Building Community At America's Table

Meal Six: At Monsanto, I Learned I Am the Problem

- written by Ellen

I think a lot of us on the sustainable food side of the table are completely and utterly wrong about Monsanto. And even wronger about their responsibility in the GMO battles that are going on right now. Now, before you lose your shit, I have to ask you to calm the hell down and hear me out.

I am not saying Monsanto is all rainbows and unicorns. In fact, they have a long history of not awesome. But, thanks to Romney, of all people, that past is past. And, really, it is past. Their entire business model has changed from top to bottom. Bringing it up, still, as an argument for why we should all hate them is like condemning a smoker who quit cold turkey 10 years ago. You actually herald the smoker for changing his ways and yet Monsanto keeps on getting bashed for something they no longer do.

It may make you feel better to have yet another reason to hate them but it’s turned them into a straw man and hating them that actually contributes nothing to the discourse at hand. And I think it distracts us from the real problem.

Now, because I know you and know that you’ve decided I’ve been brainwashed, I’m gonna tell you this: I am not going to start eating GMOs. In fact, if anything, the trip to Monsanto has made me more committed to eating out of my backyard (which means, boo! no more Fresca for me, which I’ll explain later). What I am saying is that I think we’re all working off some outdated and occasionally out-of-whack ideas. And, frankly, I don’t think it is doing “our side” any good because, well, we sound a bit like the Fox News anchors sound to us: wrong to the point of sounding slightly insane to the other side.

Here’s what you need to know: the mainstream media reporting about GMOs and Monsanto is definitely biased and, in many cases, flat out wrong. My first experience with this was when CBS reported that GMO grass killed a herd of cows. It was actually hybrid grass, not GMO grass. WTF? Then there was the widely reported story about rats and cancer that exploded on Twitter because of the scaryass pictures of mice with gigantic tumors. The science of the study was bunk. Again, WTF? Then, horrifyingly to me because I thought they were a rigorous news outfit, Reuter’s reported on a paper that suggested pesticide use was increasing because of GMOs, without, apparently, doing any due diligence on the study, which again turned out to be drawn from bunk science.

It is beyond frustrating, really, if you are trying to honestly figure out what the hell is going on. And honestly, I am beginning to believe that I am never going to actually find out the truth. Because even truthful reporting is presented in such a ridiculously biased way that it can be hard to walk away with a clear understanding of what is really going on.

But here’s one thing I do now know: Monsanto isn’t out to “dominate the food supply” in any way different than Apple is out to “dominate the mobile phone market” or I, at RIA, am out to “dominate the restaurant marketing market.” Monsanto is a business and as a business their job is to make products people want to buy and then try and see how many people they can get to buy them. Like Apple, they’re doing a good job. Or I should say like Intel because the reason there is so much market penetration for GMOs is not because Monsanto is a colossus, but because Monsanto sells their technology to other seed companies in the same way Intel sells their technology to computer companies. GMO is like the microprocessor of seeds.

From a business perspective, it is bloody genius.

Does that mean you have to like what they are selling? No. But just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t really, really smart.

And here’s the thing: the farmers, their customers, do like it. That’s a key point we need to remember. People are happily buying Monsanto’s products (by the way, those products are proudly labeled GMOs).  Monsanto just sells them. So, if you are keeping track here, at this point in the blog, it is the farmers that are “the problem” because they are creating the demand.

But I am not going to stop there. You likely already realized that the farmers are actually selling their (also labeled as GMOs) products to someone, too. And those buyers, by buying the GMO products, are telling the farmers that it is OK to plant GMOs. So, again, keeping track, the blame moves yet another step away from Monsanto. Right now, it is really PepsiCo, Dole, General Mills, Nestlé or Kraft Foods (etc.) that are next in line to shoulder the blame because they are creating the demand that let’s the farmers know GMOs are OK.

(And, if you are keeping track, you’ve already figured out that the point where the products lose the GMO label is when they leave PepsiCo, Dole, General Mills, Nestlé and Kraft Foods and travel to your food store. Which means, they’re the ones to whom you should be directing your label rage, folks. Don’t pack a lunch with Oreos in it if you are planning to attend your local, neighborhood Occupy Monsanto protest.)

Of course, and I think you already figured this out too, PepsiCo, Dole, General Mills, Nestlé and Kraft Foods all sell to someone, who is creating demand for their products. That someone is actually the end-use consumer. That someone is, well, me, for one. So, it follows that, as the originator of demand, me and others like me, actually are the epicenter of blame. By buying products, we are the ones who sends the demand notice that ripples up the supply chain to Monsanto’s seeds.

And if you think about it, you know this already, that means you, too.

Which brings me back to my Fresca.

I don’t have air conditioning in my house and I work at home so, this past summer I nearly melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. It was awful and somehow, even though I don’t drink soda as a rule, at some point during the summer, in the blisteringly muggy death-like atmosphere that was my house, I decided that it was Fresca that would be my salvation. And it was. Delightfully so. God knows how that came to pass but it did and, as the summer wore on, I drank what I believe might be a small ocean’s worth of Fresca. At least a large lake’s worth.

It seemed innocent enough — I was just trying to stay cool. But really, in buying that Fresca, what I was doing was perpetuating a food system I demand is horrendous. What a clueless idiot.

You see, every time I buy salad dressing because I am lazy or buy an apple fritter at Starbucks because I need some comfort, I am telling Monsanto, loud and clear, to sell more GMO seeds. We all do the same thing. The commodity milk in a latte, the soy everyone thinks is so good for them, the takeout Chinese and the fun “Boo!” cookies at the local bakery, the Doritos and Pirate’s Booty, the Powerbars and the Potbelly or Subway — it’s likely all GMOs.

You don’t need a label. You already know that 95+ percent of the corn grown in America is GMO. And you know that corn is in just about everything. So, screaming for a label is just noise because you are still buying the products you know, if you take two seconds to think about it, contain GMOs.

A label isn’t going to change anything. And fighting for a label when you’ve got a Starbucks in your hand is blaming someone/something else for a problem you help create.

You see, the problem is all crap you are buying that you actually don’t believe in but which tells the companies they’re selling the right thing.

You really don’t need a label. You need to start thinking.

And to be honest, I don’t think any of us are thinking. We’ve signed the petition and decried what we demand is “hidden from us,” without admitting that, frankly, unless we are buying organic, we actually know we are buying GMOs. We curse Monsanto for lobbying to kill the labeling law, even though it is within their rights and is best for their stockholders that they do so.

That’s right, lobbying to stop labeling is them doing their jobs. If you don’t like it, you need to work to change the lobbying laws, not get mad at a company taking legal advantage of them. That’s like getting mad at the gun makers when some whackjob goes postal.

And think about it: no amount of screaming is going to stop the folks at Monsanto from doing what they are supposed to do when they go to work each day — producing a product that you ultimately support, even if you say you don’t.

And this is the thing, we’re the ones who are doing the wrong thing: when we leave the Occupy Monsanto meeting, pumped up and ready for a fight, and we stop by Whole Foods to get a snack and we actively ignore the fact that it is likely laced with GMOs if it isn’t labeled organic. We fall for the “All Natural” label, which has no government oversight whatsoever and actually means nothing. We disconnect ourselves from the reality of the Frappuccino (you can make a delicious Frappucino-y thing with coffee, cold milk and honey — you don’t have to be deprived your frappufreakingcino!) and ignore the power of our own dollars to make a change.

It’s bloody well stupid.

And the first person with whom I lay blame is myself. I realize that what I really need to Occupy is my own kitchen — because I am a source of the problem.

Here’s the thing I learned from visiting Monsanto — they’re a bunch of people just doing their jobs and to be honest, they believe in what they are doing. They are excited by the possibilities and feel like they are contributing to the greater good of society. Really. They are super concerned about helping American’s reduce trans fats in their diets and have a nutritionist on-staff who seemed genuinely and sincerely concerned about how well-intentioned but wrong-headed food choices and policies end up distracting society from the end-game: more healthy food in more people’s bodies.

And before you wonder if they genetically modified our brains while we were there, I’ll be honest I was surprised at how little “persuading” they actually did do. As a point in fact, when I told our host, Gary Barton, that I thought the organics vs. gmo nutrient study was misleading because the statistical model was biased, he didn’t argue with me — he just looked sad. At no point did they try to change my opinion, on the contrary, they were eager to find out what it was. They were excited we were there and willing to talk and they wanted to understand why the hell everyone hates them so much. They believe what they are doing is good for us, good for the environment, and the right thing to do — why doesn’t everyone see that?

You may not agree with them. But you can’t go to their headquarters, spend a day all up in their faces, demanding answers, and walk away thinking they are all plotting to kill us with scary ass evil intentions.

No, you walk away thinking that maybe you only have half the story. You walk away and jump on your computer and start Googling “Monsanto Monarch Butterflies” and “Monsanto Chapati Wheat” and “Monsanto Cancer” and you begin to realize that the reporting is so conflicting and so biased and, often, so ridiculous that, likely, we’ll never know who is right.

But I do know who is wrong: it’s the folks who blame Monsanto for selling (labeled) seeds to farmers who grow crops which they sell (labeled) to food manufacturers who make products (not labeled) they are actually buying. The folks who are too clouded by their own ignorant rage about transparency (she wrote, pointing finger at self) that they fail to take a few moments to realize that nearly every single food product that is sold in any sort of package with any sort of label is 99% sure to be GMO, even if the label doesn’t say “yo, GMOs inside” — and that when they buy those products, they are creating demand for the very thing they think they are outraged about.

Me: I’ve got 18 more cans of Fresca in the house. In the last 24 hours, I’ve called upon my CostCo-size bottle of worchestershire, Kikkomen soy sauce and my beloved sriracha. I don’t think the Fresca has any GMOs, only because I don’t think there are any agricultural products in there whatsoever, it’s all a bunch of gross made-up chemicals, but the rest of it surely does.

I know this — I just need to make sure I remember it when I run out. And I need to choose to buy something different.

My next meal, I already decided, is in fact to Occupy My Own Kitchen. I want to come to terms with what I do to perpetuate a problem I think is gigantic and awful and wrong and thus worthy of the effort it will take in my life to right my actions so they line up with my beliefs.

Because the thing our trip to Monsanto taught me is that if I really do want the food supply to change, if I really want to make a difference in how our country feeds itself, feeds the world, I have to start with myself.

And you do too.

183 responses

  1. This really spells things out very nicely and accuratly. This is wonderfully insightful. I love this and hope all is well with you.
    Matt Reese

    October 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    • elliecm

      Well you certainly saw your own thoughts in there, Matt.

      October 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

  2. this post left me thinking… but, why?
    Why don’t you want to buy any more Rooster sauce?

    October 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    • elliecm

      Just cause my own personal beliefs, Anastasia. But I do feel I learned a lot!

      October 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  3. Ellen, you stole (some) of the post that’s rattling around in my head right out of there. We’ll have to chat more on it, but I am impressed with your thinking and willingness to look.

    This is clearly what you were referring to when we ran into each other at PQM. Good to read.

    October 14, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks! Natasha!

      October 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  4. Ellen, Thank you. I’m guessing coming to these conclusions and writing this made you shake your head now and then wondering where the words were coming from. I so appreciate yours and Grant’s openness and transparency. I hope to match it on an ongoing basis! There are some folks out there that really challenge me on that with some of the tactics they use, but I figure letting them dominate the conversation or determine my path is a win for them. That makes me nuts! Instead, I am talking to more people to understand the different positions. When they are willing to listen, I try to explain a bit of my viewpoint to. In the end, I think we should all be eating more deliberately, more mindfully. That’s certainly been a big difference for me as I work more on myself. I hope we get to have dinner again in the near future, even if its not for a blog post. – jp

    October 14, 2012 at 7:57 pm

  5. Kudos to you Ellen for having the mind to approach this conversation with JP and the folks at Monsanto with an eagerness to understand. I have spent a lot of time learning the science of agriculture and have a hard time understanding thoughts from the other side of the table, especially the strong emotion that goes into it. You thoughts are an encouragement for me to keep pushing.

    October 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  6. Ellen, as I said on Grant’s post I am honored to be walking step by step with you guys and truly have learned a lot myself.

    I personally am giving up normal french fries for those Sweet Potato Maple Bacon thingies we tried at lunch that day. :)

    October 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    • elliecm

      Sweet Potato Maple Bacon thingies. You go, my friend, you go!

      October 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm

  7. Trish

    Ellen, I agree with you except I think labeling is needed because not everyone knows gmos are in their food. You are absolutely correct for those who do know. And I know several people who complain about gmos yet buy them. I didn’t know gmos were in our food until a little over 2 years ago and I have been outraged ever since I found out. Most of my anger was because it was hidden from me. Many people still are blind to this and THAT is why labels are needed.

