Health Impact News Editor
This week’s elections saw two victories regarding banning GMOs in the United States.
A ballot measure in Maui County, Hawaii that calls for a ban on GMO crops passed by a slim margin this week. But while the margin was slim, the victory was HUGE, because it followed an $8 million campaign against it by Biotech giants Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences.
The GMO industry sees Hawaii as a rich region to develop new GMO crops. The amount of money spent to defeat the GMO ban initiative was the largest amount ever spent on a political campaign in the history of Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat . And they lost. Maui consumers won. Well done Maui.
And this is not the first victory in Hawaii. This ballot measure banning GMO crops in Maui follows a victory late last year, where Hawaii County Mayor William Kenoi signed a bill banning GMO crops in Hawaii County, despite fierce opposition. Here is part of what Mayor Kenoi wrote when he signed the law:
Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources. We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world. With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.
Read the full text here .
Hawaii is Center Stage for WWIII, as it was for WWII
In the summer of 2013 I wrote an article here on Health Impact News titled: Hawaii War Zone: GMO Biotech versus Korean Natural Farming .
I was inspired to write this article after having dinner one night with David Matsuura, a former U.S. Senator who currently lives in Hilo, Hawaii. David is involved in sustainable agricultural projects in Hawaii, and is a big proponent of a successful bio-diverse farming technique developed in Korea. (Read more here .)
I was astounded at what I learned about agriculture in Hawaii. There is probably no place on the planet that is home to such diametrically opposite philosophies of farming and agriculture than Hawaii. Hawaii is a huge testing ground for the development of GMO seeds, and it is also home to some of the most innovative sustainable agricultural projects found anywhere in the world.
For a long time now, most of the food people eat in Hawaii is imported from the mainland, as large corporations practice mono-cropping in large-scale production of fruits, nuts, coffee, etc. in Hawaii, to the exclusion of other crops and livestock. At one time, Dole Foods owned one whole island.
But more recently, people in Hawaii have begun to look at sustainable agricultural principles to better utilize the land, and take steps towards food independence. This new generation of sustainable small-scale farmers believe they can not only become independent from cheap corporate food imported from the mainland, but become an exporter of high quality foods as well. China and Japan are ready markets for high-end food products produced with sustainable methods, in nutrient rich soil. However, this growing trend threatens Big Ag and Big Food and their corporate profits, as Hawaii’s rich natural resources allow them to mass produce a lot of food in far less space than most of the rest of the U.S.
Since every single person on the planet has to eat to live, I don’t think I am exaggerating too much by calling Hawaii the battleground for WWIII. It is not a battle of nation’s armies as WWII was, when the Japanese bombed Hawaii and dragged the U.S. into the war. Rather, it is a battle against the rights of consumers to grow and eat the kind of food they want, versus the corporate monopolies funded by the U.S. Government to force a food system largely funded by our tax dollars to mass produce cheap food that consumers don’t really want. The casualties from this war can be far greater than the total casualties from both WWI and WWII.
This war is far from over, however. In fact, it is just beginning. The Maui News has already reported that Monsanto will challenge Maui’s new ban in court .
Humboldt County California Bans GMO Crops
In another election victory this week for Food Freedom, Humboldt County in California passed a County Measure “prohibiting the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of GMOs in Humboldt County.”
The measure reportedly  classifies growing genetically modified crops as a public nuisance, and goes into effect immediately. Farmers already growing genetically modified crops have until January 2016 to end production.
Expect legal challenges to this ban as well, as Biotech companies also opposed this ballot initiative. But a legal challenge should also be mounted against California State Assembly Bill 2470, passed and signed earlier this year, which alters California Seed Law to “prohibit a city, county, or district, including a charter city or county, from adopting or enforcing an ordinance on or after January 1, 2015, that regulates plants, crops, or seeds without the consent of the secretary.” This bill will supposedly prevent local communities from putting forth more ballot initiatives such as this one, and needs to be challenged in the courts.
GMO Labeling Initiatives Fail Again
Election results this week on GMO labeling ballot initiatives were not so positive, however. Just like previous ballot measures on labeling GMOs, both statewide ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon failed. Spending by Biotech companies and processed food companies was once again huge, using their (effective) strategy of scaring consumers into believing that required GMO labeling would raise food prices (which is not really true).
