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Prop 37, GMO and Monsanto: The Devil You Know

Original blog link: http://stevenvincent.me/2012/10/18/prop-37-gmo

Let me first establish one thing clearly from the outset: Monsanto is evil. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are the work of the Devil. The people of the country and the entire planet are at risk of becoming food slaves to a bioengineering super monopoly.

I'm going to assume that you already know this. If you don't, just go to YouTube or Netflix or Google and plug in "Monsanto + GMO + EVIL". There are dozens of well made, well researched documentaries, books and posting on the subject of GMO and the dangers it presents. Read articles and watch documentaries until your eyes pop out of your head like a FrankenSalmon and your mind is rocked by the magnitude of the evil genius involved. Then come back and read the rest of this post.

I'm not going to dispute the motivations of the many well intentioned people who are actively supporting California Proposition 37. They want to stop Evil from conquering the world.

The Devil is, of course, in the details. But before I delve deeply into the hellish specifics, let me summarize my objections to Prop 37:

Government is the Problem, Not the Solution
Private Solutions and the Free Market Are Already Working Very Well
GMO and Non-GMO Products Are Already Clearly Labeled
Individuals Are Responsible For Knowing What They Are Putting In Their Bodies
The Primary Issue Is Not GMO Food, It Is Genetic Pollution and Food Monopoly
Prop 37 Will Do Far More Harm Than Good
The Primary Solutions are to End Government Permitting of Big Agra/Big Pharma Products and to Facilitate Punitive Private Legal Action
Big Government is the Problem, Not the Solution

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." Declaration of Independence

In the American system, government is established to preserve our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If a private individual, group or other governmental body is in violation of our rights, we can turn to government for remedy. Any action or proposed power of government must be viewed through the lens of this authority.

Proponents of Prop 37 would argue that the measure would preserve our right to Life that is threatened by GMO foods, since healthy food is an essential component of Life. In principle, I might agree with that, but there are some important considerations before we can come to that conclusion.

First, we have become utterly accustomed to seeking redress of perceived and real violations of our rights by resorting to public, governmental intervention without first adequately exploring our recourse within the private sphere. In my view, government intervention into life of the nation and its people should come as a last resort, after all other private efforts at remediation have been exhausted. Before a recourse to government intervention can be considered, we need to evidence that the free market has failed to respond adequately to the matter at hand.

Further, when government is called upon as a recourse to abridged rights, the first step should be through legal action in the courts and the last step should be through the legislative empowerment of new bureaucratic authority.

As a people, our first impulse, when confronted with a violation of Life, Liberty or Happiness, is to run to government and demand a new law or a new bureaucracy to address it. There is a cost to be paid for this service. The Devil demands his payment in lost Liberty. As government expands in scope and size, Liberty diminishes. As a nation, we need to become less reliant on government and more oriented towards private solutions. George Washington famously said:

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. "

The record shows that We the People have not been able to control the raging fire of ever growing Government, but rather, large scale, organized Corporate interests have become quite masterful at harnessing that force into an effective and dangerous servant.

I remember when I was a boy and the "seat belt law" was a raging issue. Across the nation, states were debating whether or not it was Constitutional to impose a law or pass a referendum mandating the required use of automobile seat belts. I distinctly recall Civil Libertarians arguing that government is not authorized under the Constitution to regulate such personal behaviors, that the use of a seat belt is an individual's personal choice and that if we permit government to enter into the sphere of personal choice via the seat belt we would open ourselves up to limitless violations of our personal liberties. They were right. Washington's warning about the unbridled force of government becoming the master rather than the servant is more than evident. Americans were persuaded to concede Liberty for safety (and, theoretically, lower auto insurance rates) and this then became a pattern. Every time government (or the forces that actually control it) wants to expand the scope and breadth and depth of its power, the new law, bureaucracy or regulation is rationalized by some sort of threat to safety, security, health or well being. This tactic relies on emotional button pushing to achieve its ends. And emotions around Genetically Modified foods are highly charged.

There is no reason to think that Prop 37 is any different from any other government based solution to any other real or perceived problem. It is a path to more Big Government which, in the final analysis, is only going to serve, rather than defeat, the interests it purports to oppose. Prop 37 will not in any way affect or damage or inhibit the interests of Monsanto and its associated Corporate powers.

You might say, "sure it won't really do anything to stop The Devil and his Evil, but at least it's a symbolic victory and it can't do any harm to pass it".

Can't it? Sure it can. Read on.

GMO and Non-GMO Products Are Already Clearly Labeled

Ultimately, GMO products have succeeded because people buy them.

People buy them because they are cheap and because they presume them to be safe and healthy.

Consumers presume the safety and healthfulness of GMO products because there is an invisible label on every food product on every store shelf in America. It reads: APPROVED AND VERIFIED AS SAFE BY THE US GOVERNMENT.

After all, consumers need not concern themselves with the safety of food products since underlying every purchase is the belief that that responsibility has been carried out on their behalf by their government representatives. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the exact opposite is the case.

