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Open Forum on Food Politics


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And, if you do this, would you further the fear uncertainty and doubt by making your physician and your pharmacist have to give you a big long schpiel every time you purchase a recombinant vaccine.  Is there a difference between GMO food and GMO medical items?

It's the same FDA between foods and drugs.  Do you lobby the same way against GMO medicines?

I believe that there is a significant difference between the two roles of GMO and it all comes from risk:benefit analysis. I think the potential benefits of GMO in Medical Pharmaceuticals greatly outweigh the potential risks. I believe the reverse is true for GMO agriculture, That is not to say that there aren't potential benefits of GMO for agriculture, just that they are not sufficient to overcome the potential risk. It is not the science that I am against. It is how the science is applied that I am concerned with.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What about the mid-range example of GMO yeasts for bread-making, ethanol production, xanthan gum production. GMO lactobacilli for cheese, yogurt, etc. making?

Where do those fit in examples? Agriculture? Manufacture? Somewhere in between? I am not bothered by GMO food because cooked food is more of a frankenfood for the way my digestive system evolved IMO than GMO food. Also, I tend to recuse myself because I can't figure out how I want to place things like the binders and such related things that come from GMO's currently.

But, when I get my letter of acceptance (in the next two months, hopefully) after celebrating with heroic amounts of champagne, I'm going to leap out of a perfectly good airplane and trust that someone I don't know has packed my parachute properly. I'm willing to take GMO's safety on the same authority as I take the parachute's safety.

I admit it. I'm a risk-taker.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Interesting debate people, but isn't it strange that the discussion on "food politics" is so far limited only to GMOs.

My stance on that particular issue, is that there is insufficent knowledge around human health effects, cross-pollination and long-term chronic environmental effects for some, not all, of the recent GM agricultural products. Arguing that GM Golden Rice will feed the world is akin to the original argument that DDT will cure Malaria by exterminating the mosquitos that carry it.

There are a number of complex issues so I thought I'd share my own experience in the world of GM crops. Several years ago I was involved in a fairly high-profile study on GE Corn. I should preface this by saying this was a summer job, and I am not a Plant biologist. I should aslo tell you that this study was funded in large part by Monsanto and undertaken by my university, and is only one of many different studies undertaken across North America in 2002

We placed Monarch Butterfly larvae on cultured Milkweed plants, and after 1 week placed these plants in a number of GE and non-GE cornfields. Most, but not all of these fields contained a buffer zone of non-GM corn, which is supposed to be standard practice for growers to ensure that any cross-pollination that occurs is limited to their own farm, and to one season. Unfortunately we encountered operators who wanted to get the biggest bang for their buck, and decided they would plant nothing but high-yield corn in their crop...a practice that is detrimental to the success of the corn and definitely goes against Monsanto's own guidelines.

Back to the study. So a Monarch larvae consumes the leaves of the Milkweed plant, and inadvertently consumes any pollen from nearby plants. This study was looking at whether pollen consumption from GE crops would have any effects on the larvae and impede in any way their growth rate, their ability to mate and their average lifecycle. The results, when averaged across the 25 or so farms on the area we studied, were that yes, consumption of pollen stagnated the growth rate of the larva, resulted in higher than natural death rates and lower than average reproductivity. I would say there were "marked" differences, neither negligible nor dramatic simply marked. That is something that begs further study.

The study and methodology was repeated and a pattern did form. I did not continue the following summer due to other commitments. I left the project feeling somewhat encouraged that the scientific method was able to demonstrate a link that was being hypothesized by scientists and "neo-luddites" alike. At the same time I wondered what effect these results would have, because Agriculture is such an interconnected industry with stakeholders that I do genuinely care about.

In the Percy Shmieser case, where Monsanto sued a farmer for possessing roundup-ready canola which apparently blew over to his field, the Supreme Court upheld Monsanto's patent but did not force Shmeiser to pay the $400,000 in damages because he didn't profit from the crop. You could call that a draw, or a victory for Percy depend on where you stand on the issue.

