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California should Take a Page from Agrarian Cultures on GMO Labeling

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California’s Prop 37  will be voted on in November, and the US can take its first steps towards a responsible approach regarding genetically modified food at that time. The pro-labelling initiative is ahead in polls at this point, but further education may be needed to deal with Monsanto and their bottomless coffers. Americans should look to cultures who are still closely tied to the earth for inspiration.

 

The US Senate struck down a bill last month that would have forced genetically modified food producers to label their food. This result should come as no surprise, as corruption and crony capitalism have dictated national policy for years throughout the agricultural industry. Any serious investigation into Monsanto, the diplomats who work for them, the lobbysists who buy off legislators, or the EPA’s draconian laws targeting small farmers will illustrate the systemic problems. The US needs to abroad to see responsible laws.

India is the latest country to join the fight, requiring GMO labeling beginning in 2013. But leading the charge are Latin American nations. They have fought against Monsanto’s encroachment more urgently than completely industrialized countries. In Mexico, farmers have slowed GMO progress. Brazil, the worlds largest soy producer, won a recent legal battle that has stopped unfair royalty payments to Monsanto, at least temporarily. And in Peru, the greatest anti-GMO victory came a few months ago. Peru passed a ten-year ban on planting and importation of genetically modified food. 

Anibal Huerta, President of Peru’s Agrarian Commission, said the ban was needed to prevent the “danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology”.

Having spent time in Peru, it was clear Peruvians valued fresh, locally produced, natural food. Part of their national pride comes from the variety of fruits and vegetables grown there, some of which are only grown in Peru. Although the mass migration to cities has happened throughout Latin America, the close historical connection and geographical proximity to food production has remained. These countries demonstrate a vital truth lost to many Americans. 

In the US, farmers markets have become trendy and the informed choice, with many deciding to eat organic and support local farms. However, agricultural giants have slowly changed the landscape of food production in the US. The war against the independent farmer can be seen in the documentary Farmageddon, which details the unfair fight. Farmers have sued, similar to the case in Brazil, and only time will tell if a victory is possible in a country that is completely removed from its connection to the land that provides its sustenance.



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