Most proponents of Prop 37 would agree that the very government agencies that we rely upon to preserve our right to a healthy life, whether at the Federal or State level, are defacto wholly owned subsidiaries of the Big Food/Big Agra/Big Pharma Industrial Complex. The federal Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are revolving doors through which power players pass on their way too and from highly paid positions in and around the Agra/Pharma corporatist nexus.

The purpose of the FDA and its related state level agencies is to remove decision making authority from the individual consumer and transfer it to a centralized location. At that central location, collectivized decisions are made for all consumers. Governmental agency subsidiaries of Corporatist power fulfill an important and highly valuable marketing function. They remove the requirement that individual consumers be knowledgeable about their consumption and they place an invisible yet highly effective subliminal "APPROVED" label on all products on the shelf.

The only other component of the decision making process left to the consumer is price. The simple fact is most consumers would choose to buy a product even if it carried a bold label stating, "Now with MORE GMO!" as long as it were the cheaper option. "Value" is synonymous with "cheap" and price is the ONLY determinant, particularly given the implicit, ubiquitous, government sanctioning label on every box.

In addition to the government imposed invisible labeling, the market has created its own labeling system in response to forces of supply and demand.

Because many consumers demand it, producers of products that do not contain GMO or that are Organic label their products to reflect this fact.

The current labeling system produced by market forces is highly effective. If a product is Organic, it will be labeled as such. If a product does not contain GMO, it will be labeled to reflect that. At the same time, any product that contains no labeling with respect to its GMO content should be presumed to have GMO content. There is an absolute and total disincentive for any food producer marketing an Organic or Non-GMO product to omit such labeling. To do so would only serve to eliminate a key marketing advantage. This is a simple, highly effective and already available labeling system that is in place and requires zero government intervention or bureaucracy.

The argument that consumers "have a right to know" is rather silly. The fact of the situation is that most consumers have ceded their responsibility to know what is in their food by accepting the invisible labeling already on the products and consciously choosing the price label as their determinant factor of their buying decisions. Those consumers that want to know and who care to know take the time to inform themselves and look for the market sponsored labels and are willing to pay a few cents more.

Private Solutions and the Free Market Are Already Working Very Well

The Organic food industry is growing at an astronomical rate.

This is a direct response to market forces. People demand healthy non-GMO food and the market is supplying it. As supply increases, scale increases and economies of scale decrease costs. Prices fall. Demand increases again in response to greater availability and lower prices. It's a virtuous circle. Truly a thing of beauty. It amazes me that in the course of the Prop 37 debate, no one has thought to point out that the market has already devised an entire industry providing a freely available alternative to GMO as well as a highly effective, low cost labeling system.

The market has also produced a huge boom in locally grown food, community supported agriculture, co-ops, farmer's markets and other such associations of people freely cooperating to address the GMO food issue. We the People are taking personal responsibility for creating the food production and distribution system that we need.

There is also a plethora of freely available media to help any consumer who wants to learn about GMO, non-GMO and Organic foods on the internet. Anyone who wants to know, can know with a few clicks of the mouse.

If the market were not responding powerfully and rapidly to the government sponsored GMO invasion by producing an entire competitive industry, a labeling system, a production and distribution system and widespread information, then I might be more inclined to support a measure similar to Prop 37. But it has, and there is no sign that that trend is going to diminish. We're better off focusing on areas that the market cannot or has not yet addressed, such as genetic pollution and food monopoly.

The Primary Issue Is Not GMO Food, It Is Genetic Pollution and Food Monopoly

As long as Genetically Modified foods exist in the marketplace, a large number of consumers will choose to buy them because they are the cheaper alternative. Labeling will not affect that in any way. Individuals are ultimately responsible for what they put in their bodies, and frankly most people just don't give a damn. Consumption decisions are strictly personal decisions and government should not have any role to play in that arena. Caveat Emptor, "Let the Buyer Beware", should be the whole of the law in that regard.

The market is already well on its way to tackling the GMO food issue in a far more efficient and effective manner than any government intervention. But there may be a need for government to step into the fray on other levels.

Government should, properly speaking, preserve our rights when they are being violated and there is no other course of remedy.

The greater threat of GMO is in genetic pollution. Once genetically modified organisms are released into the biosphere, they commingle with natural varieties and inevitably corrupt and permanently alter the genetic pool of the affected species. Unlike a polluted bay or a smog filled sky, genetic pollution is nearly impossible to reverse. This is a true threat to Life in the most fundamental sense.

Due to the immediacy of this threat, an appeal to government legal, legislative and administrative recourse is justified. The problem is that the very same government we would seek to redress such a grievance has officially sanctioned GMO!

In my opinion, the threat of genetic pollution cannot be managed at the level of the individual or the private sphere. It is a clear, present, defined and immediate public ecological and health menace perpetrated by known private interests.

It is illegal for anyone other than specifically licensed and sanctioned entities to produce or possess radioactive, fissionable nuclear materials. Genetically Modified organisms should be restricted in much the same way.