I think that in more recent times were are seeing the downsides of the "risk assesment" approach with technologies that we know little about but place such high expectations on. Being ofr or against something new is perpetuated differently but equally irrationally on both sides. If we lack the hard science to prove in favour of or against GM foods what are we to do? All we can do is give people a choice. We can push as hard as we can for a level playing field, since we can not reverse the presence of GM foods in our production system.

There is a fundamental disconnect between Farmer and consumer, something that is recognized by initiatives such as the Slow Food Movement, by heirloom seed saving intiatives in India and by non-profit initiatives all over the world. Once we see farming as an integral part of our lives and our health I think we'll shed some light on it's complexity and importance. Unfortunately, we are forced to look at it's importance in terms of GDP contribution, which is small.

If you had trouble getting through all that, let me just say that I'm reserving my judgement on GE foods while trying to foster better communication between the producer and the consumer.

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I admit it.  I'm a risk-taker.

The crucial point with GMOs spread in the environment is not risk taking. It's risk imposing.

There is painfully little stopping people from producing their own food if they are dedicated. It's like choosing not to own a car in America. You can do it, it's just a little more work.

FWIW, it's really interesting that GMO's are more discussed than the trade subsidies that I've mentioned 3 or 4 times in my posts. Apparently no one really thinks that food for democracy is a strange way of conducting internation politics.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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There is painfully little stopping people from producing their own food if they are dedicated.  It's like choosing not to own a car in America.

I assume that car owners (GMO producers?) in the US are forced to have an insurance to cover liabilites.

FWIW, it's really interesting that GMO's are more discussed than the trade subsidies that I've mentioned 3 or 4 times in my posts.

I agree anytime that subsidies are not an ideal solution. OTOH, where's the specific risk (covered or uncovered) to environment or individuals?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I admit it.  I'm a risk-taker.

The crucial point with GMOs spread in the environment is not risk taking. It's risk imposing.

FWIW, it's really interesting that GMO's are more discussed than the trade subsidies that I've mentioned 3 or 4 times in my posts. Apparently no one really thinks that food for democracy is a strange way of conducting internation politics.

I'm not disciussing this because I don't know enough about it to have a strong opinion on it. :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Was the high fructose sweetener in my soda made from GM corn from Monsanto or a more traditional hybrid from ADM? Do I have a product that contains material from Cargil that was bought from farmers at market or raised on factory farms by Con-Agra?

Excellant question; for me it is not the singular of the corporation, cause a corporation is a person, but what is a group of corporations, if we in theory can prove a singularity in a corporation then can we prove plural in a corporation, then how does It defend itself??????????????????

steve

More interesting would be the question of imposing penalties against corporations. If a corporation is a person from the point of law can one be put to death? Enron was an assisted suicide if you look at it the right way.

Living hard will take its toll...
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I admit it.  I'm a risk-taker.

The crucial point with GMOs spread in the environment is not risk taking. It's risk imposing.

There is painfully little stopping people from producing their own food if they are dedicated. It's like choosing not to own a car in America. You can do it, it's just a little more work.

FWIW, it's really interesting that GMO's are more discussed than the trade subsidies that I've mentioned 3 or 4 times in my posts. Apparently no one really thinks that food for democracy is a strange way of conducting internation politics.

When I lived in NJ and had some form of yard I did grow vegetables and often in amounts were I had a surplus to give away or freeze for later use. I now live in an apartment in Chicago and don’t have a yard or even a balcony. I have grown some plants inside but the yield is usually low. Pole beans, tomatoes and zucchini do the best peppers and herbs do well too but having all these 5 Gal. Buckets around becomes cumbersome.

Corporate welfare is a big issue especially when large companies are milking the system. There is no reason that cargil or ADM should be getting money from funds designed to help independent operators. In some cases it keeps the cost of goods down but more often bolsters the profit lines of already profitable entities. It also restricts competition and keeps some players out of the market.

Living hard will take its toll...
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[...]Arguing that GM Golden Rice will feed the world is akin to the original argument that DDT will cure Malaria by exterminating the mosquitos that carry it.[...]

Well, DDT did help a lot in the fight against malaria, didn't it?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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So, clarify for me, please.  How would you label milk from cows given Posilac?

Ok. Here goes:

1.Most Americans want labelling of their products.

2.Monsanto actively protests against the milk from cows given Posilac being labelled.

