Thursday, November 8, 2012

Proposition 37 Defeated By the Slimmest of Margins Amidst a Massive Advertising Blitz By GMO Corporations

Agriculture-related dwarf planet Ceres stationed retrograde at 3 degrees Cancer on October 31 within a cardinal Grand Cross with Venus in Libra, Uranus in Aries, and Pluto in Capricorn.

This configuration brings food and agriculture issues to prominence, particularly as they relate to increased corporate globalization (Pluto in Capricorn) and the direction into biotechnology (Uranus in Aries).

Ceres maintains its strong influence into mid-2013, forming a cardinal t-square May 5-7 that will still be within orb during the third Uranus in Aries - Pluto in Capricorn square May 20, 2013.

These are high stakes times for the future of food and, correspondingly, for life on this planet.

And nowhere are those high stakes more visible than in the realm of natural versus genetically modified seeds and foods.

The sign of Cancer is related to family and babies and all things precious. When Ceres is transiting Cancer, the question of what we're feeding our children and our families becomes an over-riding issue.

People in California had this question in mind on election day as they voted on a proposition to begin labelling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Proposition 37 - called The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act - was defeated November 6 by the slimmest of margins: 53.7% No to 46.3% Yes.

After early leads, support for the Proposition softened amidst a massive radio and television blitz of attack advertising in the weeks leading up to the vote. The mammoth $40 million+ advertising campaign, funded by GM seed corporations and manufacturers of genetically modified foods, swayed public opinion by claiming Proposition 37 would raise food prices, increase bureaucracy, and trigger lawsuits.

It is a group of six mega-corporations - Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, Dow, and Syngenta - currently merging the world's seed supply with their genetically modified versions. Genetically modified seeds have had their genes altered by scientists in some way so as to exhibit certain traits.

Five of the six major GM seed corporations – all but Syngenta - are chemical corporations that have only more recently gotten into the food business. All five have long histories of involvement with the military industrial complex, including chemical and nuclear warfare. The companies currently convincing people that GMOs are safe to ingest are the manufacturers of Agent Orange, napalm, chlorine gas, gunpowder, and nuclear weapons, to name but a few.

The "No on 37" financial donors are a Who's Who of genetic modification, with the Big Six GMO corporations at the top of the list:

Monsanto ($8.2 million)
DuPont ($5.4 million)
Pepsico ($2.1 million)
Grocery Manufacturers Association ($2 million)
DOW Agrisciences ($2 million)
Bayer Cropscience ($2 million)
BASF Plant Science ($2 million)
Syngenta Corporation ($2 million)
Kraft Foods ($1.9 million)
Coca Cola ($1.7 million)
Nestle ($1.3 million)

Those and other major donors, including General Mills, Kellogg's, Del Monte, Campbell's Soup, Heinz Food, Hershey, J.M. Smucker, Ocean Spray, Hormel, Unilever, Sara Lee, Dean Foods, and Dole, make up most of the major brands on supermarket shelves in the U.S. and Canada. Source.

All have a huge stake in keeping genetically modified food products unlabelled so that people continue to buy their products unaware.

Even some well-known corporate organic brands supported "No on 37" indirectly via the non-organic parent corporation that owns them financially supporting the campaign. These include Kashi and Gardenburger, owned by parent company Kellogg's, Silk and Horizon Organic owned by parent company Dean Foods, R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic owned by parent company Smucker, and Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm Organic, owned by General Mills. For an extensive list, see The Cornucopia Institute graphic.

At the very least, this represents a conflict of interest. At worst, it indicates brands we expect to be GMO-free might not be.

Proponents of Prop 37 - which included the Organic Consumers Association; Whole Foods Market; organic food manufacturers Nature's Path, Lundberg, Amy's Kitchen, Annie's, Clif Bar, and Nutiva; Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps; the California Democratic Party; the Green Party of California; and various physicians and chefs - could come up with only a fraction of the No side amount for their own approximately $7 million campaign. (See the graphic above for an extensive list of Yes side donors.)

The use of media to manipulate and shape public perception related to agriculture, food policy, and commodities prices has been a strong theme since a Ceres-Vesta-Jupiter conjunction on the Gemini South Node in July 2012.

Media saturation by stories on this summer's heat wave in the U.S. along with the projected corn shortages made corn futures a hot spot for investors. Saturation by stories this fall of ecoli in Canadian beef have positioned a foreign corporation to take over the major beef processing plant in Canada. Now, a massive advertising campaign has been used to vote down GMO labeling in California.

More than 50 countries around the world already have some degree of GMO labeling, but the United States and Canada, with their bought-and-paid-for governmental food regulation, have remained label-free zones.

Proposition 37 would have been a major step in the right direction, getting a foot in the door for labeling in other states and in Canada. Its passing would have begun to educate people about the GMOs that have been invisibly and insidiously slipped into their food, and its defeat is certainly a disappointment. In reality, though, this Proposition did not strike at the root.

The scope of the issue goes beyond foods that are knowingly genetically modified or intentionally produced with genetically modified ingredients.

The larger problem is with foods that have been unknowingly and unintentionally contaminated. GMO labeling in California (or anywhere) would, of course, not include those.

As there is currently no separation of genetically modified crops and non-genetically modified crops outside the organic system, it must be assumed that non-organic food products on store shelves - particularly processed foods that include soybeans, corn, sucrose, or canola - have some level of GMO contamination.

Animals that produce conventional meat, dairy, and eggs are often fed genetically modified feed.