Food is an essential element of Life. If a small group of powerful interests gain control over food, then they control Life. By genetically polluting the food chain, Corporatist interests can effectively create a food monopoly. No greater threat to Liberty can be conceived.

The individual consumption of GMO food is a side issue. Genetic pollution and the potential for a permanent food monopoly are the true issues.

Prop 37 Will Do Far More Harm Than Good

I'm not going to vote for Prop 37 because it will not achieve any of its proponents' aims. Instead, it may inadvertently forestall real solutions and make matters worse.

There is already an effective , market sponsored, low cost labeling regime in place. Prop 37 will disrupt this and complicate the terrain with unnecesary burdens and the threat of litigious action.

First, it places the burden of labeling requirements on the retailer rather than the producer of the product. This is inane. Prop 37 proponents make a show of wanting to beat back Big Food and Big Agra, yet this proposition does not place the onus where it belongs. Who will be subject to law suits? Who is required to maintain documentation of food GMO content? Conagra? Archer Daniels Midland? General Mills? Nestle? Kraft? Nope. The weight of the law will fall on retailers, from the biggest to the smallest.

If I were a small food retailer, I might decide to slap a "Could Possibly Maybe Contain Some GMO" label on everything, just to cover my ass. Of course, this is going to raise my costs since I'll have to pay employees to do that. But whether done manually at the retail level or done at the level of the producer, all purpose disclaimer labels will likely become ubiquitous and will ultimately render GMO labeling meaningless.

Since the law eventually mandates a zero tolerance GMO level for non-labeled products, a standard that is probably impossible to attain due to widespread GMO contamination in the food supply and distribution chains of most products, it will become very difficult for many products that now label themselves "Non-GMO" or "Organic" to continue to do so. The organic food industry that offers the best hope for combatting the onslaught of genetic engineered foods could be severely compromised.

The Primary Solutions are to End Government Permitting of Big Agra/Big Pharma Products and to Facilitate Punitive Private Legal Action

The market did not create the GMO food problem. Government intervention facilitated and sanctioned it.

Massive government subsidies created the market for GMO corn and soybeans. It created the economies of scale that led to mass introduction of GMO into the food supply. FDA sanctioned GMO and put an invisible but omnipresent label of approval on every box. Without government intervention the Big Food/Agra/Pharma leviathan could not have gained a position of market dominance so rapidly.

GMO must be defeated on the field of battle that is the marketplace. It must become less profitable to produce than Natural or Organic alternatives. A label on a box is not going to do that. As long as it is cheaper, most people will still eat it.

Here's a list of alternate solutions which stand a better chance of actually driving GMO products from the market.

1. Eliminate all food labeling requirements. Let food companies compete for the consumer dollar on the basis of the quality of their labeling. Resurrect "caveat emptor"; let individual consumers be responsible for knowing what they are purchasing and eating. Let new, private product rating and testing companies emerge and compete to provide the highest quality evaluations of product content and safety.

2. Authorize punitive fines and legal damages for false or misleading labeling. Instead of mandating required labeling, impose penalties for false labeling. Let personal and class action lawsuits against food companies that falsely represent their products or market harmful products work to regulate behavior.

3. Regulate Genetically Modified Organisms as Biohazardous Materials. Let the next Prop 37 equivalent mandate that state authorities should classify GMO as a hazmat material subject to the same controls as any other threat to public health and safety.

4. Eliminate the Food and Drug Administration. Prevent the Big Food/Agra/Pharma nexus from using government power for its own ends by eliminating their wholly owned marketing subsidiary in the Federal government: the FDA. Similar action should be taken at the State level as well.

Measures #1 and 2 will force GMO food producers to compete on a level playing field. A company that is proud of its ingredients will list them on the box and consumers will buy then with confidence. Independent rating and testing firms (similar to Consumer Reports) will compete to provide the public with the best, most up to date information. A company that fails to list its ingredients will be assumed to be selling GMO and non-Organic products. Ultimately, generic, unlabeled products will lose customer share and will be squeezed out of the market.

Measures #3 and 4 are more long term in nature but ultimately necessary to restoring true food safety and a fully functioning, healthy food economy.

Reading list:

How the (Finally Ended) Corn Ethanol Subsidy Made Us Fatter

Corn Subsidies** in the United States totaled $81.7 billion from 1995-2011.

Industry Statistics and Projected Growth: The organic industry continues to grow worldwide. Here are some statistics regarding this burgeoning market.

U.S. Organic Industry Overview

Organic Food Sales Growth Outpaces Rest of Grocery Industry

Consumer-driven U.S. organic market surpasses $31 billion in 2011

Prop 37 Voter Guide

Prop 37 Summary

Text of California Proposition 37 (November 2012)

California’s Proposition 37: Effects of Mandatory Labeling of GM Food

Proposition 37 Advisory III: Frequently Asked Questions

LITIGATION INCENTIVES INHERENT IN PROPOSITION 37

Will Prop 37 Become The New Prop 65?

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