to make sure the candidates understand. If every one of our readers donated the price of one cup of a favorite beverage we could fund the entire project. It takes a little effort but freedom isn’t free. As most of our readers know this has been a tooth and nail battle to get the Corporate Congress to act in the public interest. Before you buy the next bottle or cup of something, put a little of your money where your mouth is. The future, quite literally, depends on it.
Reaping Disaster and Seeding Change
The issues before us are more important than ever. In the news this week was the announcement that US rice, contaminated with a pesticidal protein, was causing all US rice to be banned from export to Japan and other nations. This is not the first contamination event and while the US media ignore the fact that much of our food has been genetically engineered and allowed to grow untested and unregulated, the effects are having worldwide repercussions.
An angry headline in the UK Independent charges the US with knowingly shipping the banned substance for over a year. The attitude of the rest of the world is summed up nicely in the following quote. “It was first discovered in January that the banned crop, which has never received safety clearance, was contaminating export stocks of long-grain rice. But it was not until nine days ago that the US government informed importing countries. European governments are furious that the Bush administration delayed warning them.”
The problem here is not only that contaminated rice is fed to Americans and banned by other nations. It has far more serious implications because the source of contamination is an experimental variety grown between 1998 and 2001. This brings into discussion the concern critics of genetically engineered foods have had all along. When the wind carries pollen from these plants, there is no way of controlling the effects or regulating the area where they are grown.
Gone With The Wind
Regulators in the US suspect that the crisis began when pollen from the rice tested on US farms spread to contaminate conventional crops. This would mean that it has been present in some percentage of the American rice eaten and exported since 2001, when the trials stopped. Unlike the foreign governments who put consumer interests as the top the reaction in the US was reported diplomatically by the Washington Post.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said, Bayer had not finished the process of getting LLRICE 601 approved for marketing before dropping the project years ago. But the company did complete the process for two other varieties of rice with the same gene. His final remarks characterized the cavilier attitude of the US policy. Johanns said, Although neither of those were marketed, their approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe, too. Apparently the idea that it is”probably safe” is good enough.
Meanwhile the California rice growers breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Japaneese announced the ban on US rice would be restricted to the long grain variety affected and exclude the medium and short grain varieties grown in California. Apparently the threat posed by contaminated crops was not as powerful as the agribusiness interests because the event coincided with the passage of a new bill in California to strip counties of the right to restrict the planting of biotech crops.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported the loss of freedoms and biotech victory. The message to voters is that the existing leadership is more concerned with advancing the rights of the petrochemical giants, like Monsanto, than they are with protecting the heirloom crops and individual rights. California is not alone in this regard; countless states have rejected farmer and consumer sovereignty. This punctuates the importance of initiatives like OCA’s voters guide.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
It is a tradition in our culture to respect private property and boundaries but the biotechs have no regard for boundaries. Part of the problem is that there is no way to control a technology that is spread by the wind. The bigger problem is that the biotechs have no onterest in controlling it. Here in America there is no punishment for contaminating with genetically engineered seed. The courts have put the burden on the victims and enforced the rights of agribusiness to collect their fees wherever their seeds grow.
At every step the companies have claimed the technology is both safe and beneficial. The US has handed out hundreds of approvals and waivers like they’re going out of style. Despite the vast numbers of “approved” strains, unapproved varieties continue to wreak havoc. Another discovery, or contamination event was reported in Oregon last week. This involved a genetically engineered grass seed that appears to have cross-pollinated with wild species.
The strain is a Monsanto Round Up Resistant strain developed with Scotts for golf courses. The threat is that the dense growth pattern can choke out other species. The full extent of the threat and future impact are not known and quite possibly won’t be for the foreseeable future.
What is known? The technology is unpredictable and uncontrollable. We know that the US regulators have neither the means nor the will to impose restrictions on the spread of the crops. The mainstream media still show no signs of widespread reporting but smaller markets are hearing complaints on the OpEd pages. We need to continue to let voters know the issues are on the table.
Who’s Paying For This?
The answer to changing the policy is changing the Congress. They make the laws and they can stop this threat to individual freedom and the environment. When Congress returns from their summer holiday, the Senate will vote on the Uniform Food Labeling Act. This bill, passed was by the House as H.R. 4167. It takes away the rights of States to impose food laws that exceed Federal standards. To see how the votes were cast by member check here. The measure passed with 94% of Republicans supporting, 64% of Democrats opposing.
This is a bad bill for individuals and a pay day for agribusiness. Current Federal laws are a blank check for the corporate biotechs. We have already seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the dangers with that policy. With the election looming, Members are more responsive than ever. Call and voice your concerns; the Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Make a donation to the OCA effort or take a few minutes to find the representatives from your state and help complete a questionnaire so we can make an informed choice.
No one can do everything but everyone can do one thing. Choose one thing that will help provide a greener future for all of us. One by one, day by day, step by step, we can and will do it. Take one step at a time for a change.