    October 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    • Charlie Rader

      Trish, I can’t help wondering about the selectivity of your outrage. There are all sorts of things in agriculture that nobody puts on the labels. Why are you only concerned with this probably harmless one? Pick up a random product with, say, corn as an ingredient. Do you see on the label whether it is hybrid corn? Whether it was sprayed with pesticides? Whether it was grown by a family farmer or by a giant agricultural mega-farm? Whether it was bought directly from a farm or was stored for a year in a grain elevator? If it proudly claims that it is organic, does it tell you any of these things about the corn?

      April 4, 2013 at 6:45 am

  8. Bill

    Took the tour of Monsanto’s research facility a few years ago. What I came away thinking is the future of food production is secure. The people working there are some of the most caring people l’ve ever met.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  9. Thanks for you honest and open comments about GMO and Monsanto. Coming from you has much more meaning then from me a grower of GMO crops. Thanks again.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  10. ctomrun

    Thank you for your open thoughts and comments pertaining to GMO and Monsanto.

    October 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  11. Karen

    Hammer head meet nail head. Well done!

    October 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm

  12. I’ve enjoyed reading about this project, and I enjoyed this post the most and think it’s pretty dead on. I grew up on an organic dairy and I had an internship just after college with a seed company who sold both non GM (which they called conventional, oddly enough) seeds and GM seeds. Many of those GM seeds had traits licensed from Monsanto, but those certainly weren’t the only options available. It’s interesting to see both perspectives.

    October 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm

  13. Fabulous point! We have to take responsibility for our choices and realize that we create the market when we make the “easy” or “fast” fix. Companies only sell what consumers will buy. Look at HFCS, more brands are phasing them out because consumers demanded it… not because we forced them to change through legislation or fines.

    October 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

  14. Thank you Ellen and Grant. You guys are doing some beautiful work. Thank you for presenting it so bluntly. I am speechless.

    October 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks, Sean! Means a lot coming from the likes of you! You know more about local food than anyone I know, frankly.

      October 15, 2012 at 7:31 am

  15. capachistorygenealogy

    It’s so refreshing to see somebody who wants to know the truth enough to go out and seek it, and is willing to listen. We need more people like you, Ellen. It’s a bonus for the rest of us that you write very well. Thank you for an open-minded, informative post.

    October 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

    • elliecm

      Thanks. Not! Easy! Much more fun to just chat with people who agree with you. Conversations don’t need hours of followup research to learn!

      October 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

  16. You really got at the nut of problem with the incorrect information that comes out from the anti-GMO team. It’s easy to dismiss the fiction because it’s so untethered and frequently flat-out absurd. And people who are prone to using fiction don’t make good allies–you can’t trust them.

    I’ve used the Fox viewers analogy before too. It looks just like that to me.

    Great post. You traced the issues to the right place, precisely. It’s really hopeful to me that thoughtful people can find their way to the real stuff.

    October 15, 2012 at 7:50 am

  17. Vanessa

    Ellen, Thank you from a North Dakota farmer. I love your comment about Fresca! I very rarely drink soda either, but when I do I go for the sugar!

    October 15, 2012 at 8:10 am

  18. Brent Erisman

    Ellen,

    As a farmer who buys those GMO seeds, and one who has been on the receiving end of a screaming fit, from a “foodie” (and I use the term loosely as I am not sure what to call this person and remain polite), I applaud your honesty and well thought-out article. I realize that most people who are in the “food activist” group, are there for good reasons, mainly wanting to be sure of the health quality of the food they buy, but select people give the entire group a bad name. This is a problem across all groups, on both sides of any particular discussion, and we each should be quick to condemn those who make our group look bad. I once again applaud you for a rational and well written take from the other side. Hopefully the continued rise of personal communication will help retire the broad brush that media uses to paint news in a negative light.

    Respectfully yours from the other side,
    A Mid-west Farmer.

    October 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • elliecm

      Brent, not every day someone calls me rational. Thanks.

      I think us foodie types are all really scared and we’re getting scaredier by the frightening headlines and slated news.
      I am not gonna say I don’t blame us. We woke up one day to find our entire food system had completely changed, mostly without our really knowing it.

      My belief is that a lot of the problem can be directed to two things: food additives and CAFOs. Unfortunately, the GMOs, being something entirely new and hard to understand, got lumped. Seriously, I still don’t think I could thinkingly choose to eat GMOs — for no reason other than I just don’t know enough and I am also generally against the farming culture they are associated with (fencerow to fencerow and very little diversity). But I think a lot of the GMO rage is, really, misunderstood.

      I look forward to learning more. Though today, I can safely say my brain is exploding.

      Thanks for reading!

      October 15, 2012 at 8:50 am

  19. Ozarkhomesteader

    I agree with you that Monsanto is no more out to take over the world of food than Apple wants the biggest byte of the computer market, but that means that Monsanto *is* trying to control all of our food, and it is pretty darn close already. The risk of a single multinational company controlling the US food supply is a huge American security risk. The company also is funding the anti-labeling campaigns, making it much more difficult for you and everyone else to determine if that Fresca you love is GMO. Monsanto spent $2.46 million to get the US Congress to keep supporting the GMO/commodity crops in the 2012 farm bill alone. It’s always good to talk with those with whom we disagree, and I’m glad you did. I also know that the people who work at Monsanto are just trying to make a living, but if their living is hastening our dying and the dying of the environment, then perhaps they need to make a living somewhere else.

    October 15, 2012 at 8:31 am

    • elliecm

      Ozarker, thanks for reading.

      One thing I want you to do. Really in all seriousness. I want you to go see how much of the food supply Monsanto is controlling. It doesn’t count when, to me, when a Pioneer uses their technology for their own seeds. To mind mind, when someone like Pioneer rents Monsanto technology, it isn’t Monsanto controlling those seeds.

      Also, trying to get the largest market share and actually controlling the food supply are two different things, right? I agree with you that the risk of one company controlling US food supply is huge. But I would argue a few things: 1) we are talking about corn, soybeans and sugar beets. Technically, no one should be eating that anyway nor should they be eating anything that is derived from them or any food from animal raised on them; 2) Monsanto’s “control” of the actual food seed market (vegetables/specialty crops) is about 5%, to my knowledge. Five. Percent. Nowhere near controlling; 3) yes, they are funding anti-labeling campaigns but again, and I am anything but a libertarian, I find it perplexing that people don’t want to make the effort to remove that stuff from their cupboards until there is a label saying GMO!!!GMO!!!!; and 4) I am not PRO-Monsanto or PRO-GMO. What I am is trying to figure out what people like you and I CAN do to actually enact MEANINGFUL change. Screaming at Monsanto, picketing, being all up in their junk about lobbying — it hasn’t worked before and it won’t work tomorrow.

      I’d love to take all the energy we are expending trying to make a company stop doing something that makes them a lot of money with a lot of happy customers and focus it somewhere where we’ll get a better outcome.

      I think this is an important discussion. Please! Let’s continue it!

      October 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

    • Allison Zoo

      Ellen, GREAT, NON-BIAS, STRAIGHT FORWARD –this is one of the most well written scientific journal I’ve ever seen in years (most of what I’ve read ended up to meshed in my brain like potatoes, left me clueless of what they are trying to say). Nevertheless, however a scientific literal piece was written, it ALWAYS has a personality, from it’s author.

      Eron (no offense, and non of the following comments meant to personality assassinating you), here is wiki page of Vandana Shiva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandana_Shiva.

      Ellen stated herself being neither pro- nor anti-GMO. Yet you are using words from someone who is CLEARLY opinionated at the first place. Not convincing, not supportive in any means, and NOT COOL! (Grant it, Mz. Shiva got a degree in Physics, NOT BIOLOGY/BIOCHEM/BIO@($)Q@, where is her credibility other than hugging trees for years? And philosophy science? HELLOW!!!!)

      To be very honest with you, I work at Monsanto (that case I am as bias as you Eron -or- Mz Shiva, now we are equal), and I was actually very skeptical before I took that offer. Heard too much junk about GMO, cancer, etc etc. Call me brainwashed but hey, I am actually in the exact position where Ellen is at. I don’t hate GMO, I don’t like GMO, but I KNOW WHAT GMO means (Thanks to Suzie Brasher Wilde, wonderful and clear explanation, I need to say no more) and what can it do (good to human maybe, bad to market but it’s bus). Do you? Or maybe people who just hate GMO/Monsanto so much, they choose to be brainlessly selective-hearing about things? By the way I was blocked on my way back to work by some anti-GMO campaign folks. Very violent is what I’d describe. Talking about crazy? Well, being attacked at work by bunch of people who don’t even know why they’d even do that, I sympathize thy! (so, no surprise if this was post on fb and deleted immediately. People just not gonna listen to you!)

      That being said, how about a poll like this: if GMO is labelled, would you still buy it? I betcha, that 60% of the folks who knows no shit about GMO would vote NO without thinking once, even better, people who think they “sorta” know about GMO is gonna say no too, because they truly don’t know. WHY? Human beings are so afraid of not knowing things and we, mostly, ain’t no risk takers. Plus all those great bubbly XX getting killed were reported on news, youtubes, social media, bias little online posts, just make the party even better. So another and better question to be asked, maybe general public is still normal, but are our public media nowadays so inmoral, that they would just lie about everything to get poor non-educated people’s eyeballs? After all, people love bad stories.

      Monsanto did a very awful job, in my opinion, on PR, and thanks to WWII and Agent O. Instead of “paying money for not allowing labeling” (I need legit proof, or no one should even talk about a rumor. Clueless people love rumors), maybe we need to learn better on how to educate the general public, on what the heck Genetically Modified Crops Actually are?

      Big fan of NPR. Here is an interesting article heard from them a while ago: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/04/160395259/why-organic-food-may-not-be-healthier-for-you. Eron are u from West coast by chance? (Didn’t finish all your guys conversation so mighta missed it), stayed there for a summer and noticed how “organic” everything is, even the marijuana. So let’s also cool down and think on another level — I suppose people who can AFFORD buying “organic” food aren’t the mass majority (46.4million ppl!! http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/25/news/economy/food-stamps-ads/index.htm). So when we even start thinking about the country’s health, let’s step back and wonder if those folks/politicians even care?? (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/nyregion/ban-on-using-food-stamps-to-buy-soda-rejected-by-usda.html, LOVE IT! Human beings are just way too crazy) Classical case just like Starbucks/Apple paying extremely low wage to oversee yet people are fighting to get such job (dif stories). I am sure plenty of people here in the nation or out side of country are fighting just live a life, like those super weeds, why should they care if it’s GMO or would it cause cancer, if those food can make them survive even just for a day?

      Sum of the post:

      – Great article Ellen

      – Eron, before you worry too much about the public warfare in a global level, chances are most of them don’t give a crap, I recommend you watch out more on what your family’s been eating, wearing, using, smelling, seeing, job keeping and so forth. Not everyone can afford live non-GMO stuff just like you and me. It’s a choice they make, and we better focus on making our own.

      – GMO is no angle, but no devil either — And don’t you throw me that junky scientific paper written irresponsibly by French Science Academies Slam Seralini (Ohhhh Bonjour Foie gras eater!) et. al– hail to your INSULT to science!

      – What’s urgent now is get the general public understand what they actually are, then they can make the choice from then on. Bus is demand driven, if you know what you are doing/talking about, you will make the right choice. If Monsanto/GMO is so wrong, it’d be long dead.

      I am ready to “discuss”!

      November 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      • elliecm

        Allison, thanks for your response and I so apologize for the delay in responding. I was on an extended hibernating sort of vacation. I love your vigor in replying! You bring up a ton of great points. I agree with you that most people knee-jerk no on GMO with no facts. I would admit that was me!!!! Now, I am not eating them but also feel they are likely the best thing that could happen to sustainable agriculture. Why do I still not eat them? I have no freaking clue. Latent fears my rational mind can’t overcome. Which I find interesting and I hope to try and understand.

        As for Monsanto: yes, their PR in general sucked. But I also got a view into that and frankly, I think they are interested in their PR with/for their customers (farmers) and the farmers really love GMOs. So, there’s a huge fringe group of haters out there, but those haters aren’t really impacting their business and so wouldn’t be the focus of PR. Government and farmers would — and that is the PR departments focus. It is the right focus.

        Keep the comments coming!

        January 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

  20. Try home-brewed iced tea, green or herbal. Soothing and cooling….from a Wis. Dairy farmer. Thanks for listening and thinking, we need more of both!

