Sedgwick, Maine Took the Controversial Libertarian Position on GMO Foods. And yes, They're Still Alive.Submitted by Vots on Wed, 04/16/2014 - 17:42
Note: This is an article I wrote for a publication but it was rejected. So I'm going to post it here as a DP Original.
Sedgwick, Maine Took the Controversial Libertarian Position on GMO Foods. And yes, They're Still Alive.
Nine European countries have already banned Monsanto's GMO corn. Throughout Europe there's a growing outcry of just getting rid of Monsanto and GMO all together. That same public sentiment is now beginning to spread throughout the United States as anti-GMO protests and movements continue to gain support. Then you have the town of Sedgwick, Maine who decided to just let the people have complete freedom over their food choices.
Now before this issue of labeling GMO or banning them can be addressed, these questions briefly need answered: what is a GMO and why do so many people hate it?
GMO stands for a genetically modified organism. According to Wikipedia, it is simply an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Critics say that when this genetic altering is applied to foods for human consumption, it makes the food harmful to human health. Therefore critics of GMO foods view it as poison, and at the very least they say it should be labeled, and possibly even go so far as banning the food itself.
The biggest GMO producer however – Monsanto – detests those arguments of its critics. From Monsanto.com:
Plants and crops with GM traits have been tested more than any other crops—with no credible evidence of harm to humans or animals...Governmental regulatory agencies, scientific organizations and leading health associations worldwide agree that food grown from GM crops is safe to eat.
Critics of Monsanto say that people must accept these findings made from government agencies or scientists with skepticism, because Monsanto is the largest GMO business in the world and their influence over the opinions of these bureaucrats and researchers must be taken into consideration.
This article isn't here to argue how GMO foods affect the human body however. In fact, the argument this article is about to explain regarding GMO foods doesn't require the reader to be either “anti-GMO or pro-GMO”.
It is also important to understand that there are other GMO products besides food, and how these other GMO products are used are usually viewed as less controversial. In truth, these other GMO products are viewed as a necessary human benefit. The popular Marianne Copenhaver (known as Libertarian Girl) posted on her Facebook page:
I have type 1 diabetes. How far do you think anti-GMO advocates are willing to take their neo-luddism? Would they extend their GMO-free advocacy to try and ban all things genetically modified? I commonly hear people saying they don't want to put anything genetically modified in their bodies! My insulin is made from genetically modified E.coli because it's the fastest replicating bacteria. Scientists inject the gene into the bacteria and it acts like a little insulin making factory. This new technique replaced the need for diabetics to inject the hormone from pigs or cattle. Genetic modification is saving the lives of millions of people.
It's necessary to realize that GMO doesn't just apply to foods, and many people do rely on the GMO process to stay healthy and alive. So that's where some anti-GMO advocates seem to go too far in their persistence to ban all GMO products.
Now while the banning of all GMO products seems to be a rather foolish position, the argument that GMO food is dangerous though, does have some weight to it. So should government force companies to label foods that contain GMO? Should government even ban all GMO foods?
The question that people should ponder first is, why does one think that forcing foods to be labeled as GMO, will result in the intended consequences desired? At a time when public opinion is that government is too big and the growth of government is the country's number one problem, the solution is to ask government for help on a problem in which the government itself planted and grew ?
The government is the one that gives Monsanto patents on seeds !
The government is the one that is subsidizing Monsanto for their GMO foods!
The government is the one who requires companies to pay the government more, in order to just label food as organic!
And what would even make a food considered a GMO under the law? Crony capitalism already runs rampant in this country. It could easily just turn into another instance of a big corporation – like Monsanto – getting an exception written into the law for their GMO foods.
In a conversation with Republican National Committeewoman Ashley Ryan of Maine (https://www.facebook.com/AshleyRyanRNC) – the youngest elected person ever to the Republican Committee – said, “In a perfect world, the FDA and USDA wouldn't exist and consumers would be responsible for protecting themselves and their families. In such a world, I probably wouldn't advocate for GMO labeling. In fact, we likely wouldn't even be faced with GMOs because there wouldn't have been the FDA, USDA, and Agriculture subsidies to help prop them up.”. She went on to say, “Currently we live in a world where the government uses force to take money from its citizens and then gives that money to billion dollar corporations so they can control the food supply. Those billion dollar corporations then lobby the patent office to patent their seeds because they are inherently different from heirloom seeds. The government then takes more money from its citizens and uses it to pay for the cost of producing, distributing, and marketing these seeds[...]Meanwhile the government steals more money from farmers who choose to produce organic foods and markets GMOs to the American people as safe and healthy.”.