3.Some would ask WHY? Like..gee...I dont know..YOU!

4.In 2002, Oregan tried to label milk from Posilac injected cows. They failed in their initiative. refer: Measure 27 This proves that labelling 'milk from cows given Posilac' is

a. possible.

b.desired by the American public.

c. actively opposed by Monsanto

5.When Maine dairy farmers attempted the same, they were sued by Monsanto. They conceded to Monsanto's demands of slightly altered labelling. refer: State of Maine Supports Dairy Being Sued by Monsanto

6.WHY? WHY? WHY?

Totally unrelated and of no significance is the fact that Monsanto's growth hormones is the DIRECT cause of the dairy glut in the market and the number ONE reason for dairy farmers going bankrupt. [source]

Posilac is from a GMO, to be sure.

I am pleased that you agree.

But, it doesn't do anything of the sort of genetic modification do the cow--and if you're going to bring up histone modification and de-methylation go straight to purgatory and think about what you're saying.

Huh?

Ahh, I get it! Basically, you are saying that since Posilac doesnt alter the genetic make up of the cow that gives milk, milk from said cow cannot be labelled as 'GM milk'. Nobody wanted to label it as 'GM milk'. The American public simply wants to label the milk derived from cows injected with Posilac as 'milk derived from cows given growth hormones'. FDA does not impose this requirement.

I will cut and paste from the links mentioned above.

Monsanto also demanded that Maine dairy Oakhurst "stop advertising that it doesn't use milk from hormone-treated cows" (http://www.organicconsumers.org/rbgh/maine_dairy.cfm). For three years a label on the dairy's milk containers stated "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones", however Monsanto sued and eventually the dairy gave in and agreed to an additional label stating that "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from (hormone)-treated and non-(hormone)-treated cows."

GET IT? Monsanto SUED Maine farmers from labelling milk that WAS NOT treated by Posilac. The Maine dairy farmers COULD NOT stick the label: "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones". The Maine farmers gave in.

Ok, Sparky..once more. This means that Monsanto DOES NOT WANT the consuming public to know the DIFFERENCE between milk derived from Posilac injected cows and milk derived from Posilac free cows.

ONCE MORE!! Monsanto wants to MISLEAD the public into believing that Posilac injected cows are NO DIFFERENT than Posilac free cows. This is a falsehood. This is an untruth. This is a travesty. This is what you are trying to defend.

And, if you do this, would you further the fear uncertainty and doubt by making your physician and your pharmacist have to give you a big long schpiel every time you purchase a recombinant vaccine.

NO! It is my BASIC right to demand that my food is labelled.

Is there a difference between GMO food and GMO medical items?

Yes.

It's the same FDA between foods and drugs.  Do you lobby the same way against GMO medicines?

'GMO medicines' are labelled.

Once again:

A. Monsanto does not want to label its products as GM products or in the case of milk from Posilac cows as product derived from the application of growth hormone.

B. Monsanto actively opposes honest labelling that basically declares that it is Monsanto/growth hormone free.

C. Those who do not use Monsanto's products cannot advertise that they do not use Monsanto's products.

D. This, in informal terms, is called a DOUBLE WHAMMY.

Edit to fix pre-caffeinated verb conjugation.

Oops. Non. You didnt edit to delete it. But it's ok. I edited my response for politeness.

Edited by FaustianBargain (log)
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Let's see here, there is one common theme going on here; let's say that there is a common agreement that we want to have GMO'S labeled, is there anybody out there that feels we do not have the right as consumers to be warned if something has a GMO???

I needed to remind myself what a GMO is, so I thought I would plug in a few of those definitions I found.