    October 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

  21. One of the hardest things we as people ever have to do is walk into an experience which challenges our comfort zone. This is incredibly inspiring to me, Ellen — not just as someone who really, really advocates for open and honest dialogue about food, but as someone who wants to continue to grow and learn as a human being.

    Thanks for being a shining example of what more of us should aspire to be!

    October 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

  22. Ozarkhomesteader

    Ellen, I have read, and I know my stats on how Monsanto products are in the solid majority of packaged foods and meat in some way (somewhere around 60% the last time I checked). I agree with you and cook from scratch for the same reasons as you–voting with my wallet. That said, past generations would have brought Monsanto up on anti-trust laws; it is only the lobbying and campaign finance money that prevents that from happening today. Monsanto has spent the past few decades buying up seed companies. Furthermore, the company controls 93% of soybean crops, 86% of corn, and 93% of canola. I see your distinction between leased technology versus owned, but it isn’t argument that removes my concern. Those crops are often destined for feed–60% of the corn to beef production–, not direct human consumption, but then they become part of the feed supply anyway. Monsanto has also gotten into the production of lettuce seed and other vegetable crops that you reference. They are not necessarily GMOs, but, like I said before, having a single company control so much is at the very least problematic.

    October 15, 2012 at 9:19 am

  23. Ozarkhomesteader

    I should add that I do applaud your efforts to think more broadly about our food production. I’d like to see the incident reports on attacks on commercial agriculture to compare to vandalism stats nationwide. I also would like to add that any effort to make the world’s food supply more secure is a good one. (I just think that Monsanto’s science and potential for good are being overwhelmed by the company’s bottom line.)

    October 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

    • elliecm

      Ozarker, you totally hit on my next post idea. What are Monsanto’s potentials for good and how can we team up with them to achieve it. BOOM!

      October 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  24. Karen

    I am sorry, but I do not have the ability or the time to grow my own food. Labels are important for people like me because without them, how am I an informed consumer? Unfortunately, I have to assume that the food and vegetables I am buying are not GMO, but I have no idea and they are trying to keep it that way. And as for Monsanto not being evil, I am sorry but suing small farmers because Monsanto GMO crop seeds migrated over into their fields is evil. Many times, these farmers have no choice but to stop farming because of these lawsuits. To me, this is like me suing you for the leaves from my tree dropping on your property because they come from my tree. Yes, they might be caring and believe what they are doing is right. But the person who developed the machine gun felt that it would better the world as well, personally, I do not think it did.

    October 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

    • elliecm

      Karen, we are definitely trying to look into these lawsuit things of which you speak. There seems to be a lot of murky information out there and we are definitely investigating to the best of our ability. As for the label thing — you need to assume that the corn and soy and sugar based food is, in fact, GMO. Most vegetables are not and the vegetable seed business Monsanto is now in is not GMO based.

      Here’s a snippet of a conversation I just had with Grant, as it pertains to labels: be careful what you wish for. I, again, am not eating GMOs and likely won’t, for no reason other than I just don’t want to. But there is a lot of information out there proving that GMOs have reduced the toxicity/amount/horribleness of pesticides our country’s farmers used to pour on the fields. And, well, my concern is that if we label and everyone dumps GMOs as they did Pink Slime, farmers will likely have to go back to pouring on pesticides and such. Only, likely they are going to be more powerful, just because technology means they can make them more powerful. As I said to Grant, in response to his wanting labeling — be careful what you wish for because the end result isn’t going to be a land of small, diverse farms, it is going to be big industrial agriculture finding a new way to make profit that you might not like even more.

      To me, labels aren’t the issue, GMOs aren’t the issue — our entire agricultural policy and food system is the issue. Personally, I think the label conversation is just diverting attention and energy from where it should be directed.

      October 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  25. Glad you’re doing this, Ellen, and pointing out what role we play in bigger picture. It is frustrating to make a wholesale change as a consumer, though, when our choices are so limited. Can I avoid all GMOs and vote with my wallet? Yes. Is it *practical* for me to do so? No. I cook from scratch a lot, but not for every meal and while there are restaurants that serve only organic and/or locally sourced food, there aren’t nearly enough (yet) that I can reliably eat every outside-the-home meal there.

    I buy organic a lot, but not everything. The subsidies on our food that make it artificially cheaper to buy non-organic does have an impact on my purchasing decisions. Buying only organic ends up costing me more at the market, plus there are other barriers, too. I can’t afford the time to seek out a farmer’s market that has organic and/or pastured meat all the time, so I have to choose: buy the meat that is not up to my standards or do without it? For the most part, I do the latter, but that’s not helping ranchers and farmers who are trying to raise animals to meet organic standards very much now is it?

    To those very folks I say: I’m here! I’m your market, and I know that you want to sell to me, too. Unfortunately I can’t make my life revolve around going to Green City Market to get all my food. And sometimes I need to just dash out of my office building, grab some carry out, and then get back to work. I don’t have the time to travel more than a block or two from the office on those days. Where can I pick up food that is convenient and not supporting the industrial agriculture model of GMOs, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, etc? So far the only place I can grab that proverbial lunch is Chipotle (which isn’t entirely organic either), but I can’t eat there exclusively. This is why I pack a lunch as much as possible.

    We hear that we “have a choice,” but do we? Are my choices only to a) cook 98% of my food myself, and make it mostly vegan/vegetarian ’cause it’s hard to get meat to standard; b) just give in and eat the GMOs. That’s not a lot of options.

    October 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    • elliecm

      Linda, agreed agreed, on all fronts. I am not proposing that this is easy or even mostly doable. What I am arguing, on this post, is that Monsanto is not the enemy we think it is and that we need to start focusing on the right enemy but also coming to terms with how much we arm that enemy.

      And no, it is not awesome that it is so freaking impossible to eat clean food in a big city in October. It sucks. But I always tell my chefs, you can talk about how much the world sucks until your blue in the face — or you can just admit that it is that way and commit to achieving the impossible as best you can. It’s reality, we have to deal with that instead of hoping it somehow goes away.

      The problem, in my view, is not one thing (GMOs or whatever). To me, the problem is societal. We’ve created a monster in the form of public corporations whose focus is on delivering profits to a bottom line. That fact has spread deadly tentacles into every facet of our society, making most food disgusting, ensuring kids can’t afford college, our healthcare system is horked, jobs are shipped overseas, deep-water drilling disasters, you name it.

      October 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    • Linda, not wanting to butt in too much but in answer to your question there are adjustments being made to accommodate folks like you. We are raising meats and food choices, delivered conveniently to many pickup points. Obviously we can’t serve 300million people from 23 acres, but are expanding in hopes of making a difference for many. Look forward to hosting Ellen’s visit in the future too as we get rolling (moving operations from AL to KY). With communication we can help generate food choices, but it will take a bit of a shift from consumers too in some ways. We think food options are worth it.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      • elliecm

        Slow Money, thanks for your comments. I myself, when I talked to the conventional farmers, found that at the end of the day, they picked the seed they thought would produce best. Period.

        October 19, 2012 at 8:04 am

    • Linda, I think you have really hit the nail on the head here. Our current food system caters the busy lifestyles of people like you. Food has not ever been as “easy” as it is in the U.S. today, which allows for you to do all of the other things you do. What Ellen is proposing is more akin to how food used to be for everyone. 100 years ago, there were no CAFOs or GM crops but everyone had to “occupy” the kitchens or gardens or they would starve. Now we have options, even if most people are now too busy for them.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:07 am

      • elliecm

        Matt. I would refine that further. Many people (not at-risk populations) DO have options but I would argue that they choose a life where they are too busy to exercise them. I think that is the point, that people make choices that don’t line up with their values and they are blindly hoping that the world will change in such a way that they don’t have to make the effort.

        November 1, 2012 at 9:01 am

        • Ellen, I’ve been rooting right along with you for challenging us to dig deep into this issue and the many others around food. Even when it gets difficult, you are hanging in there! You’re inspiring me a lot! (I still hate being wrong, though, ugh!)

          So, while I do realize that my “choosing a life where I’m too busy” is a big part of why I can’t eat organic/local/non-GMO at every meal, there are going to be some times when — try as hard as I can — I am stuck.

          Example: I got a cold last week and stayed home to get well and not spread my germs at work. Luckily I am a food hoarder of sorts (as you know!) and had provisions in my cold cellar/pantry/freezer such as homemade stock and root veggies so I could throw together a big pot of soup. I had the proverbial homemade chicken (well, it was actually made from turkey stock) soup every day for several days in a row while I recovered. (And I also had several containers of non-poultry soup in my freezer already in case I wasn’t up for a bit of chopping and simmering.) Now, if I hadn’t been so well prepared OR if I had already eaten through my stock of homemade soup I would have had only two choices: NO SOUP FOR YOU or send out for soup that is likely going to be not organic/local/GMO. My point is that even if I had chosen a lifestyle that was not so busy, I could still find myself stuck at home sick. It’s only ’cause I’m a freak about cooking and putting up food that I could get better while sipping my homemade soup (and working like a fiend as a telecommuter, too…ugh!).

          That bugs me. The fact that there are many people who can’t even contemplate the options I have bugs me, too, and that’s a much tougher issue to tackle. And what bugs me even more is that there a quite a few people who don’t even care to explore these issues or think they are unimportant. They don’t seem to understand or care that “food” has such a huge impact on our economy and our bodies/health.

          November 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

          • elliecm

            Linda you are seriously my sister from another mother. In fact, some day you should meet my sister. She couldn’t be more different.

            But YES! Totally pisses us all off! And that’s even before we get to the people who simply can’t, because of circumstances and/or economics, do what you/I do. That moves me beyond pissed to sad.

            Although I would argue that you are much better at it than me. And I totally agree that the world should be different. But here’s the thing: it isn’t. And that’s my point. That the fact that Little Agers are complicit in that which they don’t believe by virtue of choices they willingly make. OK, and a further point of trying to shift everyone’s thinking to focus on what we need to do to actually effect change (or affect change, not sure) instead of pretending we are campaigning for important change that we aren’t really thinking through.

            See, the problem, to my mind, isn’t even GMOs. It seems, on the face of it, that is likely industrial agriculture’s economic structure but more accurately it would be our collective desire to spend as little as possible for food, which in fact encourages farmers to make certain choices and all that. BUT! I wouldn’t even say the problem is that.

            Because in reality, the more industrial (plant) farmers I meet and the more actual research I do, the more I find that they are as hellbent on sustainability and earth-lovingness as us. (Really. I swear and I am talking about my standard of sustainability, not theirs. Which technically makes no sense as a distinction but clearly makes a point that helps you understand what I am saying. I think) Here’s the thing: We just have a lot of shitty information about what they are doing and so we don’t really even know that they are working toward the same goals as us — if iterating on the solution in a different way. I blame the media for that, big time. They suck — really — across the board (except for Monica Eng, who should get a raise every week). And I kinda include Bittman in that lump, even though I technically don’t consider him a journalist as much as a writer. I think he is not doing us any favors. And I am trying to get more research on Pollan, too — Zot Alors! — because I have heard rumblings that his writing is a bit skewed for effect as well, which is really sad for me. And I am growing increasingly more alarmed by Vandana Shiva (sp?) the more I read and research.

            And of course I blame the PR firms for Big Ag, who have been a-freaking-sleep on the job — which doesn’t surprise me.

            This lack of credible information bugs the crap out of me. As does my new-found discovery that liberals are as hysterical with wrong headlines as Fox News. Really. That pissed me the hell off more than I can say.

            I hope I will never again live through the abject loneliness and lostness I felt the night I got back from Monsanto and I started trying to Google all the “flashpoint” topics about that company. Nothing was from unbiased sources. Some of it isn’t even remotely findable online. I felt I had been duped by my own kind. Which is not to say that I am convinced of everything they say — just that I am not blindly following everything “we” say.

            Here’s the thing, Linda: I really at the end of the day am believing that, animal issue aside (we haven’t even started with that topic!!!!), you could likely go out and, with a clear conscience and a good intention, eat whatever actual in it’s whole form PLANT product, pure and simple, that’s out there. Of course your life would be sad and desolate if you were a vegetarian, so I am not suggesting that. But the reality is: the pesticides Big Ag uses aren’t really that much of an issue for us to care about them as much as the screaming headlines suggest (strawberries aside, they still freak me the hell out). So, go out, eat veg with real butter or oil and vinegar. Skip the scary dressing that doesn’t need to be bottled because packaged foods, as a blanket statement which is always dangerous — are the hobgoblins. Or eat fruit of any kind, of course, (ok except strawberries). You’d be good if you did that every time you found yourself in a lurch. Rich Melman was right! SALAD BARS FOR EVERYONE!

