Vote! Don’t vote! Vote! Don’t vote!

posted by Diana Mitra

No, this is not going to be a post presenting personal political views in the context of the 2012 presidential debates. However, I’ll look at maybe the second most important election that took place in California, USA, apart from the presidential one – the reasons behind “Prop 37” and perceptions about genetically modified foods (GM).

Long story, short: when  Monsanto – the agriculture biotechnological corporation – first came up with the GMO concept, they seemed to be farmers’ new best friend, promising “the new best tools and technologies”. However, due to the lack of scientific research that would prove GMOs to be safe for human consumption, they started facing major reputation issues worldwide after a while.

One of the arguments against GMOs concerns the disputed result of some recent studies conducted by a group of scientists in France that have stated that rats fed with GMOs over a lifetime ended up with severe organ damage (liver and kidney) and also brain tumours. As a result, a tremendous amount of sceptics started to have their say, thus the food industry witnessed what was to become of one of the biggest debates in history. Hugely budgeted campaigns started from both the sides- citizens and food producers- that aimed to educate the public either that GMOs are safe or that they are not suitable for human consumption, and therefore they need to be labelled. For months, citizens of California have been given the chance to take a side and express their final judgement by either voting “YES” or “NO” to labelling the GMOs.

Right before the elections took place on the 6th of November, me and the other two valuable contributors to this blog decided to see how this whole debate was being perceived in UK so we facilitated a discussion on the topic of “Food Wars”.

We were very curious to see what the rate of concerned consumers was among the participants to our facilitated discussion. But before I get into more details regarding the discussion, here are some facts and figures that should give you a better idea on the matter. British Science Association published the Populus Survey they conducted on the UK population in Spring this year.

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“The poll shows the British public need more information on the benefits and risks. Nearly half (44%) said they did not know if GM crops would be good for the UK economy, while a similar number (48%) said they did not know if it would be safe for future generations.”, said Adam Vaughan in an article published for The Guardian.                                   

The results of the facilitated discussion we conducted proved the accuracy of the above stated quote. See below for the reasons why.

Once being presented the facts, the participants were invited to first share their views on the lack of transparency that Monsanto is said to be blamed for. 40% of them stated they were not aware of those facts until that point. 25% of the participants who had heard about this “food war” perceived the lack of information given to the public as the silence that proves guilt. They stated they were unclear as to why Monsanto would not face the crowd and conduct some further scientific research that would prove GM foods are good for human consumption.

Interestingly enough, 75% stated that, although not sure about how safe the GM foods are, they would still consume them, as a commitment to the sustainability movement the governments are trying to implement in order to overcome a future lack of resources.

Coming back to Prop 37, although the majority voted “No” to labeling GM foods so there is nothing to do about it in the near future, ethically and ideally speaking, should we be given the right to choose whether or not certain foods are in accordance to our standards or should we rely on the assumption that the Government knows what is best for us? And equally important, how do you find the results of the facilitated discussion we conducted?

Really look forward to reading your comments!

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6 thoughts on “Vote! Don’t vote! Vote! Don’t vote!

  1. ofc the government isn’t supposed to tell its people what they should and shouldn’t consume. even thought that’s partially done, with drugs being illegal, you still have cigarettes and caffeine. so they might as well just drop a tag on genetically modified food, stating that their GM. the thing is, even though the government doesn’t intervene to forbid gm food, in the long run, the market will decide what will be cultivated and what won’t be cultivated. I mean, even though “natural” food is harder to cultivate, being a lot more expensive and virtually nonresistant to the moods of the weather, if the consumers demand that, in the long-run they companies will developed technologies to more efficiently produce “natural” food. but since your average joe is a moron, and won’t seek to eat healthy, this outcome is highly unlikely.

    • Elgordo, thanks for your contribution. You’re saying “the market will decide” depending on the consumers’ choices. Also, you mentioned that the government shouldn’t interfere with what people want to consume. I assume you say that from an ethical perspective. My question to you though would be: How will the consumers know what is actually good or bad for their health then, if not by being targeted to behaviour changing communication in the shape of Public Health Campaigns (run by Government of course)?
      Diana

  2. Elgodoro..LOL! Yes, unfortunately the average person is just trying to get by and make a living. Most people don’t have time to look into how our foods are made.

    As an American citizen I am deeply saddened by how the average joe has put their trust in a government that just continuously manipulates them with false information for their bottom line.

    Sometimes it just takes common sense though. For instance, If you find out that your food was tampered with in a lab and has insecticides, pesticides or any “cides” formulated inside the food…..why would you want to eat that?????

    I also live in California and am extremely appalled at the outcome of prop 37 which just seemed like a no brainer to me. I just can’t comprehend who would not want to know what is in their food????

    They are actually having to recount the votes now because it looks like over a million votes were not even counted for! Hmmm….I wondered what happened there? Could those same companies that are genetically engineering foods, the same companies that are responsible for creating things like “DDT” have anything to do with it??

