Health Impact News Editor Comments

The video above is Joel Salatin’s speech making the claim against federal initiatives to label GMO foods. He spoke in a debate with Dr. Mercola, who presented the pro-government labeling side. The debate was a fund-raising event sponsored by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund in Atlanta. It should be noted that both persons debating are friends, and opposed to GMOs.

Both sides actually make great points, but Salatin’s message is the one less heard. He posted the transcript on the Polyface Farm Facebook Page here, which we copied below. It is a message that needs to be heard by all concerned about GMO products, and the dangers of relying on a government largely influenced by lobbyists from  Big Ag and Big Food to do something to “protect” consumers.


Joel Salatin

No. As a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer, I’m well aware that taking such a position is contrary to the thinking of many dear friends in the integrity food movement, Dr. Joe certainly being one of them.

At the outset, let me make two things abundantly clear: I despise GMOs. On our farm, we pay extra for non-GMO grains. We buy organic. I do not like GMOs, Sam I am. I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere. Secondly: I categorically reject the notion that being against federal labeling makes me a friend of Monsanto or a friend of GMOs. Being opposed to prohibition id not make a person in favor of alcoholism. Sometimes policies make strange bedfellows, and that’s the case here. At issue is the federal mandate, as opposed to state, local, or completely non-governmental options. What is NOT at issue is whether GMOs are good or bad.

I have 8 lines of analysis.

1. Europe is not the blueprint for societal success. While I very much like some things Europe does, many things mandated there are horrible.

To assume that because Europe does it makes it chic and sexy and progressive is naive and overly simplistic. It is an entirely different culture: food culture, property rights culture, government regulatory culture. To think that a European model of anything can be simply transposed to the U.S. is foolish. Europe bans GMOs outright; it does not simply label food. That’s an important distinction and actually far more efficient policy than food labeling. Europe did not develop GMOs. Europe does not have embassies around the world staffed with people strong-arming governments to use GMOs. And Europe doesn’t have the Kardashians.

2. A government label is a marketing license. At our farm, we’ve been skewered by the label police more than once on some arcane and inane infraction, from pica size on print to wording. Only a higher power can license a lower power. I cant give you a driver’s license because I have no authority to give you that license. When we ask for a license, we admit that the license giver has authority over that activity or commodity.

I would ask you: Do you want the government to have the authority to license your food? Really? Suddenly that takes on a different notion, doesn’t it? The authority to license is the authority to deny access. When we ask for a government label, GMO-related or not, we’re voluntarily submitting ourselves to the authority and wisdom of government officials to determine what is acceptable in the marketplace. Acceptable orthodoxy is irradiation, feeding dead cows to cows, DDT, cloning, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, sub-therapeutic antibiotics, and routine vaccinations, NOT compost, pasture-based or multi-speciated.

If there’s one thing the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund should be promoting, it is the notion that food commerce should be able to occur voluntarily between consenting adults without bureaucratic intrusion. I summarily reject the notion that the government is in authority over my food–any food.

3. Demanding GMO labeling may be exactly what the industry wants. Just a few days ago on Oct. 15, British environmentalist and GMO advocate Mark Lynas addressed the Center for Food Integrity Summit in Chicago, a consortium of U.S. food industry leaders. He called for federal mandatory GMO labeling as the best way for the industry to tell the story of its marvelous benefits. Listen to him: “foods containing GMOs or GM-derived products are no less safe than their conventional alternatives–there is as strong a scientific consensus on this issue as there is on many comparable issues like the science of climate change.” A few sentences later, he says: “Indeed, GMOs may well be more safe than their conventional alternatives.”

I want you to listen to his argument. After pointing out that the labeling agenda is really an anti-biotech agenda, he said: “And let there be no mistake: banning biotech is the explicit agenda of many pro-labeling activists. They talk about consumer choice, but what they actually want is to remove all choice. The want what I call prohibition based on superstition. ” Ouch. Is this where we want to head? How many of us in this room had good hearted, salt-of-the-earth well-meaning ancestors who fought for alcohol prohibition? Are we being equally duplicitous by jumping on the label-GMO bandwagon?

4. The consumer has no right to know. The founders of our great nation offered the right to pursue happiness, the right to seek, if you will. Thomas Jefferson promoted pursuing knowledge, not an entitlement to knowledge. That’s an important distinction. Indeed, today’s culture writing the Bill of Rights would say that the second amendment entitled every American to own a gun and would create a government bureaucracy to make sure every person had one whether he could afford it or not.