            But in all seriousness, do know I am not suggesting that eating pesticides is awesome … just that if we put it in perspective, it is not a big enough problem for us AND we can really sorta honestly rest assured that as an industry, they are in fact at least trying to get it right — but it takes a while to change and they have to change a lot and we have to keep telling them what we want changed by buying and not buying shit.

            Buying and not buying shit is actually the only solution for real change in a capitalist society. (You may know that I believe our collective capitalism is the source of all evil! That’s a different set of one hundred meals.)

            Which is not to say: don’t support your awesome local farmer who is sacrificing a lot to grow food absolutely the best way possible. We need to keep supporting them! As much as we can! More than we do!

            The problem, Linda, is that “our side” is spending more time frustrated about “the reality” than they are acting on “that reality.” It’s like the Rosa Parks analogy. She did more good sitting in the middle of the bus and quietly not moving than she would have trying to loudly campaign for the right to sit in the middle of the bus. Until we absolutely wholesale make the change and stop buying everything, including the pizza when we are exhausted, things aren’t gonna change. Whether we like it or not.

            This is the successful execution of the “one person at a time” theory that Eron wrote about earlier. Passing along the message of what not to buy — ever and how to cook so you don’t have to. Far more than just spreading rumors and half-truths in a game of telephone.

            It’s not fair, you are right. But neither is the fact that I am going gray or that television news is plain old stupid or that Mitt Romney is actually a viable candidate or that wireless isn’t just free everywhere. Our world is flawed. Our food supply is very flawed. It sucks to have to can and freeze like a mad fucking fiend every single week if you wanna live a certain life in a certain big city a certain way.

            But, and here’s the kicker, Linda — I would venture that we believe that reality ONLY because we choose it. Because we’ve bought into the stupid headlines like “toss and serve pasta recipes” and “easy omelets” and “vegetables your family will love.” ALL pasta is toss and serve! What the hell else do you do with it? ALL omelets are easy! You don’t even have to scramble the eggs! Families of children who grew up on real food love vegetables. Because vegetables are delicious. If they aren’t, for whatever reason, just douse ‘em in real butter and they will be.

            I don’t mean to get all Neo from The Matrix on you but why can’t making delicious food — the single most (non-automatic) essential life need — be an endeavor that joyfully takes up a certain chunk of your time each day and a more significant part of one day each week? Is it really THAT hard? Or is everyone just too busy watching television? I have a friend who spends what is probably an inordinate amount of time cooking and squirreling stuff away for a rainy/sick day. Outside of work, it is the absolute primary thing she does each day. She has a totally nonstandard lifestyle because of how she has structured her life to be focused on being at home but she is also super centered and happy — and thin, actually.

            Or actually I’ll toss off knitting. Not having to make one’s own clothes is a given “right” in our society. And yet, you knit. A lot. Because you know it is awesomely enjoyable. You decided it wasn’t a burden. Cooking — and cooking ahead — is the same.

            I dunno. At-risk populations aside, of course, I wonder how much we tell ourselves that is just not true. And I wonder how much we sit around talking about shit that isn’t fair when we could be doing something productive. I also, really and frankly, am not sure that GMOs are even a bad thing.

            Or at least I am sure that campaigning for a label on the off-chance that that ridiculously flawed label law in one fringe state will spark a firestorm of outrage that will wake a sleepy nation is, well, questionable as a viable strategy.

            November 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm

  26. capachistorygenealogy

    Another good subject to investigate and post about is so-called subsidies. Linda has the mistaken notion that subsidies available for non-organic producers are not available for organic producers. And it would be good to learn what farmers have to do to get federal farm payments. There is no farm payment for doing nothing.

    October 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    • elliecm

      SUBSIDIES! Yes. Very interested in that. And you are right that subsidies “are” available for non-organic, but I think maybe Linda was thinking about specialty crops. Crop insurance (which is the new subsidy) is not actually doable for a specialty grower the way it is for a conventional commodity grower. So, the reality of this shift from subsidies to crop insurance means, actually, more power and protection for commodity crops and less for, well, actual food crops. I’d like to learn more!

      October 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      • You are so right to be scared. If my crop is being eaten by bugs, I would glug everything in the barn on it to save it. That is exactly what we used to do. Now thanks to GMO cotton, we don’t, but if we have to go back to non GMO cotton, I assure you we will be glugging, maybe even 13 times like the Brazil farmers.

        Just for my life, give me a GMO corn chip and keep my air, water and soil cleaner. But that’s just my choice.

        October 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  27. Ellen, just a fact from our operation out here next to the Chihuahuan Desert in reference to your and Grants snippet of conversation: Because of planting GMO cotton, we did not spray one drop of pesticide for insects on our fields, not one.

    We applied only two applications of herbicide for weed control (Roundup.) Two or more applications for weed control of some kind of herbicide would be used no matter if we plant GMO or non-GMO cotton, weeds have to be controlled before, during and after crops anyway, so on our operation, GMO cotton does not reduce or increase herbicide usage for weed control. If you don’t spray directly on to GMO crops, you put down preemergent herbicide and use Roundup on the fields when the fields are fallow.

    We had one application of fungicide (TOPGUARD) that you can read about in my blog http://kissedafarmer.blogspot.com/2012/05/serendipity.html .

    That’s it, three total applications. No fertilizer, it was too dry. In comparison, when my husband was in Brazil this spring, they do not plant GMO cotton and spray just for insects alone up to 13 times. 13 vs None. That is a hard, plain fact. I don’t have the stats on what Brazil cotton farmers use as far as other chemicals. PS Awesome post!! You are now the official No Spin Zone.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    • elliecm

      This is my point, Suzie. It is what I mean when I tell someone who is pro-labeling to be careful what you wish for. The reality is that if the GMO-industry tanks, we’re not transitioning to bucolic diversified farming. We’re likely going back to pesticides, pesticides, pesticides. I am not sure if people are thinking of that. And it scares me more than the freaking GMOs, frankly.

      October 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm

  28. Mike Mittenberg

    We can’t team up with MonSATAN. They have no intentions of doing any good except for their bottom line. I am in complete agreement with Karen. The reason I want labels is so that all the people who don’t have any idea of what GMO means will know, and will avoid them like the plague. MonSATAN needs to go out of business. Agent Orange, DDT, Aspertame, Saccharin, and GMO’s are quite a list of destructive products. You Ellen are just too too too understanding. When MonSATAN’s pals from Blackwater come to kick the crap out of you, you’ll be saying “but I love you”.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    • elliecm

      Mike, thanks for reading. We’re happy that people are sharing all sides and opinions. I do have a question for you, what do you think will happen if labeling passes? Do you think that Americans will rise up and demand … something … and also, how is it that anyone doesn’t know about GMOs at this point?

      October 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      • Aspartame is well labelled, yet there’s a huge market for it. MSG is well labelled, it’s in virtually everything, yet there are many people who believe it’s illegal and not in their food, since it’s no longer in most Chinese restaurants. In a way I see the GMO labelling as more of the same thing. If we don’t have options at the store, and don’t create alternatives at home (due to legal or lifestyle challenges) labelling won’t make a difference.

        December 28, 2012 at 3:40 am

        • elliecm

          Jonathan, you are so right. It won’t. It likely will have the opposite effect of dulling people against the rage.

          January 24, 2013 at 11:02 am

  29. Subsidies: I am a crop insurance agent. I don’t know where the notion comes from that you can’t insure vegetables. Here is directly from the Risk Managment Agency’s website http://webapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/actuarialinformationbrowser2013/CropCriteria.aspx a listing of just some of the crops that have crop insurance available: almonds apples avocados bananas blueberries cabbage cherries clams coffee cranberries oranges figs apricots peaches fresh market sweet corn, fresh market tomatoes, processsing tomatoes, nectaurnes grapefruit lemons macadamia nuts mandarins tangelos ment olives onions papaya pears pecans peppers pistachios plums potatoes prunes raisins strawberries grapes walnuts, and my favorite cotton. Most have an oganic and non organic option available.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks for sharing that, Suzie. I was careful to note that it isn’t doable, because I do know that it is available. Regular health insurance is available to me but I can’t afford it or seem to get qualified for it. That is sorta the analogy I was going for.

      October 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  30. “Glug” is a scary word, Suzie! But your point and Ellen’s is well-taken. I am very torn about the labeling initiative – I think at it’s core there is this desire to speak out. It strikes me like the occupy movement initiatives in that way. People are frustrated and are trying hard to be heard. True perhaps, if we get labeling there may be some awful consequences such as a regression to previous “conventional” farming methods which applied more chemistry than now. I have wondered too about a food scare.

    It is unfortunate that labeling proponents may in fact not be thinking about the changes in growing practices that may result – I think it is a sad statement about our food supply that there are people so worried about it that they/we don’t have it in them to think about that. They feel beleaguered and cornered.

    I feel very conflicted today – I am thrilled by Ellen’s post and the response to it. At the same time, although I see the value of GMOs to our environment in some way, I am still unconvinced about ingesting them…and now Ellen’s point that labeling may cause a return to prior high levels of herbicides and pesticides hits hard and leaves me feeling very depressed.

    Where is the comfort place in this whole conversation for someone who is not convinced of GMO safety as a food? Pardon the ingenuous question, but why do we have to eat corn and soy? Why can’t we plant “specialty crops” and feed people? I know, crazy.

    October 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

  31. Suzie, I respect that you know your business, but the “notion that you can’t insure vegetables” comes from farmers I know. I will talk with them and get more clarification. I believe they will say that yes, they can get insurance, but that it is not useful or viable for cost/fulfillment reasons, but again, let me get back to you on that.

    October 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

  32. I guess I introduced a bit too much “noise” with my mention of subsidies. What I meant was the commodity crops like corn and soybeans are subsidized by…well…me, the taxpayer. Those subsidies make the products cheaper. That’s why they are used so extensively to feed animals we raise for food and in edible and non-edible consumer products. These commodity crops are also the ones in my food chain that are most likely genetically modified. Not exclusively, of course, but if I eat non-organic meat, I’m pretty sure I’m contributing to the demand for GMO commodity crops.

    To avoid GMOs, I’d need make sure that any place I buy lunch is using non-GMO cooking oil and seasonings, organic meat, and organic veggies and grains. I can’t even do that at home, so how can I hold a lunch joint to that standard!

    I know I don’t eat GMO-free. I just returned from a vacation where I ate out every meal, and while I was seeking out restaurants that served organic and local (luckily not too hard to do in northern CA and Oregon!) I also ate at places that I wasn’t sure of. I didn’t grill the server at the food truck in Portland about the source of their rice, coconut milk, and seasonings in the pumpkin curry I ate for lunch one day (although I do know the pumpkin was local, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t organic). And I ate three doughnuts (over two days, so I wasn’t a total glutton) from Voodoo Donut that had a bunch of stuff in them that I wouldn’t normally eat (including crushed Oreo cookies on top of one, so probably quite a few GMO ingredients in that product). At home, I eat zucchini from the supermarket that is very likely GMO (I understand a lot of zucchini is GMO these days) and I eat papaya, which I understand is pretty extensively GMO, too. (Or is that only Hawaiian papaya?)

    I’m not opposed to all GMO across the board, and I’m glad Ellen and Grant are digging into this topic. I still think it would be good to label things GMO, although I understand why a company that has seen a lot of negative press around the technology may not want that as law. A few doubts I have as to the usefulness of labels, though: where does it end? Does the pork that comes from pigs fed GMO corn have to be labeled as such in the grocery store? Or is it only the tortilla chips or bread made with GMO grains?

    Finally, my issues/concerns with a company like Monsanto are more about loss of genetic diversity in seed and justice for small farmers globally who fall into a cycle of debt because they don’t understand the concept of a corporation owning their means of production.

    October 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    • elliecm

      Linda… the where does it stop problem has a companion problem — what loopholes will there be. It’s part of the reason I think we need a different strategy if we want to make impacts in our food supply. But I also think that we need to start learning the truth first, then start working toward goals we can all believe in.

      It does us no good to go screaming thru the village every time a study percolates up when we have no idea if that study is actually truthful. In fact, what I am finding, from a website called biofortified that is non-profit, non-affiliated with anything and populated by scientists from all sides, is that a lot of what, say you and me, have read is just plain old wrong.

      Again, not changing my diet (or actually, changing it back to my backyard), but there is something to be said for actually learning what the hell is actually going on… instead of just freaking the hell out for no good reason.

      About the genetic diversity… here’s what I found there. When Grant and I first brought up IP issues as it pertains to GMOs — lack of genetic diversity and farmers having to buy seeds each year really started back in like 1902 when hybrid seeds were first introduced, I think by Pioneer. Hybrid seeds, as a gardener you know, can not be saved. So, the culture of farmers buying seeds was established a reaaaalllly long time ago.