According to the article "Genetically modified crops had bumper year in 2011" by Elizabeth Weise of USA Today, the United States leads the world in genetically modified plantings. Ninety-five percent of the country's sugar beets, 94% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton, and 88% of the corn fed to livestock are currently genetically modified.

In addition, the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa approved in the United States in 2011, along with its proposed cultivation in Ontario, Canada, means many natural and organic foods could soon be a thing of the past unless strong and vocal public opposition shuts it down.

Alfalfa is one of the bedrocks of organic and natural farming, and the growth of genetically modified alfalfa could literally mean the industry's demise. In addition to being used as feed for livestock, alfalfa is a crop often used by farmers during the three-year field transition from conventional to organic. Alfalfa also becomes essential in the crop rotation once a farm is organic because, as a nitrogen-fixer, it naturally fertilizes the soil.

Alfalfa is a feral, perennial crop that cross-pollinates freely. With genetically modified alfalfa pollen flying around, contamination of non-GM alfalfa crops cannot be contained.

The "co-existence" policy so touted by GMO corporations, governments, and even Whole Foods Market is actually impossible.

The sale and growth of genetically modified alfalfa was stopped by a lawsuit in the United States in 2007, but that lawsuit was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2010. A compromise that would have limited the growth of GM alfalfa, potentially protecting organic and non-GM farmers, was scrapped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when it announced approval of unrestricted commercial cultivation in January 2011.

Genetically modified alfalfa, developed by Monsanto, has been altered to withstand its herbicide Roundup.

The results of an unprecedented animal feeding trial published earlier this year found that lab rats fed genetically modified corn as well as glyphosate residue - the primary ingredient in Roundup - developed high incidences of tumours, multiple organ damage, and premature death.

These effects developed even at exposure levels considered "safe," and they developed from exposure to either genetically modified corn or glyphosate.

This was the first ever feeding trial done over the life span of a lab rat - two years. Most tumours were discovered after the 18-month mark.

Previous testing of genetically modified foods and glyphosate has been done for no longer than 90 days. In other words, genetically modified seeds and associated herbicides were rushed onto the market after 90-day trials, and they have now contaminated much of the food supply.

The position of Ceres in Cancer within cardinal Grand Cross/t-square with Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn indicates we are moving through an acute directional point involving intensified moves by "agri-sciences" corporations into the uncharted, technology-based territory of genetically modified seeds/foods and other synthetic additions like growth hormones. These are to become "the industry standard."

These formations also indicate a crucial necessity to take new, independent, and somewhat radical directions as individuals and like-minded groups take control of their own food supplies, making them autonomous and outside the corporate models.

The primary thing to remember is: it's not too late.

These issues may seem overwhelming, but there is still time to protect organic and non-GM foods. There is still time to stop genetically modified alfalfa before it spreads, and there is still time to reverse much of the damage done by the GM industry.

The people of tiny San Juan County in the U.S. state of Washington, for example, just voted to make their county a GMO-free zone. San Juan County is made up of about 200 islands off the U.S. Pacific Northwest, and it is now illegal to grow or propagate genetically modified plants or animals there.

Genetically modified alfalfa has been grown in the United States for only two years.

GM alfalfa has not been grown in Canada so far, but the battle is heating up with protests last month by the National Farmers Union drawing attention to the Canadian Seed Trade Association's proposal to grow it in Ontario.

Increased public understanding of and opposition to the spread of genetically modified alfalfa is crucially necessary now. As Ceres is strong during the third Uranus-Pluto square May 20, the 2013 planting and growing season is pivotal.

However, people also have to take the lead with their own grocery purchases, implementing their own invisible labeling systems. Vigilance and smarter shopping decisions are required if people would like to keep GMOs out of their bodies and the bodies of their family members. People can use the list of "No on 37" donors to understand which companies have a stake in genetically modified foods continuing to slip by.

With the increasing corportization of organics, even many products labelled organic, particularly processed products, can no longer be trusted.

The influence of Venus in Libra in the October 31 Grand Cross indicates relationships are key.

Get to know organic/non-GM farmers in your area. Go to the source. Buying from reputable organic/non-GM farmers at Farmers Markets and freezing and canning for the winter remains one of the best options for staying as GMO-free as possible. Growing some or all of your own organic/non-GM foods is another.

Get to know other people who share your concerns. Find out which groups are actively fighting the spread of GMOs and give them your support. There is strength (and sanity) in numbers when coming together with those of like mind. 

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
National Farmers Union
Organic Consumers Association


LB said...

Thanks for posting this Willow. There's a lot of very useful information here.

Here in the US, consumers should be aware that foods labeled "organic" can still contain small amounts (up to 30%) of genetically modified ingredients, whereas US laws require any food labeled "100% certified organic" to be completely free of any genetically engineered ingredient - this includes any animal products that have been fed genetically modified foods, such as genetically modified corn.

One caveat to this is that becoming certified is voluntary, which means some (or many) smaller farmers in the United States may still be 100% organic and GMO free even without this certification. Or at least that's my understanding.

In researching this, I was kind of surprised by how much conflicting information there is floating around out there, even among supporters of food labeling. I found this website, which seems to contain a lot of good info on the subject in their "True Foods Shopper's Guide - How to Avoid Foods Made with GMOs":

Willow said...

Yes, local farmers/farmers at Farmers Markets who farm to organic standards are the best bet for getting GMO-free food.

Organic certification is voluntary and fairly expensive. A lot of farmers farm to organic standards but are not certified, so it's a good idea to talk to the farmers directly about their practises.

That was the case with one of the farmers I interviewed last year for the GM alfalfa story, Anneliese Schoppe.