We’ve turned pursuit into entitlement and that cheapens inalienable right, which is bestowed by God, not governments. Right to know cannot be guaranteed by anyone or anything, just like a right to be educated, a right to good medical care, or the right to financial security in retirement: these cannot be guaranteed as entitlements just because the government says so. What we guarantee is the right to pursue these things.

In his latest book, New York Times bestselling author Jay Richards notes that “it’s impossible to have full information in almost any transaction . . . . I’m using a MacBook Pro, and when I bought it, I shopped first for brand, which in the case of computers is a hugely important data point. After that, screen size, processor speed, and price. I didn’t know a thing about 99.999 percent of the construction and supply chain of the machine. Neither did anyone in the Apple Store where I bought it. If a free market required the parties in the sale of a personal computer to know everything about the transaction before the sale, no one would ever get around to buying a computer.”

I would even take this one step further. An entitlement to knowledge mentality dismissed prisoner abuse at Guantanimo Bay as being necessary for our right to know. Coerced confessions lead to cleverspeak and moral/ethical erosion. Voluntary confessions lead toward clarity and understanding. Demanding the heavy hand of federal agents to beat out of unwilling citizens information that other citizens want to know is not a good solution for anything.

That we the people should depend on the federal government for our knowledge, to demand that our knowledge depend on the morsels our bureaucratic caretakers dispense, is profoundly un-American and childish. Folks, I assume everything the government tells me is an outright lie or at least tainted with cleverspeak and dubious agendas. And I certainly don’t want my knowledge dependent on a bureaucrat nanny. Forsooth, are we really going to put Monsanto mogul Michael Taylor in charge of deciding what a GMO is and then arbitrating guilt and innocence? He’s the ogre at the helm of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a scorched earth anti-small farm and heritage food regulation with Draconian plans.

No matter how much you might hope that this time will be different; this time we’ll have honorable people as regulators, that’s not the way to bet. It’ll be the same old same old–lies, confusion, obfuscation and demagoguery.

5. Asking for federal intervention in this matter is not superior to a hodge-podge of state initiatives. To think that a centralized structure is better than decentralized options, each vying for policy superiority assumes that competitive ideas have no merit. That in this country we so quickly arrogate to a centralized federal level every societal remedy illustrates that we as a culture routinely abandon state prototypes in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Look at the mockery centralization made of organic labeling. Now we have carogeenan in baby food and a host of adulterations in the federal 1990 Organic Foods Protection Act. A patchwork of functioning state wording, when arrogated to the federal level, prostituted the regulation to the highest bidders. If it weren’t for groups like the Cornucopia Project and Mark Kastel to sue the regulators over and over and over and over, we’d have virtually no integrity at all in bureaucracy. Had organic certification stayed private and/or state, their competitive cleansing would today make them better than the federal sham.

Are we to assume that the agencies overseeing GMO labeling will be more righteous than the shenanigans on-going at the National Organic Program? If past is prologue, we don’t need any more federal meddling in labeling laws. A decentralized, individualistic patchwork of state initiatives will gradually refine the wording, protocols, and oversight that work, and that’s the best way to arrive at consensus–through a vibrantly functional period of dissensus. Let the state jockey for the most functional system; the cream will rise to the top.

6. Even if labeling would reduce GMO consumption, the ends don’t justify the means. We could eliminate drunk driving fatalities by eliminating automobiles, but such a cure is worse than the disease. We tolerate whackos and socialists not because we like them, but because to silence them strikes at the heart of free speech.

We continue to allow backyard swimming pools, knowing that 50 children will drown in them this year. Zero tolerance simply doesn’t work.

Furthermore, assuming that labeling is the most efficacious way to accomplish reduced use of GMOs is a stretch. Does anyone really believe labels? Our farm uses completely bogus nutrition labels. They are incorrect by a factor of 1,0000 percent, but the USDA demands that we have them, so we put them on. It doesn’t matter that they are a lie. We tell our customers they are untrue. The reason is because we can legally use generic USDA labels; any deviation requires customized food studies costing thousands of dollars. Our customers don’t buy based on a label; they buy based on what they see in the field and what they feel in their guts. Government-regulated labels are a joke, and that’s the truth.

7. Federal labels are the poorest way to remediate the GMO problem. Let’s list some of the other remedies:

a. Buy organic—not USDA credentialed, but personally or privately vetted.

b. Know your farmer

c. Look for non-GMO labeled products.

d. The Weston A. Price Foundation Smart Shopper Guide.