      And a lot of farmers CHOOSE THIS. The reason they choose to buy the hybrids — they grow better crops (as in more saleable).

      So, I haven’t even delved into the other issues but the idea that Monsanto created this culture of seed buying every year is bunk. I think it is probably a lot more complicated and there’s the whole international issue that I don’t even pretend I’ll ever possibly understand or really know — but I’ll admit that when I was reminded about hybrid seeds and the way industrial farming in America has been for the entire last century, I felt the idea hating on Monsanto because “the concept of a corporation owning their means of production” was suspect.

      October 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  33. I could care less about the sad faces at Monsanto that think they are doing good. I suffered daily food poisoning like symptoms. The culprit… rapeseed foodstuffs. It took me 5 years to figure that out because of our countries lax labeling laws. Labeling WILL help.

    But hey who cares right… there are so few of us. Maybe just a couple hundred who have figured out what was killing them. If you can’t find harm you aren’t looking very hard. I found a whole site dedicated to people who have horrible reactions to the same plant, years ago.

    So my question for the writer of this piece would be. How many people have to get sick and/or die BEFORE it becomes wrong? I highly doubt if I would have died that my death cert would have said canola poisoning. I would have probably said cancer, because who wants to be the first doctor to put themselves into the line of fire?

    October 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    • elliecm

      Heather, no one wants anyone to die or get sick and I am really sorry you suffered so. Food poisoning is scary and so is anything like it. Especially if it goes on and on like that. Seriously, I hope you are feeling better.

      Here’s my question… how did you determine which plant made you sick? And was it all rapeseed? How did you determine it was rapeseed? How did you determine it was GMO rapeseed? To be honest, I am trying to figure out how labeling would help in this situation if the doctors don’t even acknowledge the problem. I ask in all seriousness.

      Also — it seems to me that the people you would be angry with are the food manufacturers, no? They were the ones that decided to use the product and decided not to label it.

      Really, we’re on the same side here, you and I. I don’t want to eat GMOs either. I just realized something when I was down at Monsanto and then in the weeks following — that we are distracting ourselves from the real problems at hand and need to focus if we are gonna get something productive done.

      October 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  34. joe

    I love the conversation you are having. I come from a farm family and we don’t like Monsanto as much as the next guy. The problem is they are good at what they do and breed some of the best yielding crops out there. Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was Pioneer that dominated seed corn and bean sales. Pioneer has lost lots of market share because their seed corn won’t yield as well as Monsanto’s new seeds. It all comes back to the bottom line for some of the very large corporate farms that are trying to dominate farming. If a farmer doesn’t plant the best yielding crops, he can’t compete against the bigger farmers that do. Then he will lose the land he rents or share crops to those bigger guys. Farming is very competitive and many landlords are either investors wanting top dollar for rent or they are too far removed from the land to know any better and only see dollar signs. …
    Grant… The problem with specialty crops is the pesticides that would be needed to keep the insect pressure down. Lots more pesiticides needed. Lots more labor costs. And, farmers don’t like to plant crops they don’t have a market for. You have to have a company take a chance and create a market before the farmer will raise that crop. In some areas, precessors are going back to Non-GMO soybeans, but it is all contract farming. It also takes more herbicides, which cost more. They do have a decent premium to entice farmers into raising them. And, some farmers do like it as weeds are starting to form a good resistance to Glysophate.
    Sorry for the rambling and the bad grammar….. I have been interrupted a few times.

    By the way….. I tried a little bit of Round up sweet corn in my patch this year($20 a pound). This was the first year it was distributed somewhat widespread. It withstood the drought the best and is delicious. I could see it gaining market share quickly if the price comes down and the word gets out.

    Thanks again

    October 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    • elliecm

      Joe, thanks for sharing this comment. Super informative and helpful.
      I think the more us sustainable local folks can hear about real stories, spoken plainly, the better.

      October 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

  35. Steve

    There is a lot of misinformation here. GMO’s have increased the usage of pesticides, so without them saying we’re “going back to pesticides, pesticides, pesticides” is totally misleading. That GMO’s use less pesticides is a biotech talking point that has been thoroughly debunked with actual figures.

    Here – http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/02/us-usa-study-pesticides-idUSBRE89100X20121002

    The Seralini study on the rats with tumours was not bad science at all, unless you’re reading the mainstream media that repeated ad nas the one of two people that spoke out against it at least one of whom works in the biotech industry field.

    Seralini and Science – An Open Letter – http://independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup/

    A look at criticisms of the Seralini study – http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14305:gmwatch-responds-to-criticisms-of-seralinis-study

    I would also suggest taking a long look at the Farming Systems Trial ongoing for a couple decades now at the Rodale Institute in PA that shows aside from direct human health threats from consuming GMO’s what they are doing to the soil conditions and how this could affect sustainability of human life over the next few decades should they continue to spread across the globe. IN short, instead of feeding 9 billion GMO’s and the increased pesticide usage they represent (we’re now heading to Agent Orange) could spell doom for 9 billion people.

    October 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks for commenting, Steve. But … did you read my post?

      October 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    • Saundra Sutton

      Thank you for your post helping me understand the studies better. I believe you did read the article and have responsed with links that show the validity of certain studies.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm

  36. Doreen

    She has a point about voting with our dollars, but lets Monsanto off the hook much too easily. Too many Americans are ignorant of GMOs and their pervasiveness in the food supply. Farmers often times cannot buy anything but GMO seeds or feed as Monsanto has a monopoly on that as well. The truth about the dangers of GMO foods has been suppressed for nearly 20 years through manipulation of Monsanto henchmen in the FDA and USDA. She may want you to believe Monsanto is guiltless, but any thinking person can see through the smoke and mirrors here. Any intelligent person who has read the independent research starting with Arpad Pustzai knows the truth. The writing is cutesy but lacks integrity.

    October 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks for commenting, Doreen. I’ll look forward to reading Arpad Pustzai. I suggest you consider reading some of Biofortified.org.

      In the meantime, I gotta ask: why is it anyone else’s fault that an American, today, with all the information out there, is clueless about the pervasiveness of GMOs in the food supply? Are these the people that think Nutella is a nutritious breakfast option for their kids? Are these the “intelligent people” of which you speak? It seems they are hiding under a rock to me.

      You may believe that my writing (and possibly I) lack integrity, but frankly I put a lot of thought, research and consideration (not to mention time and money hauling down to St. Louis) to try and start finding out, for myself, a little bit of the truth. I don’t really get from your comment much of the same effort, though I would be open to finding out I am wrong. You make a lot of pronouncements without much backup or weight and methinks from your one choice of reading that the independent research you elude to is likely one sided. Really, isn’t there something more to intellectual rigor than reading one side of the issue and then tossing out unsubstantiated conspiracy and hinting at spooky henchmen lurking about?

      The odd thing is, I am on your side. But you seem to be so set in your opinions that my stepping one foot outside the line makes me unintelligent. That seems curiously narrow-minded, no?

      I do find it fascinating to see the reactions of people who I can imagine think of themselves as unbiased and rational people and yet who can’t even begin to imagine that possibly, maybe, there’s a chance that the world isn’t what they perceive it to be. It makes this investigation ever more important to me because, at the end of the day, I will feel I have made my life better by getting off my ass and checking things out for myself — investigating both sides of the issue and coming to lucid conclusions and addressing new questions.

      It seems, to me, what an intelligent person would do.

      October 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      • Mike Mittenberg

        Ellen, everyone doesn’t live in California. I tell people everyday about GMO’s. Most don’t have a clue. The best case scenario when labeling passes is this: The free market capitalism that the supporters of GMO’s all rave about will be in full swing and since there will be no demand, the supply will have to go. I dare say the avoidance of GMO’s will be wide spread. All it will take is for more awareness. No one wants to eat GMO’s. Besides that there is a moral issue with GMO’s. Who appointed MonSATAN as God? Anyone that would grow GMO’s is, in my opinion, a Godless person. This is my last comment because I really can’t stand you or your attitude. Good night.

        October 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

        • elliecm

          Sorry to hear that Mike. I was actually asking you those questions in all seriousness. I think people shutting down when the discussion gets started is part of the reason we are all in this problem right now. So, if you’d like to continue, we’d sure love to hear your thoughts.

          I am as convinced as you that labeling will likely shut down demand for GMOs. But I am also not really sure that the next step after that is all that awesome. As I mentioned to someone else, the alternative isn’t going to be this bucolic utopia of diversified small farms. It’s likely going to be back to the heavy inputs that were polluting our rivers and lakes and water tables. That seems scary to me as well.

          I am always curious to know what people who want labeling think the farming community is gonna do next. And are they prepared for the consequences of what they wish for? It scares me. It really does. And I don’t think we should be forgetting the dire possibilities of the consequences. Especially when we actually don’t know everything we need to know about GMOs. Again, I am not eating them myself but I also am willing to admit that the jury is, in fact, very much out.

          October 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    • There are options for other than Monsanto seed. There are many options farmers have, and it often comes down to what will grow productively and produce something that makes it to market. There are over 3,000 varieties of peppers – how many do you see at the grocery store? And yet when folks buy that rather than seeking out the thousands of other varieties, it tells the stores there’s demand for those peppers. That’s what holds the market.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm

  37. Pingback: Food For Thought | ruled by paws

  38. Doug

    Ellie, This was one of the best pieces of internet journalism I have ever read. I am an agronomist and it seems to me this all boils down to the cost of food and what the farmer and the consumer can bear. I look at the farms I consult with and they simply want to pay their bills and send their kids to college. To do that many have had to expand the number of acres they farm, or the number of animals they raise. The majority of small farms cannot support a family, and so they either get big or get out. Generally speaking food is cheap, and if we want to keep food cheap production agriculture will still have to rely on confined animal feeding and pesticides. In 1890 one farm worker in Illinois was responsible for 27.5 acres and in 1990 that number skyrocketed to 740. I imagine it is more today. We as a society have spread the cost of food over the same or slightly less farm acres, but over much fewer farmers. Just to make a livable wage we’ve had to incorporate CAFOs and pesticides.

    It would be great if you could spend some time looking at what consumers pay for food as a part of their take home pay, and what that figure would look like in an ideal world to support the type of farming you think is appropriate. If everybody went small and organic, could consumers bear the cost of food if 200 acres of polyculture also has to support a family unit?

    Something to consider and unfortunately I am not sure any universities have really done much in the way of truly tracking these demographic changes. Thanks, Doug

    October 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    • elliecm

      Well, hey, thanks, there, Doug. And thanks for the idea to look at take home pay and such. That is an awesome idea, even if it does include math things.

      I do think there are some fundamental societal issues that we absolutely can not ignore if we are going to collectively solve our food issues. As I get deeper and deeper into this, I keep coming back to that. And it is frustrating because it also begins to feel a bit unsolvable in the way I’d love it to be solved. So, then, I am left wondering what then should we do?

      Bigger minds than mine think about this all the time, I know. But I guess Grant and I would at least like to feel we’ve tried to understand the problem holistically so that when we make decisions for ourselves and any that impact our community, we are at least informed.

      Thanks for commenting, Doug. And thanks for reading.

      October 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm

  39. Doug

    I don’t think that labeling will necessarily remove the demand for GM crops. Most is grain fed to livestock or ethanol. As I understand it prop 37 will not extend to meat products fed GM grain.

    But lets consider the case of sweet corn, a direct for consumption veggie:

    Bt sweet corn cuts down on the need to spray other insecticides to combat lepidopteran pests. That offers a cost of production advantage to Bt sweet corn. If a consumer has the choice to purchase GMO sweet corn for $4 a dozen or non-GMO for $6, I suspect that some consumers will opt for the cheaper option.

    The unfortunate thing comes about when some will assume that non-GMO offers a safety advantage. I for one would actually choose the Bt sweet corn versus one sprayed with a organophosphate insecticide if I am going solely on the basis of safety to make that decision.

    As an agronomist I definitely think we would be taking a step backwards if we had to rely on other methods of pest control to replace Bt. While not zero, in plant protection, drastically reduces the chance for off target harm to beneficial insects. Many other insecticides are less specific and much more toxic to other organisms, us included.

    As far as glyphosate tolerance is concerned, what would happen if you gathered all of the nations agronomists and soil scientists in the same place and asked, “Which is worse for soil health, erosion, water quality and eutrophication: glyphosate or the plow?” I think nearly all would say that tillage is a step backwards as well. GMOs caught on with farmers because they offered advantages over the old way of production.