Banning GMO foods isn't a viable solution right now either, because the debate on safety of GMO foods is quite frankly, not close to being settled and may never be. And libertarians – and everybody else – should respect the decisions of others to consume GMO foods. If other individuals believe there's no danger in eating GMO foods, and if these individuals believe they're better off for that decision, who is anyone to decree that those individuals can't consume those foods? Forcing one's views on another individual when that individual is doing no harm to oneself is unethical.
So what truly is the solution then?
Get rid of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , any laws regulating food, and allow people to freely choose their food products! This position is seen as a very radical and dangerous notion to others though, and is probably the reason why even some libertarians secede on this stance and support GMO labeling.
Getting rid of the government food regulations doesn't have to be a scary thought nevertheless. Sure people will say that the government no longer inspecting and regulating food would result in people dying, but would it really? Have these detractors ever seriously considered what would happen if the government no longer regulated food? They say it would just be complete anarchy, but would it really? Learn Liberty Academy explains how free markets would regulate such a society, in this short, animated video:
So this notion that peanut allergists would die because peanuts aren't being labeled, or all of the meat would be contaminated with mad cow disease because the government isn't there to inspect the meats, are simply straw man arguments. To think society isn't bright enough to come up with these solutions – or even better ones – on their own, is just ridiculous. It would be in the best interests of any aspiring successful business to inform their customers of nutritional information and also to make sure their food is properly inspected. This is exactly how General Mills removed all GMO from their brand of Cheerios. That decision wasn't made through government coercion, but it was a reaction to the demands from their customers.
The FDA is supposed to act as some utopian dream that is protecting this country's food. As already explained however, the FDA is literally funding GMO foods, forcing out organic food choice, and not allowing the market to properly react to disturbances, because of that false sense of security the government bestows to the public.
Again though, abolishing government regulations is seen as too radical and could never work. Well that's exactly what happened in the town of Sedgwick, Maine back in 2011. They passed the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance”. http://savingseeds.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/localfoodloca...
“The ordinance summed up states: The people have the right to produce, process, sell, purhcase, and consume local foods, thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions. Producers or Processors of local foods are exempt from licensure and inspection provided the transaction is only between the producer or processor and a patron for home consumption. It shall be unlawful for any law by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized in this ordinance. Patrons purchasing food for home consumption may enter into private agreements to waive any liability for the consumption of that food.”
This town literally repealed the regulation of foods imposed by the state and federal governments, and allowed its citizens to consume any foods of their choice.
Go check on the citizens of Sedgwick, Maine. Guess what? They're still alive! And the issue of GMO foods is irrelevant. Organic foods are given the same open and free platform as GMO foods and organic foods are overwhelmingly chosen by the people, who then safely consume them. How do we know this? Well Cindy Reilly, Sedgwick's town clerk, is alive and well. She had a few words for this article:
Has this ordinance affected anyone in the two years that this has been enacted?
"As far as I know, the ordinance has not affected anyone in Sedgwick in any way whatever. We did receive a letter from the state dept of agriculture saying, more or less: excuse us, but we just want to let you know that a town cannot exempt itself from state law, and if we found that an individual had broken the law we would have to, regrettably, enforce the law....” In other words, it was a polite, but very firm, letter. However, no action that I am aware of has ever come from that letter in the town of Sedgwick."
Any positives or negatives that you can think of, that stem from this ordinance?
"We all carry on, having our bake sales and public suppers, and buying whatever food we want from whomever we want, and eating whatever we want. Again, at least as far as I am aware. A farmer in Blue Hill was charged with some violation, but those charges were in the works before the ordinance passed, I believe, and that had to do with raw milk and the lack of proper labeling – among other charges."
Are there any regrets about the ordinance?
"I know of no one in Sedgwick, outside of the food producers and farmers who proposed the ordinance and supported it, who even thinks about the ordinance, let alone has regrets about it."
Would you recommend this type of freedom to other city governments?
"As far as this type of governing, it is my personal opinion, as a private citizen, that the federal government should be strictly limited to what it is allowed to do under our constitution, and that state and local governments – which is to say we citizens – must be very careful indeed about what laws we enact, because each law infringes on someone’s individual rights."
Libertarians have the chance of leading a nation that is sick and tired of the bickering, who are getting bludgeoned with the left-right paradigm, and are thirsting for alternative solutions that can get both sides working on an issue like this one. It opens up the doors for people to choose their own foods – if Monsanto's products are seriously as damaging to human health as people say they are – the critics of Monsanto will watch Monsanto fade away, when Monsanto and others can no longer shield themselves and their products with government laws. These results wouldn't happen by force or by the stroke of some pen, but at the hands of the economic agents in the free market.