To Label or Not to Label, That is the Question!

No_on_I-522_optYesterday as I was out running errands, I happened to meet a sales clerk named Dave, who asked me what I thought about Initiative 522.  So this one is for you, Dave.

First of all, we have all been eating genetically modified food since the second seed crop was planted and the second tamed animal was bred.  We have been modifying the genes of plants and animals by selective breeding and mutation breeding since time began.  An excellent example is American corn.  It started out in South America as two grasses.  Hard to believe that delicious corn on the cob got its start by human manipulation of genes, but it did.

Let’s talk about our food supply.  In Whatcom County we can hardly wait until the spring/summer when our Farmer’s Market begins to carry locally produced fare.  We love the foodstuff that comes from our county and we have conscientious farmers that supply our local markets.  However, for those of us who live north of the 40th degree latitude this is not a year round food supply.  It is seasonal.  For the rest of the year we survive on excess food sources that have been stored and preserved from around the country.  Here’s a ratio for you to consider: about 1.5% of the populace supplies the food for the other 98.5% of the populace. When you look at a metropolitan area like Seattle that is truly amazing, but its relevance to our small town is no less dramatic.  In our dreary, rainy winter months our grocery shelves are full of wonderful life sustaining food because farmers have successfully increased the yields of their crops to feed us all.

Next,  let’s talk technology.  We are all well aware of the technological advances that have been made in our understanding of DNA since the first draft of the human genetic code was unraveled by two separate teams of scientists a mere 13 years ago.  The fascinating programs about tracing your family ancestry that we watch on TV are possible because we have made a giant technological advance in our knowledge and ability to map the human genome.  That same technological leap has occurred in what are called genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s.  Scientists in our laboratories have increased our farming yields which helps us maintain a stable, cheap nutrient supply year round for everyone in the world.

As with all new discoveries there are both real and imagined fears.  It is often hard to separate the two.  When Columbus set out from Spain he was not quite sure if his problem was going to be redrawing maps or falling off the edge of the world.  Today, we rely on our government and our citizens to closely monitor new discoveries.  So far GMO’s have fruitfully passed a battery of tests and are considered safe in the food supply chain.

Lastly, let’s talk about the “evil” empire of Monsanto that some in the community want to take on.  First of all they are not the only big player out there that is positioned between the farmer and the consumer . There are about half a dozen and they are indeed big players!  They give us pause on the farm just like they do you in town.  They are in the middle between you with your grocery cart and me with my shovel on the farm.  I am concerned that a labeling law in the State of Washington will be like a gnat to them but could have the effect of a battering ram to us on the farm and you in the grocery store.

I believe it is better for all, if we take this battle to the halls of government in Washington DC, rather than risk the unintended consequences of a ballot issue in our state.  DC is where the big empires fight their battles and that’s where I think this fight should remain for now.

~Lorraine Newman

As an aside to Lorraine’s posting I had a thought I’d like to share with anyone who reads this post.  Beyond the fact that anyone can already choose to label their product GMO free and add value to their product which enables them to sell at a higher price.  Beyond the fact that by allowing the voluntary choice to label your product GMO free will be far less disruptive to the small and medium sized food producers.  There is another thought I’d like you to consider and it is why I voted “NO’ on I-522.

In the 1400’s the European population was a well mixed assortment of Asian, Latin, Greek, Italian, Viking, Romans, et al.  Nature has always shown that the purer the breed the more susceptible it is to disease.  Many men and women are voluntarily choosing to decide to check that they are a good genetic match before marrying and having children.  Why?  Because we know that certain genetic traits have a higher percentage of disease or mutation, and with that the threat of death and extinction grows.  There is no better evidence of this than when the explorers from European nations found the America’s.  The Mayan and Aztec cultures embraced purity of race and fostered inbreeding between the royal families.  This lifestyle was considered normal.  The purer your lineage, the more status you had within your community.  It was practiced throughout the the civilization’s of the America’s.  It is also why, when the European explorers came to the America’s that millions of them were wiped out, not by war, but by disease.  The Europeans also experienced illness, but it didn’t wipe them out because they had a much higher evolved set of antibodies to fight off disease, because they had “genetically mixed” with other families, cultures and races.

Now this may be too much of a simplification for some, but I’d like you to think about this for a moment.  If it is a good thing for humans and animals to practice interbreeding so that we grow stron, or to breed out weakness…how can that not be true for our food sources?

~ Kris Halterman

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