    I am not opposed to labeling or even consumers asking for a shift in the crops farmers grow. However, I will say growers will not willingly take a yield loss with the loss of these technologies. Labeling GMOs will not reduce the demand for grain and farmers will have to look for alternate pest control methods. I am very pessimistic that those alternatives would be better for human or environmental health.

    October 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm

  40. Ellen, I’m glad you realize you are the problem. The sad thing is you still seem unwilling to do anything about it. You can make the choice to NOT BUY any processed food and beat the agricultural-industrial-medical-phara-government complex. Until you do that, you are still the problem. The problem is not simply GMO vs. organic. It is the problem of the complex killing the soil upon which all of our lives depend. It is the complex continuing to sell products that create 90% of the health problems in this country. And no that is not simply GMO vs. organic. It is sugar and starch vs. healthy fat and meat to which are bodies are evolutionary adapted. GMO actually has little to do with our problems. It is monoculture ag that continues to produce substitutes for real food. I think the complex is happy to hide behind the smoke screen of GMOs to divert our attention from the real problem of diet in our society and the role of the healthy living soil in our health and well being.

    October 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    • elliecm

      Jim, thanks for writing. I am sorry if I wasn’t clear but, in fact, the whole point of my post was to say that I am not buying processed food. Even sriracha sauce. I completely agree with you and, though I didn’t happen to note it in my post, my not buying in fact does line up with your sugar/starch issue. We are completely and utterly on the same page.

      October 16, 2012 at 2:30 am

  41. Paul

    Dear Ellen,

    I have read your article and some of the comments below it and would like to expand on some of the topics that have been talked about and that haven’t been talked about!

    First of all let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m an organic dairy farmer from the Midwest and have been farming organically for the last 8 years. I have been on both sides of the fence and know what it is like to farm both organically and conventionally! I can say from my own personally experience from growing some of Monsanto’s GMO crops at one time, using chemical fertilizers and spraying chemicals for weed control that switching over to organic farming was not only a better choice but a night and day difference with regards to the improvement in animal health and soil fertility! Would I ever want to go back to conventional farming? The answer is NO WAY! GMO crops offered us no benefits!

    As I was saying before, I would like to discuss and expand on some of the topics talked about and not talked about. First of all its true that we the consumer created the demand for GMO food but we did it unknowingly because we were never told in the beginning that we were eating GMO in the food. For the last 16 years the vast majority of Americans have consuming have been GMO food without their knowledge our consent! Now what a way for Monsanto to sell its products, tell the farmer but not the consumer, advertise the benefits to the farmer about GMO crops but don’t advertise to the consumer! Humm… I wonder why Monsanto didn’t want to advertise to the consumer the benefits of eating GMO foods. If your trying to sell a product you would probably advertise it, brag about the benefits of the product and be proud to put a label on it so everybody knows what the heck they’re buying! If Monsanto is not advertising their products to the consumer then they must not be proud of it or there is no benefits to the consumer at all! So what do they do, just put all that GMO crap in the food against our will and force us to eat it! I know we can go and buy organic but the organic market hasn’t always been as big as it is now and in the small town that I live in doesn’t have a very big selection of organic food at all! I know for a fact that not all people know what the difference is between organic food and GMO food is! I have talked to people who work at the grocery the store and they saw me buying some organic food and ask me whats the difference? Does organic food taste better? Its not like when GMO food came out 16 years ago that Monsanto went out of their way to educate the food consumer or went on national TV telling everyone that this Genetically modified food was gonna start being put into the food system but first we would like to get your opinion and here is a 1-800 number you can can call to voice your opinion for or against GMO food! So Monsanto just said, who gives a f*#k what the consumer thinks! Monsanto knew that if the people would reject GMO food and knew that was there was billions of $$$ that would lost if the American people rejected GMO food from the start!

    You also say that GMO labeling isn’t the answer and that we should be carful what we wish for! I know for a fact that herbicide use among farmers has gone up! All my farmer neighbors that farm next to my my farm plant GMO crops and they now half to make an extra pass and spray more roundup to try kill all the roundup resistant weeds growing their soybean fields! They also half to spray an extra herbicide called liberty link herbicide to kill all the weed corn that is roundup ready that is growing in the soybean fields! Now some in some states like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota farmers are having problems with root worms that have built up resistance to Monsanto’s Bt corn (a corn that produces its own pesticide that causes the stomaches of the worms to bust open when they eat it). Here’s a link to article that talks just about that: http://grist.org/food/gmo-resistant-insects-add-insult-to-drought-injury/ So now between the super weeds and super bugs some farmers are right back to where they were 20 years, using the same pesticides and herbicides! The end result of planting GMO crops is an increased use of both pesticides and herbicides! To combat the super weed problem Monsanto and Dow chemical company are about to introduce a new generation of GMO crops that can be resistant to two types of herbicides, roundup herbicide, Dicamba herbicide or roundup herbicide and 2-4D herbicide! These two herbicides are an older kind of herbicide that can be more dangerous to the environment!

    I don’t know if you have done any research or know much about on the link between CCD (colony collapse disorder in honey bees) and the use of systemic pesticides? You see all the Genetically modified seeds, like corn and soybeans are treated with a very toxic class of pesticides known as the neonicotinoids class of systemic pesticides! There 7 different kinds of them: Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Nitenpyram, Thiacloprid and Thiamethoxam. Most of them are made to attack the nervous system of insects but all the GMO corn and soybean seeds are treated with Clothianidin which is very harmful to the honey bee and has a half life of 20 years (that means it stays in the soil that long)! In fact one kernel of corn treated with this stuff can kill over 3,000 bees! These systemic pesticides actually becomes part of the plant then the plant continually produces this pesticides all season long! I suggest you read: A disaster in the making by DR. Tenekes this will open you eyes to how the chemical companies including Monsanto are putting profits ahead safety! Here’s the link to this page: http://www.disasterinthemaking.com/about_the_author.html ! I think we were better off before we had GMO crops and least the pesticides farmers used before washed off in the rain

    I know I don’t have all the answers and could go on and on for a long time about how bad GMO crops are for us and the environment but I half to get going! I hope you can do some more research on some of the subjects that talked about! Thanks for reading and hope you have great week!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:29 am

    • elliecm

      Hey there, Paul. Thanks for responding — and so fully.

      Couple things.
      Monsanto does proudly label their products and actually does promote them so I am kinda confused by the first part of your comment. It is actually the big food companies that don’t label. Monsanto actually can not tell the buyer of the buyer of the products their seeds produce that they have to label them. Where is our disconnect there so we can clear up our differences.

      As for the pesticides. I’ve read the same articles you have but, I have also read articles from the other side and talked to farmers who spray significantly less and so I am just postulating, as I do in the post, that there is so much conflicting information — we don’t know the truth. Though, in the comments, I do pose my fear that returning to simply conventional ag is in fact going to require more pesticides and herbicides for certain. We do know that conventional ag can’t subsist without huge inputs.

      And yes, I have read the bee stuff. And yes, it scares the living crap out of me. But again, I’ve read a lot of information that actually traces the bee problem to other issues. Again, I am with you in the general fear and also that we don’t have all the answers. I think our only difference is that I am now also reading science that supports a dissenting viewpoint.

      Which is why at the end of the day all I could conclude is: we need to change our own buying behavior to line up with our gut feelings if we are really going to try and make a difference. And, as I noted, my gut feeling is that I don’t want to participate in Big Ag.

      But, I am interested in the first point because I find it fascinating how much we all (and I definitely was there) seem hellbent on blaming Monsanto for the lack of labeling. So, please do, let’s together get to the bottom of that!

      October 16, 2012 at 2:39 am

  42. Steve

    Yes I did read it, and it seems you feel that saying something is bunk science without providing a link to independently peer-reviewed science to back up that assertion is scientifically sound which quite frankly it is not.

    I had someone just recently link me to a study showing that Agent Orange has nothing to do with cancer and the study said this:

    Acknowledgments
    All authors were employed by The Dow Chemical Company. The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences funded this study.

    You’ve heard of ghostwriting I’m sure? See Linda Lodgberg “Ghost in the Machine”

    October 16, 2012 at 5:41 am

    • elliecm

      Steve, thanks. And I am glad you read the post!
      Here are some pesticide links:

      http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2012/10/do-genetically-engineered-crops-really-increase-herbicide-use/

      http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2012/10/03/when-bad-news-stories-help-bad-science-go-viral/

      and there was some good discussion from Anastasia Bodnar

      https://plus.google.com/u/2/103991056864987061066/posts#103991056864987061066/posts

      Hope these help. Please let me know if not.

      Also, I did in fact ask them about the revolving door. They had an answer I could much argue with, despite the fact that I may not like it. And it was: we have the leading thinkers and scientists in the world here at Monsanto (again, you might not like their outcome but you can’t argue that fact) and so when the government reaches out for people to run areas of the government, they do what they do in every sector of government, they look for the best people with the most access to the leading research and ideas.

      Again, because seriously, I am on your side… we may not like the situation but we can’t argue the facts.

      As for laying the blame squarely on Monsanto for lack of labeling. No, I don’t, I seriously and honestly blame the folks who choose not to label. The people who decide: NO, don’t put that label on our products. Those are the people I blame. PepsiCo knows we want labels and they are choosing not to label. And what enrages me so much is that they say they can’t label because it is too hard/expensive etc. and frankly, if someone discovered that GMOs were causing cancer, those labels would be on food in stores tomorrow.

      So, that’s where I point my finger. And those are the products I refuse to buy.

      Thanks, Steve.

      October 16, 2012 at 7:07 am

  43. Steve

    As for blaming Monsanto for the lack of labelling, Michael Taylor ex-VP Monsanto (Washington) wrote the government’s policy for GE foods. I’d say that pretty much lays the blame square at the feet of Monsanto no?

    Or the look at the open door with government they’ve carefully orchestrated? See – http://www.occupymonsanto360.org/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/monsanto-in-government1.jpg

    October 16, 2012 at 5:42 am

  44. Thomas Leavitt

    Ellen,

    You’re so right. It’s all about the choices that we make. We can eat what PepsiCo & Kraft etc. are serving or we can try to grow it ourselves, or get it from a reliable source. We can believe the swill on Fox or MSNBC, or we can read and explore in greater depth the issues that are important to us. The problems with our food system are all of our doing, because as Americans we want convenience. It’s human nature to try and make one bad guy the target for all of our problems, rather than explore the issues & find solutions. Keep the conversation going.

    October 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

    • elliecm

      Thanks, Thomas, I will. A friend pointed out this morning: “I mean the big Ag folks seem happy as hell and Ellen refuses to eat our product. The folks who agree with Ellen about working harder or spending more are more upset.”

      It says a lot about what people’s end games are. Some want open conversation and dialog and honest, spin-free learning and others, well, I don’t really know what the end game is.

      Me: I just want more people to eat healthy food in a healthy way. I want innercity youths to stop eating juicebox and bag of chips for lunch and I can’t figure out how we’ll feed them without some help from Big Ag. I want cows to eat grass and pigs to root around, but I also don’t know where we’re gonna get that land from and so I can’t just dreamily suggest that it will just magically happen. I worry, really, that our tendency (and it was mine, too) to run screaming from misleading headline to misleading headline has impacted not just our own rational thinking but also people’s lives and livelihoods.

      I’m trying to get a foot in the door at BPI because I worry that what we all read in the news was sensationalized and I’d like to find out for myself what that stuff really is and if, as a few folks I trust know personally, what happened to BPI was a bit of a tragedy because what BPI was really doing was complete utilization of product — which if you are an animal rights person is vitally important to honoring the animal.

      And I am gonna keep attacking the tough questions and sensitive issues as well as exploring the other realities of our food, like the farmers who are banging their heads against the wall because they can’t seem to set upon a business model that is sustainable to their lives as well as the earth and their community.

      Our food system is totally broken. But it isn’t going to right itself until we all start looking at all sides of every issue, as calmly as possible, and try to sort out a middle way that can feed us affordably while honoring animals and the earth.

      Heavy thoughts to have before coffee. (and without Fresca.)

      October 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

  45. Paul

    Ellen, I don’t understand if Monsanto has nothing to do with GMO labeling and its up to the food manufacture to label GMO food then why has Monsanto donated 7.1 million to defeat proposition 37 in California (a ballot initiative to label GMO food! Is it still Monsanto’s product setting on the store shelves or is it the food manufactures food?

    With regards to systemic pesticides, you think pesticides that are designed to attack the nervous system of insects and is put on the corn that people eat is ok?! This pesticide is highly toxic and long term exposure to this stuff can effect the human nervous system! You think its ok that this toxic pesticide stays in the soil for up to 20 years and can leach into the water supply that people drink?

