How do you define evil?
We ended our last discussion of genetically modified foods with the question, Are European Union politicians less corrupt than their U.S. counterparts?
The question arises because of the relative scarcity of genetically modified (GM) foods in Europe compared to the abundance here.
While it would be pretty hard to swallow that EU politicians are somehow superior to the U.S. variety - people are people everywhere – I haven’t read stories like these coming out of the EU:
- In order for the FDA to determine if a Monsanto product, Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH), was safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto's researchers put the report together. Shortly before its submission, Miller left Monsanto and went to work for the FDA. Her first job there? Approving her own report on the safety of Monsanto’s growth hormone!
- The final decision, that milk from cows given Monsanto’s rbGH would pose no threat to humans and therefore didn’t need to be specially labeled, was made under the direction of an FDA official named Michael Taylor. Before becoming an FDA official, Taylor worked as a lawyer for - wait for it - Monsanto.
- Contrary to Taylor’s opinion, the governments of Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand all banned the Monsanto product in their countries.
- And what became of Michael Taylor? He left government service and went back to work for Monsanto. Then, in July, 2009, he was appointed by President Obama as Senior Advisor to the FDA commissioner. In 2010 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Foods at the FDA. Talk about the fox guarding the hen-house.
One key difference between the EU market and the U.S. seems to be labeling.
At the start I asked, How do you define evil. I don’t believe Monsanto employees are evil. I’m sure they are a lot of well-meaning folks who go home at the end of the day and tell their young ones, ‘Mommy and Daddy helped feed the world today.’
I don’t for one second believe that Darth Vader is lurking in the basement at Monsanto, dreaming up ways to wipe out the human race.
I don’t know of any proof that anyone has died from the actions of Margaret Miller or Michael Taylor. If there were definitive proof that their decisions killed someone, they would be prosecuted, wouldn’t they? Or if not, at the very least, wouldn’t the fact that they took huge amounts of money to manipulate the system and caused those deaths keep them up at night? I wouldn’t trade my conscience for money, why should I believe that they would?
Still, someone at Monsanto made the conscious decision to manipulate the FDA. Someone made the conscious decision to throw millions into passing HR933, a law President Obama signed in March of this year dubbed by its opponents “The Monsanto Protection Act,” which makes it illegal for a federal court to find any genetically modified organism at fault in any health lawsuit brought by anyone.
Someone at Monsanto has made the conscious decision to throw millions of dollars into defeating Initiative 522 in Washington state, a proposal now being discussed as to whether GM foods should be labeled.
Just as someone at Monsanto made the conscious decision to pour millions into the successful campaign to defeat prop 37, a proposed California law that would have required labels on GM foods in that state.
A poll conducted earlier this year by The New York Times found that three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the number of genetically modified or engineered foods, and 93 percent support mandatory labeling of GMO foods, but somehow the California measure was defeated.
Monsanto knows that products that are labeled GM don’t sell. A Monsanto executive, Norman Braksick, once said, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."
Maybe that's not a bad idea.
Knowing is better than not knowing. If a label says ‘this product contains genetically modified organisms,’ I can decide whether I want to risk eating it. If I don’t have the information, how do I make a decision?
Yet someone, or several someones, at Monsanto insist I be kept in the dark. Are those folks evil?
If products are labeled, consumers will vote with their wallets. In March of this year Whole Foods Market announced that by 2018, all products in their stores in the U.S. and Canada that contain GMOs must be labeled (not with a skull and crossbones, but still, it’s a start.)
Wait… there are GMOs in Whole Foods Market NOW??? Yes, there are. Sorry if that disillusions you.
Here’s what Whole Foods says on the matter: “Our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic store brand food products are sourced to avoid GMO ingredients and many have been verified under the Non-GMO Project verification program. You can find a list of verified products on each of our store web pages." [Emphasis added by yours truly.]
“Many” of their products - in those two store brands - have been verified. How many? Which ones? I don’t know, I’ve never done the research. Before you go shopping, you are supposed to go to the website of the store you are about to visit and make a list. How many of their customers do you think actually have?
Whole Foods Market is not in business for your health. They are in business to make money. They get away with charging 25 to 100% more because they have built a reputation for only selling good stuff. Most of their customers walk into their stores assuming that everything they buy there will be healthy. And the same goes for Sprouts in Arizona.
Not that long ago I asked a Sprouts employee why I didn’t see ‘GMO free’ labeling on anything and she smiled and said, in all sincerity, ‘Sprouts is a natural foods market. That automatically means there are no GMO foods here.’ I’m sure she believes that, but, sadly, it is not true.
The individuals who work for Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Whole Foods, and Sprouts are not evil. Each one is simply doing his job. Collectively, however, what their job is accomplishing is to give a false sense of security, or to simply overwhelm alternative thought. To continue to increase their profits, like it or not they must deal with GM foods. If they can get GMOs into enough products most consumers will simply give up the fight. We will rationalize that, ‘If the government allows it, it must not be too bad,’ or simply, ‘What choice do I have?’
Don’t give up. They haven’t won yet. You do have choices. More on those in the next article.
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