    I think tampering with our food supply is completely uncalled for and if it continues it will be the end of our civilization one day. With every generation we are becoming more sickly and nature deficient. This continues to happen because we let it!
    Every time we shop for organic non-gmo food we are voting! We vote with our shopping cart each day. What we demand, they will supply.
    So demand the best! not fake food made in a lab. seriously!

  3. Vote!

    Starting from the simpliest mind’s point of view, let’s phrase it this way: if it is for free for me, why wouldn’t I know if I eat X or Y? I might even be proud of consuming the latest discoveries of the chemical industry, at the price of a kilo of peas…. Wow! I might also show off, my 130 kilos resist even to these so called “dangerous additives” or GMF. Double WOW: am I actually eating something produced by GM …?!? Wait-wait-wait … it becomes too complicated, I would rather ignore this, if there is any problem, the doctor will let me know, this is why I pay health insurance.

    Well, here comes in the picture the doc or the friend or the butcher … their own examples and stories … a friend would anyway help, a doc would prevent (or, being sarcastic, at least they would treat a known disease instead of a tumoral something) and a butcher can sell the “real stuff” at the right price, once the client understand the difference between a 400 grams chicken leg and a real one. And so on …

    I cannot understand why someone – whoever- who is able to read, would bother even to vote if his/her vote is absolutely useless? I expected that the number of voters was low, not that many (or more) voted “no” … this is beyond my understanding. “I definetly do not want to see what I buy” I beg your pardon …?!?

    Monsanto – and they are not unique – are approaching the GMF side effects like the cigarettes producers approached in time the public reaction to the diseases caused by smoking.

    With cigarettes, population realised first that it is a direct connection between lung cancer and smoking. Still, let’s admit, our grandfathers or great-grandfathers, used to smoke (remember the epoque pictures?) raw tobacco, or barely processed one, no filters and flavours – and the rate of lung cancer caused by smoking in total number of patients having lung cancer was by far lower that 30 years ago… or today.

    Once I made the parallel, I shorten my story – in time, tobacco companies arrived to pay more and more taxes, marketing campaigns are limitted or banned, many many restrictions in various countries and so on, and, very important, the current price for cigarettes in many countries is so high, disregarding the brand, that you must be really addicted or relatively wealthy, to keep on smoking.

    Do you believe that the GMF, once prooved not to be just dangerous, but literally damaging X, Y, and Z organs, will survive? My concern, as a mom and as a (still young 🙂 ) person, is that the interests of some economies to support the multinationals that are paying taxes and offer jobs will only delay, too much, the process. But on long term, this is how I see the story – many will die, many will become handicapped, many will pass over, without even knowing, genetic disorders, until the public awareness will make it stop.

    I live in a country where “buy national” is not as strong as it sounds, but even the less wealhy people try to do so. And not because of nationalism, but because the simple demonstrations of even politicians, made it understandable by the average people:

    <>

    Yes, here the chicken legs vary from 150 grams, in the market, from the farms, and 450 grams, frozen, greasy, thick … like in the advertisments.

    I come from a country where “buy national” just started to happen, and people’s awareness might be the same, but the understanding, not yet the same. Why? Because there is no message, no public commitment and not enough transparent laws to make it happen. If such a vote would take place tomorrow in each country, unfortunately I believe I can predict the results. And I am deeply sorry.

    Vote! I usually just do my duty as a citizen when voting … in this particular case, I would be a strong promoter. Vote … !

  4. For me it is mind boggling why we would chose not to label the GM modified food (that’s for the American side or should I say State) and how 75% of the British will still knowingly, willingly consume the products even after they were given the facts: organ damage and brain tumours (maybe they don’t trust the French! studies 🙂
    I understand the need of perfecting the process of food producing but that should be conducted in the interest of the human being, of the end consumer and not just that of corporate profits.
    We should be able to chose for ourselves what we eat as it has such a direct effect on the quality of our lives and those around us.

  5. Hello. I would like to clarify a few points that I think are misleading in your summary of the Proposition 37 ‘food wars.’ The public wants GMO foods labelled because they have not been proven safe. They also have not been proven unsafe. There needs to be more transparent, independent research done on the organisms before they are put into the food system. At the very least, people should be able to choose whether they want to consume these foods.

    Secondly, the cultivation of GMOs are not the sustainable method of agriculture. They take more pesticides, more water, more fertilizer and are less hardy than there natural counterparts. Many who are for sustainability would like to choose NOT to support GMO agriculture and this cannot easily be done without labels. This current food system set up is being subsidized by the government and this is in essence penalizing organic and conventional non-gmo agriculture. The big chemical companies have not discovered how to feed the world, they have figured out how to hold the world hostage.

    Finally, just because proposition 37 didn’t pass due to the over 43 million dollar misinformation campaign that Monsanto, Pepsi and other big food manufacturers put on, there is plenty that can be done about the corruption of our food system. This isn’t just an issue of food in the USA, it is an environmental issue that is not contained to US borders. We all can boycott the products that these companies put out by educating ourselves about GMO sources. We can all boycott those companies that are owned by the companies that gave money to keep us from knowing what is in our food. What Monsanto and these companies are doing affects all of us. Thank you for continuing this conversation and for everything you do to stand up to these bullies.

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