Genetically Modified Organism. An organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/maffdh/fsa/glossary.htm

Life forms that are the result of combining the genes of one organism with that of another, thus altering the make-up of the "target" organism. What is produced in this process in often not something that could occur naturally or through conventional breeding - for example, crosses between tomatoes and fish are possible.

www.thegreenguide.org/definitions.php

Genetically Modified Organism generally refer to living organisms, at all levels, where portions of the DNA from one organism is generally introduced into and made part of the DNA of another organism, for instance, to confer resistance to a specific organism or chemical.

www.isye.gatech.edu/~tg/publications/ecology/eolss/node2.html

Why is Monsanto so hardwired to change nature or for that mater any Chemical or Genetic Company?? So Humans are saying that nature can not solve the worlds food shortage problems and only science and GMO's will save us from ourselves, this is where I have a huge problem with scientist and science. We need way more data before we can answer theses questions, the sustainable agriculture Industry has been around for a long time, traditional farming or non-chemical farming, or low intensity farming, all have been around since we were on this earth and yes we have been splicing genetic traits for as long, but I have a problem with mixing traits between animals and plants or creating some whole new life form. Human kind is on the brink of science fiction. We have the technology to create human life but do we have the smarts to use it wisely, this is where I like to draw a parallel between genetics for humans and genetics for our food source. I just can not get past the door, call me a traditionalist but I find it wrong. I am not a religious man but I find it against nature and I am not a rocket scientist but I know that man can not beat nature, or are we that stupid and pug.

We need to come to some kind of resolution in this discussion because we are going around in circles. I feel that corporations will do what they will do, we can only change or control what we do and that is with the almighty dollar, every dollar is a vote or every dollar shows corporations where their direction in research will go.

There are enough alternative food sources out there now that we can have somewhat a influence on what we eat or what corporations will grow or produce but the ultimate thing is we must have the right to know what is in our food. If they think that GMO's are so safe then what does Monsanto have to fear by discloser???

steve

some links

Monsanto vs Schmeiser

The Case Against Patenting Life

By John Ikerd

http://www.ssu.missouri.edu/faculty/jikerd...balization.html

By John Ikerd

The Real Costs of Globalization To Farmers, Consumers, and Our Food System

We live in a global ecosystem, the biosphere, regardless of whether we like it or not.  We have no choice; such is the nature of “nature.”  The atmosphere is global.  Whatever we put in the air in one place eventually may find its way to any other place on the globe.  Weather is global.  The warming or cooling of the oceans in one part of the world affects the weather in another, which in turn affects the temperature of oceans elsewhere on the globe.  Thus, the oceans also are not just international, but global.  All the elements of the biosphere are interrelated and interconnected, including its human elements.  We are all members of the global community of nature.  We have no choice in this matter.
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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CharityCase, thank you for that interesting report on your university's research project! It gives us all 'food' for thought.

And thanks to the others who have contributed information as well. Jared, I hadn't thought about all the mid-level organisms we rely on that are basically GMO's. I have given some thought to your comments on abuse of trade subsidies, but it isn't an area that I'm at all knowledgeable about. Thanks to your posts, however, I'll be watching these topics in the news with a little keener (and skeptical) interest.

FaustianBargain, I am finding the information you post very interesting, as well, particularly the milk label fiasco. :wacko:

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Here's my perspective.

I am working on a project dealing directly with a very powerful, natural neurotoxin. I can do this much more safely through the magic of recombinant technologies. Is this unnatural? It's safer than the natural product, and it is the natural genetic code for it... just in a different place.

Natural doesn't really mean anything because things like asbestos, arsenic, and tetrodotoxin are perfectly natural, and dangerous.

Not to mention there are organisms like E. coli that actually trade genetic information with other bacteria through the use of plasmids, little rings of DNA outside of the "nuclear" DNA.

But, here's the question. If it came down to saving a significant portion of the population would you rather use completely natural fugu, or GMO beef? Where do we draw the line? This is a very polarizing issue where people are not going to act in their utilitarian best interests because there is simply too little related to it that we can actually know.

So, would I rather eat most likely safe beef daily, or extremely dangerous fugu daily? I'd take the beef 364 out of 365 days of the year.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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But, here's the question.  If it came down to saving a significant portion of the population would you rather use completely natural fugu, or GMO beef?  Where do we draw the line?  This is a very polarizing issue where people are not going to act in their utilitarian best interests because there is simply too little related to it that we can actually know.

So, would I rather eat most likely safe beef daily, or extremely dangerous fugu daily?  I'd take the beef 364 out of 365 days of the year.