    October 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

    • elliecm

      We did ask about that lobbying. The people we were with (nutritionist, dude from food technology, plant scientist, retired PR guy and PR gal) didn’t have an answer for us. To be honest, I didn’t pursue the question post visit because it made sense to me, as a business owner, that they would support the cause from a business standpoint… because it would support the businesses who buy their products. I do remember, vaguely so I am not quoting, that one person said that they wouldn’t support any measures that don’t necessar

      Of course I am saddened at the use of pesticides AT ALL. I don’t get where some folks think I am jumping in the laps of Big Ag and cuddling up like a kitten. Me, I’d love to live in a world without pesticides, herbicides, etc. We don’t use anything like that in our garden. But I am also willing to concede that our industrial ag machine, no matter how much I don’t like it, is probably going to continue and grow despite what I personally want. So, my goal here is to find out: which is LESS WORSE. That’s the goal — what is less worse.

      Are you with me in that goal? Or do you want to have a discussion about why the world generally sucks and how we wish we could revert back to … what? when? Because farmers have been blasting the earth with shit that is awful since the first moment they found out it may make their job easier. And our society built up around that. And so no matter how much you and me want it to go away, realistically, it likely won’t … so let’s have a productive discussion about what CAN happen.

      As for the pesticides, I am going to do some research on your exact question. But so you know, what I am mostly curious about and investigating is if those pesticides would be used in a post-GMO world. Like, I am curious if the problem is actually the GMOs or if it is just farming in America today. And, I am also learning a lot about the overall toxicity of pesticides in regular conventional vs. GMO conventional. There is a lot of conflicting information. Stuff I read from scientists (who don’t appear to have a specific agenda outside science) and stuff I read from organizations like, well Grist, who I know has an agenda.

      We aren’t gonna get to a solution, Paul, unless we all step outside our comfort zone and read the conflicting evidence. That’s what I discovered in Meal One. That to be as scientific as possible in this endeavor, I needed to read ALL sides and try to follow the trails that each study follows and decide for myself what I believe might be the answer. I’d love if others would do the same — because we aren’t going to find a way forward if we don’t find some sort of way forward.

      October 16, 2012 at 8:04 am

    • Paul, GMO corn does not require the use of pesticides. That is the point of GMO corn, to eliminate the use of pesticides.

      October 16, 2012 at 9:19 am

      • elliecm

        Suzie, thanks. Do you have a link for that? And, what about herbicides? Or some other ‘cide? I only ask because I wanna make sure there isn’t someone thinking that the statement “no pesticides” is spinning things a bit or something. Not bashing you, just thinking ahead and trying to see if we can be fully transparent and such.

        October 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

        • I am referring only to pesticides, which are for insects. The statement does require clairfication in that the pesticides I refer to are those that were onced used for the insects that the crop is now resistant too due to the GMO trait. Those insects were the major cause for pesticide usage on crops and that pesticide is no longer used since it is not needed. As I stated in an earlier comment, we did not put one drop of pesticide on our crop because the GMO trait eliminated the need.

          There can be a need for pesticide if insect pressure arises from an insect that the crop is not resistant to through GMO traits. For instance, early in the season if it is unusually wet and cool, we can have an outbreak of fleahoppers. This insect destroys the tiny new squares & blooms (that would become bolls) and must be controlled or you lose all fruit on entire sections of your plant. Most times out here, the conditions are not such that the fleahopper pressure requires an application, or the pressure is minimal and the farmers let the beneficial insects take care of them. Other years, they can greatly out number the beneficials and an application would be required.

          However the major pesticide usage was for worms, which destroy crops and require numerous applications of pesticides, which have been eliminated through GMO traits, resulting in, on our operation, NO pesticide usage at all for the past 5 years. As I stated before, when my husband visited Brazil in the spring, those farmers reported as many as 13 applications of pesticides for worms alone on their non-GMO cotton.

          I hope this clears up my statement from earlier, as GMO traits actually have eliminated pesticide usage on our farms for 5 straight years.

          October 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

          • elliecm

            Wow and holy shit. Really? That is super helpful to read in general but also in light of this discussion. But again, is there some other thing that is creeping up now? Like the superweeds everyone is talking about? Or, I dunno, anything else? (I keep on wanting to write zombie apocalypse, but I fear some people don’t get “my” humour…). Anyway, you know what I mean, is there some “other” new problem now?

            October 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

    • elliecm

      Paul, here is a link to Cornel Univ. thingy that helps sort out pesticides — their half life and toxicity and suchlike. http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/index.html

      I am gathering that there is some confusion on what pesticides are super scary harmful and which are more benign-ish and which go with GMOs and which are non-GMO conventional ag.

      We certainly have a lot to sort thru! Let’s dig in!

      October 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

  46. Pingback: The Local Beet: Chicago » We’re Getting Back to Harvesting Some Eat Local Links – The Weekly Harvest – 10/15/12

  47. Nancy

    Thank you for this well balanced article. I work for Monsanto, and when I started here about 8 years ago (used to work in the pharmaceutical industry) it confused me why the organic industry wasn’t jumping all over GMO technology – because of the reduced pesticide use, increased sustainability of farming, lower environmental impact, etc. etc….it seemed to me that the goals of organic and the goals of GMO were completely aligned. Reading through the thoughtful comments on this blog post has taught me why there is a disconnect. Thank you, and to the commenters, for such respectful dialog.

    October 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

    • elliecm

      Thanks for chiming in, Nancy. In my own perspective, I really lumped GMOs in with food additives and the general scariness I see on documentaries and read in books. To the person not in Ag/Food… what is going on in Ag/Food can seem like a big frightening jumble of WTF are these people thinking! And it all gets messed up together because, for the most part, we don’t have time to sort thru the details and understand, say, what precisely IS killing the Gulf waters, why cantalopes randomly kill people and how come there are so many more allergies in kids now that you can’t even bring a PBJ to school. GMOs really fall into what my friend Natasha calls the “plane crash problem” whereby plane travel is super crazy safe next to auto travel but people are far more afraid to fly than drive. I actually wrote about this in Meal One because I ride a scooter, in the city, without a helment but am near catatonic getting on a plane. Makes no f-ing sense but it’s the way I am.

      GMOs sorta rose up at the same time as food additives and really, I think that is the problem. Food additives, which create foodlike substances, are, in fact, really actually killing people. GMOs are something we learned about when we learned about all that shit they put in processed foods. Plus, they have the added fillip of being created by a company that had a shitty history and being something that “messes with the work of God.” Ergo, they are not only scary like additives, they are likely scarier.

      Ultimately, as I told Grant yesterday, I think “my side” should be leaning on Monsanto to do things we really want done: like figuring out how to grow strawberries without whatever horrible crap they use now. I know the seeds are small so tough to get thru the seedchipper… but that would be huge, in general, for the world…if we could start wtih getting rid of the current farming practices for strawberries and maybe not make some that someone like me would eat but at least make the one’s my mom buys less lethally toxic. I think the sustainable folks are missing that point, that opportunity to march to Monsanto not to protest but to ask y’all to take on some projects that we likely really want done and you likely could not only do but do in such a way that wouldn’t hurt your bottom line but likely might help it… win for my side, win for your side, win for your stockholders, win for the strawberry farmers, win for my mom, who I always want to win most.

      October 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

  48. Steve:

    Regarding this from you:

    “As for blaming Monsanto for the lack of labelling, Michael Taylor ex-VP Monsanto (Washington) wrote the government’s policy for GE foods. I’d say that pretty much lays the blame square at the feet of Monsanto no?”

    First off, I completely agree with you it looks fishy that so many of our government workers (mostly appointed, I notice) are former Monsanto employees.

    I suppose it is semantics, but I’m not sure “blame” is the right word. I think you could argue that our government and representative system have too many governmental positions held by former Monsanto employees. And I think you could argue that big money and big corporations (food or otherwise) control our government and policy. If you feel these things, it seems to me your/our attention should be focused not on any one corporation but rather on our government and our system. Monsanto is not to “blame” for gaming OUR system. We need to change the system. (Don’t ask me how that goes – above my pay grade!)

    Maybe this is a useful analogy. Suppose there were a line in the tax code that would allow everyone to deduct the cost of their beer for the year. Of course we’d all take that deduction. It might seem wrong or inappropriate, but we’d take it. Who among us would have some kind of conscience and not do so?

    Lobbying and influencing our government is par for the course…and I would bet in most cases, not illegal.

    If you show me Monsanto’s strategy (if it is that) to get their employees placed in influential governmental positions is illegal, then I am interested. But don’t we really know that frankly they are just taking good business advantage of our weak system?

    I think I’m suggesting we need to “blame” our system, not Monsanto. After all, blaming them leaves all the other big corporations out of the equation. Let’s push for a system-wide reform.

    October 16, 2012 at 10:38 am

  49. Paul

    Suzie, Yes I’m aware that Monsanto’s GMO Bt corn is designed to produce its own pesticides & thus eliminate the the farmer from spraying pesticides! The point I’m trying to make is that what happens when the root worms or the European corn bore builds up restance to the Bt toxin that the corn produces and no longer kills the worms! In which it has already happened in some states! The farmer is suppose to plant a certain amount of refuge acres of non-Bt corn to prevent this from happening but guess what? Most farmers are not complying with this rule! If a corn field has just one worm out of a million worms build restance then that one worm can pass its traits on the next generation of its off spring and pretty soon the farmer has a big problem on his hands! Then what does the farmer do? He goes back to using the same old pesticides he was using before Bt corn came out! I think the number one problem with modern agriculture is that farmers don’t properly rotate their crops anymore! Most grain farmers plant just corn & soybeans! From what I know about root worms their eggs can survive & lay dormant in the soil for up to 2 years! Well most grain farmers never go anymore then 2 years without planting corn on a field, its just corn, beans, corn, beans year after year! I suppose your wondering as an organic farmer how we control pests like the root worm in our corn fields! Simply, we try to rotate our crops every year & apply suffer a naturally occurring element in the earth! We found that for some reason the root worms don’t to live in the stuff & they eventually die off because of lack of food! So really Bt corn & pesticides are not necessary!

    October 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

    • elliecm

      Paul, I agree with you on the problem that, to my opinion, farmers don’t have enough diversity — though I do understand that many are actually learning from that mistake and starting to rotate in more, which is awesome if not yet perfect. But going back to the original point of the post — that is a systemic problem, not a Monsanto created or perpetuated problem.

      I bring this up not because I am trying to defend Monsanto… only because I think us folks need to focus on the actual problems at hand so we CAN create change. My point is that we need to be more organized, educated and clear.

      Also, the pesticide problem you have listed here is with EVERY pesticide, right? Not just GMO-specific pesticides.

      October 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

    • We have three crops that grow here next to the Chihuahuan Desert where there is normally 12 inches of rain for the growing season, if we are lucky, cotton, grain sorghum and wheat. We and 90% of all farmers out here rotate all our fields on either an every other year basis or every third year basis. We can’t grow corn, too hot, can’t grow soybeans, too hot, can’t grow cabbage, too hot. So we rotate with what will grow.

      Most of the insect pressure we get comes up from Mexico via storm systems. Can’t speak to the corn worms, just the the boll worms that ride storms up from Mexico that we have fought for the past 52 years that I have been alive.

      October 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

      • elliecm

        sorry to nag, suzie, but you aren’t mentioning weeds or anything else. it totally helps that you describe your insect challenges. but would appreciate weed challenges and, again, zombies or anything else (except immigration, let’s not go there! we’ve got enough to sort out just with ag!!!)

        October 16, 2012 at 11:21 am

        • No problem ever Ellen!! I am speaking to our operation here and this year, as I said in my earlier comment, we sprayed for weed control twice. Once before planting and once over the top of the cotton, both with Roundup. If we used non GMO cotton, we would still use Roundup before the cotton is planted to clean up the weeds, but we would also have to apply a pre emergent herbicide, such as Caparol. So the same amount of weed control is used whether we plant GMO or non GMO cotton. My husband is also a bit old school and actually spot plows where he has problem areas in a field instead of another application of herbicide. On normal rainfall years, there would be another application of Roundup during the winter months, but drier years can eliminate that, such as this year.

          As in my earlier comment also, I referred to TOPGUARD fungicide that was applied once this year to control cotton root rot, which can be seen in my blog http://kissedafarmer.blogspot.com/2012/05/serendipity.html and which will appear in a follow up to that blog very soon, as the TOPGUARD fungicide has finally controlled the 100 year plight of cotton root rot.

          So, as for ‘cide usage: Zero Pesticide, Two Herbicide, One Fungicide.

          I would also add that we whole heartedly believe that the GMO cotton eliminating the usage of pesticides for the worms has allowed the beneficial insect population to flourish such that the need for other pesticides is also greatly deminished on our and our neighbor’s operations.