Indeed, Dylan Charles writing in Waking Times May 27, 2013 gives this prophecy: “In the not too distant future, consumers will be able be able to run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, GMOs, pesticides, food safety and more with their smartphones and other hand-held devices.” This biodetection technology is almost here, he said: a “wedge-shaped cradle . . . contains a series of optical components–lenses and filters–found in much larger and more expensive laboratory devices . . . At the heart of the biosensor is a photonic crystal.”

Are we really creating much ado about nothing here, yelling, screaming, kicking, and demanding a bigger federal government police state when personal pursuit of knowledge will give each of us true liberation from industrial contrivances?

To suggest that the first and most efficacious remedy for any societal ill is federal government regulation, more bureaucracy, and more police power shows a profound lack of creativity and a prejudicial mindset against personal empowerment. Every one of us, right now, can know and opt out of GMOs; nobody is holding us hostage. The only hostage is our minds to government dependency. That’s what needs liberating.

How do we stimulate personal knowledge? By insisting on personal responsibility. If we shift that responsibility to know to the government, we simply encourage ignorance. We don’t exercise discernment muscles unless and until we have to. When the onus is on us to learn something, we step up to the plate. A label mandate dumbs us down and creates lethargic interest rather than aggressive seekers. After all, when the government is watching out for us, our mental acuity can focus instead on the latest Kardashian excitement.

8. Finally, mandatory federal labels chases the wrong solution. The right solution is a return to reverencing property rights. Think about the massive investment of time, money, effort expended in this labeling initiative. The person-hours reading action alerts; time spent signing and writing petitions, picketing and getting out the vote.

Now imagine if all that energy had been invested in demanding that district attorneys and state attorney’s general would simply enforce basic common law property rights. Under trespass law, if my bull wanders onto your property and tramples your flower bed, I’m liable. If I refuse to acknowledge liability and refuse compensation, any district attorney will help you to help me understand that my fist ends at your nose.

In our modern American these life forms that Monsanto owns, these alien patented buings–for now let’s call them Monsanto’s bulls–these inherently promiscuous beings run willy nilly onto my farm trampling my life, my property, committing sexual orgy in my fields, and not only is Monsanto not liable for trespass, but the courts of our nation are so convoluted that they have determined that I must pay Monsanto for the privilege of their bulls trampling my flowers. Farmers suing for redress are rebuffed like peon peasants. What if the first time this egregious trespass occurred, all the effort we’ve seen in the labeling movement had been focused on that district attorney’s negligence? Goodness, he would have been disbarred.

Folks, where are the caretakers of our rule of law? Where? Cowering behind wine and cheese dinners, behind bought elections. Where is the outrage among us? You see, unfortunately, this issue can’t even raise a whimper because as a culture we’ve drunk the socialist cool-aid that private property is not worth defending. In fact, we think private property is bad. That my farm is really yours to control. My creek is yours to canoe in. My cheese is yours to regulate. My farm production is yours to license. America is one grand playground.

We have so eroded and abandoned the most fundamental virtue of Americanism–to be secure in our persons and effects, that every person would have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (in the original drafts, this was property) that we don’t see anything as personal; all our liberties are just what the government decides to give us, rather than inalienable rights we have of God and we only give the government the right to meddle in a few of them. Goodness, under Obamacare I don’t even own my own nose any more. When the government decides that your fist does not need to end at my nose, or that I don’t even have a nose, we’ve become a nation of barbarians and uncivilized beasts.

I would like all of us here tonight to realize how we’ve cheapened our argument by asking for a bigger federal government, more policing, more regulations, more taxes, more tyranny, instead of demanding the better remediation of liberty, which is my freedom to operate on my own land free of trespass. If we can’t have anything that’s “my stuff,” we have no personhood, no self-actualization, no individual identity. What we need to do is preserve the sanctity of the Joeness of Joe and the Joelness of Joel.

What of the people who don’t know or don’t care? The people being hurt by ingesting GMOs? They have the right to pursue the truth. They should have the right to choose and hurt themselves if they want to. To undermine freedom in order to save someone from their own wayward path is a road to hell paved with good intentions and naivete.

People are waking up. Inertia is on our side. Just look at the proliferation of state GMO initiatives and growth of non-GMO foods. Let’s not mess it up with an immediate federal mandate. And let’s take the high road of freedom rather than coercion.

by Joel Salatin
More Info