Dude, what are you on about? Who the heck's talking about fugu? That's a complete non-sequitur. By analogy, that's like replying to a criticism of your gas-guzzling Hummer by saying that it's more powerful than a unicycle. It's true...but entirely pointless.

We're not choosing between "most likely safe" beef and fugu as ways to feed the world (heck, most of the world can't afford beef 364 days a year anyway). We're arguing that the choice should be between "most likely safe" beef, and "plain ol' traditional" beef, and that those choices should be clearly identified.

A great many of today's problems were in fact yesterday's "safe" innovations. To be concerned about our collective track record...and the potentially catastrophic results of a miscalculation by our agribusiness industry...is not a specious or shallow reaction.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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jsolomon are you being the devils advocate??

What is your position? I guess you are totally for GMO and that companies like Monsanto should not have to disclose anything, what is your position on this.

As for the other science; research that is not paid by companies like Monsanto, the sustainable food industry does not have the huge research grants and lawyers that Monsanto has but they are moving forward with some very valid points.

Science is not the culprit we are, science created fusion, but we built the bomb.

UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING THE MULTI-DIMENSIONS OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

John Ikerd*

University of Missouri

We cannot prove through empirical studies that one approach to agriculture is sustainable or that another is not. It would quite literally take forever to collect the data for such a study. Thus, we must rely on the science of logic to answer the question of sustainability. What are the logical prerequisites for agricultural sustainability? An answer can be found in a growing consensus: a sustainable agriculture must be (1) ecologically sound, (2) economically viable, and (3) socially responsible. Furthermore, these three dimensions, in so far as they relate to sustainability, are inseparable. All three are essential, and thus, all are equally critical to long run sustainability.

If there are no ecological limits to growth, there is no legitimate question of sustainability. Thus, the sustainability issue presumes an interconnectedness of humanity with the other biophysical elements of our natural ecosystem. Through agriculture, we may tip the ecological balance in our favor. But if we attempt to tip it too far or too fast, we will destroy the integrity of the natural ecosystem, of which both we and agriculture are parts. If we degrade our natural resources and poison our natural environment, we will degrade the productivity of agriculture and ultimately will destroy human life on earth. Nearly everyone seems to agree that a sustainable agriculture must be ecologically sound

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[...]Arguing that GM Golden Rice will feed the world is akin to the original argument that DDT will cure Malaria by exterminating the mosquitos that carry it.[...]

Well, DDT did help a lot in the fight against malaria, didn't it?

The still use it in parts of Africa.

Living hard will take its toll...
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So many chefs are choosing to become political and supporting sustainable and local foods , lets talk and see where we have a common base, I know that there must be more people out there with an opinion, so much silance is not good, let the voices be heard.

After reading through the thread, it seems like it has morphed into a long discussion about GMOs. I would like to return to the original thoughts which started the thread.

Eating is certainly a political act. It is also a moral act, and an agricultural act.

Basically, in the American system, you get what you pay for. Most people having been paying for an unsustainable, fossil fuel intensive, corporation dominated, homogenized, junk food system. That's where the dollars are going, so that's what we get the most of.

To change this system, it's important to vote with your dollars. Here in Oklahoma, to facilitate this, we organized the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. We are an association of producers of food and customers of farmers, all of us united by our interest in producing or buying local Oklahoma foods. It has been more than 2 years since I have spent one penny in a supermarket for "confined animal feeding operation" meats. We get all of our household meats through the cooperative.

We operate via an order delivery system. THe first Thursday of the month, the producers post their products and prices at our website. Customer members can then log in, establish a shopping cart, and shop for a week, until the 2nd THursday. On the third Thursday, the producers all come to town and the cooperative volunteers sort everything into the individual customer orders. People can pick up their food at pickup location in OKC, Norman, Tulsa, and Muskogee-Tahlequah. (Producers coming into town carry back retail orders to the areas outside of OKC metro.)

The producers establish their own prices, we don't limit the number of producers selling a particular item (like ground beef), and when customers order they specify e.g. 2 pounds of ground beef from John's Farm in NW Oklahoma, or 3 chickens from Horn ORganic Farm in Cordell, etc. THe cooperative adds a small charge to each invoice for our expenses, which are minimal because we use borrowed space and volunteers and have no staff.