So where do we go from here? How should the grass-roots Food Freedom movement proceed at this point?
Banning GMOs versus Labeling
Based on results thus far, I think the direction is clear. Local initiatives to ban GMO crops have been far more successful so far, than statewide ballot initiatives to label GMO products.
While the ballot measure in Oregon was very narrowly defeated this week, earlier this year two Oregon Counties successfully passed measures to ban GMO crops in their county.
Biotech forces spent $1 million in Jackson County to prevent the ban, and lost. (Story here .)
So what is better: to label GMO products, or ban their cultivation? Do we not have a clear blueprint to follow at this point?
Yes, it will take a lot longer to fight this battle at the small community level, and I am not suggesting we give up larger battles at the state or federal level. However, I see several reasons why the grass-roots Food Freedom movement should now switch their strategy to banning GMO crops, as opposed to trying to force the labeling of GMO products.
1. The obvious: one method has seen success, and the other has not. Why is that? Because people are afraid food prices will soar with more government requirements for labeling. This perception affects their pocket book, and everyone knows that is a key reason people vote.
But who wants to oppose a ban on planting GMOs?? It does not cost the consumer anything to ban something undesirable. Everyone wants to eat healthier food. The challenge is to educate the consumer as to how “healthy food” is truly defined.
2. Creating and defending GMO-free zones in communities throughout the U.S. has many benefits. It connects people locally to a cause that deeply affects them, and they are more likely to be willing to participate to the success of Food Freedom rights. As more people become educated and involved, many can potentially go on to represent their community in the political arena as well.
And the economic benefits could be huge! As consumers demand more healthy products free from GMO and glyphosate contamination, these GMO-free zones could very well become prosperous economic centers around the U.S. providing not only healthy food, but job opportunities as well, reviving the economies of those locations.
3. Is there any evidence that an ordinance or law to label GMO foods will truly be effective? Besides the obvious court challenges that would follow such a law, who would enforce it? Probably the federal government, either via the FDA or USDA. Does anyone really expect a government agency to act to protect the consumer, rather than the GMO and Processed Food industry?
Much like the bill passed earlier this year in California which would prevent communities from banning GMOs, there are federal bills and initiatives in the works that would do the same thing at the national level. Just as the USDA Organic standards have been watered down  to allow Big Food to continue labeling their commodity mass-produced food as “organic,” we have little reason to believe the same thing would not happen with any GMO labeling requirements.
I truly believe there are good people who do not want GMO foods, but will not vote for GMO labeling initiatives. The reason being that the government cannot be trusted to effectively enforce such laws, and that we have too much government intrusion into our lives already.
To hear a very friendly debate on the issue of having government enforce GMO labeling, listen to a debate by two GMO opponents , Dr. Mercola and Joel Salatin.
Joel Salatin is no friend of bio-tech or processed food companies, and opposes GMOs, but he is not in favor of GMO labeling. He represents a very large and growing number of Americans who want less government intrusion in our lives, and would probably not vote for GMO labeling initiatives, even though they oppose GMOs.
While Health Impact News supports all initiatives to oppose GMOs, I support Joel Salatin’s view of less government.
So instead of spending so much energy and resources trying to force the labeling of GMO foods, let’s work together in our communities to ban them! Let’s throw our support into these bold actions taken by local communities in Hawaii and other places in the U.S., and let’s encourage more communities to do the same thing.
And a word to all my Republican friends gloating in their recent political victories: the issue of GMOs and Food Freedom is a NON-PARTISAN issue!! Everyone needs to eat, right? Do not all citizens of this country have a right to eat the food of their choice, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, progressive or conservative?? This is not a partisan issue. Stop including the opposition to GMO labeling or bans as part of a straight party ticket!! This is a NON-PARTISAN issue that we all need to get behind. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for not allowing Biotech to pollute our entire country before it is too late, leaving them an inheritance that is completely worthless and unable to produce healthy, nutritious food.
This is a war! Communities need to speak out, educate, and take action. Once a community has acted like the ones documented here, they must defend their Food Freedom at all costs. Everyone needs to be involved, from farmer to consumer to local politicians to local sheriffs. It is going to be a long war with many battles along the way, but the future of our nation’s food, and our very existence, are the high stakes we are fighting for.