Despite the fact that the percentage of common food crops like soybeans and corn grown with genetically altered seed has been dramatically increasing over the last couple of years, with 40 percent of US soybean production now genetically altered, almost no one in the United States is organizing politically to oppose this dangerous trend.
This is in sharp contrast to extensive public protest in Europe and around the world, including numerous occupations of ships carrying genetically altered food products and attacks on fields growing genetically altered plants.
Recently, in response to public protests, the seven largest European grocery chainstores vowed to refuse to use genetically altered produce in their line of food products.
Finally, however, activism around genetic engineering is moving to the US, with the recent formation of Bay Area Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, which recently conducted its first direct action in Berkeley:
“On April 22nd, Earth Day, we formed a ‘Food Safety Inspection Team’ and hit the local Safeway store to vocally and creatively examine the products on the shelves for possible contamination with genetically engineered food products. After scanning the produce section, our carefully calibrated instruments detected milk products from cows that had been treated with a synthetic hormone. We also had high probability readings on much of the processed food, especially those containing soy, corn, corn sweeteners or aspartame. After about 20 minutes of inspecting and labeling genetically engineered food we were escorted out of the store where we continued to offer free safety inspections to customers with their full shopping carts. Our educational ‘coupon’ flyer helped offer some important information that the Food and Drug Administration has chosen not to provide.”
Genetic engineering is troubling because it further concentrates control over agriculture in corporate hands and accelerates non-sustainable agricultural practices that heavily rely on chemicals, machinery and high technology. These trends threaten traditional small-scale farmers around the world and local control over food production, the most basic human activity. Corporations have no commitment to feeding people, only to making money, and can raise prices at will. Genetic engineering and corporate control over seeds, the very stuff of life, are reducing the diversity of food species, with perhaps disastrous results should the few species grown fall victim to disease or changing conditions.
For example, the massive multi-national Monsanto corporation is aggressively marketing their “Round-Up Ready” soybean, which has been genetically altered to withstand large quantities of the herbicide Round-Up, which Monsanto also produces. This seed increases the use and production of Round-Up and increases farmers’ spending and dependence on corporately-produced inputs of seed and chemicals. Like more traditional hybrids, seeds produced by genetic engineered plants are not viable or will not produce consistent strains. Thus, farmers can’t save seeds, making them permanently dependent on seed companies and therefore production for the market economy rather than local consumption.
It is impossible to know what the long term effects will be of the wide-scale introduction of genetically altered plants into the environment. For example, Monarch butterfly larvae which eat pollen produced by corn engineered to contain genetic material from Bt, a biological insecticide, died. Pollen is widely dispersed by wind and water.
Genetically engineered (GE) foods are hitting the grocery shelves without labeling, without testing and without the awareness of the average consumer. Monsanto Corporation, with their GE soybeans, has been at the lead in a dangerous transformation of basic food crops into genetically altered replacements. Soybeans and oil are used extensively in processed food and animal feed. Other crops approved for
The multi-national biotech companies are engaged in a global race and propaganda campaign to get their products out to a vast market. They are deeply invested in bio-genetic research (and no doubt politicians and regulatory bureaucrats worldwide) and are trying to slip their products into agricultural production and onto the shelves with as little testing and public discourse as possible. The first GE products offer heavier pesticides use, pesticides engineered directly into the cells of food, milk from unhealthy cows, “suicide seeds” and vegetables that will sit on the shelves longer. These are only benefits for multinational pesticide and food production corporations, not for first-world consumers or the hungry.
If you would like information or to be involved in future actions, contact BARAGE at 510 594-4000 #144. Rage on!