Our original idea was to open a store, but that was beyond our resources. We were above, however, to self-finance our startup as an order delivery service, by each member paying a $50 membership fee. We presently have 308 members, and in December our gross sales were right at $11,000. 2004 was our first full year of operation, we were organized in November 2003, and our gross sales for the year were right at $100,000. In January, 716 different Oklahoma food products were available (we do have some non-food items like artisan soaps and body care products).

OK, Wal Mart doesn't have to worry about us yet, but we are just getting started. The point is that we are putting our dollars where our ideas are, and thus directly encouraging sustainable agriculture and viable rural economies.

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I want to address jsolomon's point about the political use of food exports. I think it's barbaric to use food or medicine in economic sanctions, first of all. Those are necessities for life, unlike various technological products like airplanes and so forth. Secondly, it is grossly unfair for countries that are wealthy (even if not all their citizens are) like the US to subsidize food exports. By doing that, other food-exporting countries like Canada, Australia, and Argentina are undercut. My feeling is that it is reasonable to provide subsidies to farmers in times of disaster or severe economic downturn, because self-sufficiency in food is a worthy goal for every country that can attain it, and a great benefit to each nation's security and independence. One example is that a very worthy form of aid for areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami would be to subsidize farmers who have lost crops or are being undercut by food aid that had to be rushed in on an emergency basis. Similarly, wherever there is a drought and food aid is needed to prevent famine (as in parts of Africa), part of that aid should be a temporary subsidy to farmers, so as to guard against the end of productive farming and its replacement with long-term dependency on food aid. But to send handouts to huge agribusinesses in the form of subsidies seems highly unethical and unfair to me.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Now that we have beaten GMO'S to death, why don't we talk about how few food corporations there really are, I have posted some but I have a few more, I am going to try and list all the big companies and show how corporations control all our food choices, that is why choice is always so important, if we do nothing and go with straightest lines to the cash and not investigate what it is we are eating, I think we are missing out on something.

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Since Monsanto's name has been repeatedly mentioned in this thread, you'll want to have a look at an Asia Times article. It's relevant to this discussion, though it's about GM cotton and pesticides, rather than food crops. Here's an excerpt of this long article:

St Louis-based Monsanto has been forced to pay $1.5 million in fines after owning up to spending more than $700,000 on bribes in a country where it has been losing money for the past few years, and one which has long been ranked one of the most corrupt in the world. The Department of Justice and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Monsanto with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing an Indonesian government official to waive a strict environmental requirement needed to plant the controversial genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds in Indonesian soil.

The rest is here:

The seeds of a bribery scandal in Indonesia

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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To change this system, it's important to vote with your dollars.  Here in Oklahoma, to facilitate this, we organized the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  We are an association of producers of food and customers of farmers, all of us united by our interest in producing or buying local Oklahoma foods.  It has been more than 2 years since I have spent one penny in a supermarket for "confined animal feeding operation" meats.  We get all of our household meats through the cooperative. 

The point is that we are putting our dollars where our ideas are, and thus directly encouraging sustainable agriculture and viable rural economies.

This is an excellent idea, and I am glad to hear it is succeeding.

I recently visited my hometown of Chehalis, Washington, set in the verdant Newaukum Valley west of the Cascades. The area seems economically depressed, and in fact was so depressing that I asked my folks about it. It seems the smaller landholdings on the western side of the mountains, with their wetter and more unpredictable weather, cannot compete with the large agribusiness firms that operate over huge swaths of land on the eastern side of the state.

The soils in the Newakum Valley are as rich and dark as moist chocolate cake, and I remember picking wild blackberries along the river that were as large as robin's eggs, so there is certainly no problem getting things to grow. My sister, in Olympia, grew marigolds and zinnias that were five feet high this summer.

I have been wondering why there isn't some kind of push to establish support for artisan productions. Certainly there is a market here and elsewhere for small productions of eggs, milk, and creme fraiche. A local butcher here in California told me there is no truly prime beef in California, and what he has access to he raises himself. And I know there are berry farms galore up there, as well as a strong seafood association. And yet the whole area seems to be suffering from economic lethargy. It's very sad.

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Mary Baker

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