          October 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm

          • elliecm

            Suzie, thanks for your perspective. I am not sure how many people know that many farmers believe the GMO has reduced the amount of inputs on the farm. It certainly brings different perspective into the conversation!

            October 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

  50. “…sociologist Georg Simmel argued that nothing unites a nation, or any group of people for that matter, quite like having a common enemy.” [source]

    I give you GMOs and Monsanto as our current “enemies”. On a psychological level we need an enemy to focus our efforts on.

    The question we’re asking is whether we have chosen the correct enemy for the result we want.

    October 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

  51. What a wonderful project and read!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

  52. Paul

    Ellen, Yes if any pesticide is over used it can result in pests building up restance to it! I think if modern farming practices were to change and farmers started making their farming operations more diversified and rotated their crops more frequently then over all pesticide use could be dramatically cut down! Now since I’m an organic farmer I don’t believe in using any chemical to control weeds are pests but I would half to say that chemical farming wouldn’t be so bad if the farmer only used chemicals when they had a terrible weed problems or pest problems and not all the time regardless of how bad the situation is!

    I should make a correction about last posting! I met to say at the end of it that we use sulfur to naturally control root worms in our corn fields! Nature is a very complex system and if you study nature long enough you begin to understand how everything works together from the smallest micro organism to the biggest animals! One thing effects another and so on right down the food chain! Farmers must learn how to work with Mother Nature and not try to fight it! Every plant, bug and animal has its place in the food chain! If a certain weed is growing in your field it could be a sign that nature is trying to tell you that your lacking something in your soil! Maybe your having a pest problem, it could be a sign you need do plant a differnt crop in that field next year or maybe your soil is lacking a certain mineral! The number one rule in organic farming is to listen, observe and learn from what mother can teach you and not what you can teach Mother Nature!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    • Paul, I would like your opinion on my last response to Ellen as to if you think that sounds like responsible usage of chemicals for conventional farming.

      October 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks for your comments and clarifications, Paul. I think some of the farmer folks that I have been meeting definitely believe they are learning to work with Mother Nature … it seems a matter of perspective. Grant and I don’t use really, much of anything outside of the garden’s own stuff, on our vegetables. We are trying to learn how to use the chicken poop and have a frustrating but ongoing experiment with worms. We’re learning, slowly. But I recognize that industrial farming has different challenges.

      October 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm

  53. Steve

    You can’t argue the fact that Monsanto has the leading thinkers and scientists? Really? You don’t think that point can be argued? How does saying someone has the leading thinkers and scientists make it a fact? Because they made crops that don’t work as advertised? Because in two decades they’ve done nothing to alleviate world hunger nor have they created a single severe drought resistant GE crop? Because conventionally bred crops are beating GMO’s to the punch in nearly every area? Because they have no answer to the well-documented environmental issues other than to say “GMO’s are better for the environment” which is just a flat out lie? How can those be facts?

    “so when the government reaches out for people to run areas of the government, they do what they do in every sector of government, they look for the best people with the most access to the leading research and ideas”

    No that’s not what they do at all. What they do is look to reward the companies who have been lining their pockets by allowing them to appoint people to said positions that will most benefit their bottom lines. It has nothing to do with research or the “best people” unless you think safety or conflicts of interest are of no concern.

    Monsanto spends on average $8 million a year lobbying at the federal level alone.
    The pharmaceutical industry spends $250 million a year lobbying at the federal level alone. Meredith Attwell-Baker urges her fellow FCC cronies to vote through the NBC/Comcast/Universal merger then a couple months later takes a position with the newly merged company as senior government liason. Dr. Julie Gerberding as head of the CDC goes to bat for Merck Pharmaceuticals after the MMR scare to convince people that vaccines are perfectly safe (in direct contrast to the product monographs) and then quits to become “Head of Vaccines” at Merck.

    This does not sound like the best people with the most access to ideas. It sounds to me like the best people = most easily bought.

    October 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm

  54. Steve

    By the way, you’d be interested to see that Monsanto’s views on labelling were much different before they found out that it means a skull and crossbones.

    http://www.monsanto.co.uk/highlights/ads/ad4.html

    That’s a link from Monsanto UK’s website. Let me quote:

    “Before you buy a potato, or any other food, you may want to know whether it’s the product of food biotechnology.”

    Yes, yes I would.

    “Monsanto fully supports UK food manufacturers and retailers in their introduction of these labels. We believe you should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase”.

    Pretty interesting stuff. While I agree that PepsiCo and Kellogg’s and General Mills should also field some brunt for not labelling their products, the reason they’re not labelling them is because Monsanto makes it very cheap for them to make their products with GMO’s thanks to the lobbying they’ve done to ensure the farm bill looks after those who don’t need it, industrial chemical companies who now make Frankenfoods and the companies that use their products, like PepsiCo.

    If they see a couple percentage points drop from their bottom lines you can be sure their allegiance to Monsanto, Dow, et al, will evaporate quicker than you can say “Pusztai” and they will label their products as being free of GMO’s.

    The market will decide. If there does happen to be some misinformation along the way that makes people think GMO’s are bad (which they are, and no amount of misinformation from the anti-GMO camp could possibly compare to the tripe being shown on TV in California 12 times and hour right now from the Monsanto-headed No on 37 team) and vote Yes on 37, the tipping point to getting this crap out of our food chain, the ends justify the means. That’s a fact I don’t think anyone can argue with.

    October 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks, for your continued conversation, Steve. I am not sure really how to respond but didn’t want to just leave you hanging. I am quite sure our goals are, in fact, the same, oddly. But I am also not sure how to proceed productively.

      October 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm

  55. Only meeting demand? That’s a heroin pusher’s excuse.

    October 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • Orville

      Which was also far less of a problem before Big Brother stepped in to help.

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/huebert/huebert35.1.html

      Addiction rates were lower, profits went to mom ‘n pop drug stores instead of street thugs and wars in Mexico / Viet-ghanastan. The market produced safer alternatives when they were demanded.

      Just as the case can be if we take responsibility for what we put in our bodies now. This blog’s point about the regulatory power of our choices over that of a label is spot on.

      October 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm

  56. One other thing on the resistant weeds that seem to be developing. At this point in time, we personally don’t have any problem with that, though I know it is a concern. There are weed varieties that have always been resistant to Roundup, like devils claws and silver leaf nightshade. I seriously hate these guys, as I have to use an atv and a hoe to kill them. But they have always been tough weeds to control. Daniel always has a pile of devils claws around the barn waiting for the wind to change so he can toast those nasty things.

    Much lower rates of herbicide can be used during early growth stage to achieve excellent control, even of tough to control weeds. Once fields have gotten clean, year after year herbicide usage actually declines, because if there are no weeds left to go to seed, the only new ones are brought in by deer, other varmits or the wind. Most often, Daniel will not spray entire fields, because out in the middle they are clean, but around the edges needs an application. Spraying for fun seriously does not happen on the Wilde Farms.

    October 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  57. Pete

    Thank you for such a well written essay. Too often when we point with one finger three other fingers on your point back to you. We all need to be responsible to ourself.

    October 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm

  58. Helen

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_According_to_Monsanto

    http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

    You can watch Genetic Roulette free today – see if you still feel the same way about
    GMOs after.

    October 17, 2012 at 3:16 am

    • elliecm

      Thanks for the link, Helen, though I am a little confused. What are thinking my feelings about GMOs are that they would change watching the movie?

      October 17, 2012 at 7:08 am

  59. Pingback: When food conversations fall short… | Agriculture Proud

  60. elliecm

    Any of you comment folks who are interested in the Seralini study where GMOs created cancer in rats… I thought this was interesting and wanted to share.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2012/10/10/that-gmo-cancer-study-it-gets-worse/

    October 17, 2012 at 7:53 am

  61. Paul Reynolds

    Thank you. I am in the Ag business, thus partial to ensuring that farming continues as a way of life in this country. For years I’ve sat quietly while the defunct media and bunk scientists went on their rampages. Too few understand it as you have explained it. The producer is going to do what they can to ensure that they make a crop because it is their life and their means of support. If there’s a genetically altered product that will decrease the maintenance/input on a crop, they’re going to go with that product because it will supposedly increase their profit margin. It’s simple economics.

    October 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks Paul. But as a consumer it is REALLY HARD to get to honest information and you might note in my post that I don’t even claim I can. But, you are right this is an economic issue and until people reconcile that, no one is going to move past the paralyzing anger and make decisions that might actually do something.

      October 19, 2012 at 7:57 am

  62. Chris

    Interesting article and more interesting comments, thanks to all. Still many things to think of. I’m kinda in the middle of this whole continuous debate as I work as an ag retailer selling all the GMO seed, chemical, fertilizer ect. So I get to explain the benefits of some products to customers all day and develop personalized chemical and fertilizer plans. But personally I farm vegetables in more of an organic way, though I would never be “certified”. I just grow for myself and family and am able to slash my food budget. Ellen i do completely agree with you, people need to get outside in their yard and grow more like in the past, when most households grew at least something for themselves. Its just too hard and time consuming to navigate the endless amount of bias articles on both sides. i just do my best to help farmers achieve their goals at work and develop my 4 acres piece of heaven into something I am proud of.

    October 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    • elliecm

      FOUR ACRES! I just have a standard Chicago lot. Boo. We do grow a lot and we are learning a lot and hopefully we’ll get better at growing more efficiently. Thanks for commenting, Chris!

      October 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

  63. Maureen Ogle

    Brilliant! (As common sense usually is.)

    October 18, 2012 at 9:15 am

  64. Thank you Ellen! I am completely on your side with media and the research and trying to find what is best for you, me, and the country. I feel like you are starting to feel that we as farmers are trying to do what we feel is best for everyone and if we find actual science that says we are wrong we will change. You have forever changed the way I view things, and although at first I was not happy about that, I am learning to appreciate your quest. Who needs ABC’s reporting when we have your blog. Good luck on your continued journey!

    October 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks, Janice. I’ll tell you, I haven’t been happy about having to change the way I view things, either! But, as they say in yoga (not that I do yoga), the journey is the thing.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

  65. Orville

    From a (non-MON) plant breeder: Well done.

    I work in biofuels am quite accustomed to getting yelled at from both ‘sides of the table’ for being both an evil GMO-guy and an evil alternative energy tax-leech guy.

    I don’t feel like either, and it is nice to hear some level-headedness.

    Personally, I eat plenty of GMOs, but avoid corporate processed and subsidized food to the greatest extent possible. (How’s that possible? GMO corn etc growing side by side with heirlooms in my garden and by multiple local market farmers)

    But here is the greatness of your statement, considering your side of the table (clearly you’re above the table, but I mean the organic crowd in general) . . .

    . . . you’re acknowledging that only the market can correct such an issue. No legislation is going to come through the corporatist beaurocratic juggernaut to ‘fix’ the situation. The invisible hand is powerful enough to change how food is grown/sold/used, the Iron Fist will only ever f&^% it up and make it worse.

    It is continuously infuriating to hear people wax on about how giving more control of our food supply to a political machine which can’t / won’t defeat an army of barefoot herders for a trillion dollars, or which can’t change drug addiction rates for a trillion and a half, is in any way a wise move.

    Awesome. Thanks!

    October 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    • elliecm

      Orville, that’s a great paragraph. And it is the point. Hat tip to you for getting yelled at by both sides! Definitely says you are doing what you think is best no matter the politics. Booyah.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:03 am

    • Orville, you are almost as brilliant as Ellen. So very well said.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

  66. David Golladay

    You have got to be the most sensible and level headed non-GMO person I have ever come across. I appreciate the fact that you are not in a blind rage, and not spewing the latest gossip about GMO, and telling me my kids are going to hate me for planting them. I wish everyone had your common sense about this whole subject. Acknowledging the fact that emotions run a little high, and bias is rampant goes a long way to reach an understanding. As a farmer, thank you.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    • elliecm

      David, thanks. but you might want to read the http://backyarditarian.com/2012/03/29/just-because-the-canary-is-alive/ that actually spurred this whole project before you go all crazypants on everyone and call me the most sensible and level-headed non-GMO person. The entire army of commenters might come and put you in a white jacket!

      October 19, 2012 at 8:09 am

      • David we might still have Ellen’s white jacket laying around somewhere… :-)

        In all honesty this has been one of the best endevours I have been involved with not only for my own growth but also being able to see Ellen and Grant grow in their knowledge too. I read through the comments here and get that proud feeling each time to see the quality of discussion that has come from the journey that One Hundred Meals has embarked on. Not only am I proud of the civility in different ideas being discussed I am just darn proud that we all are doing our part to make the world a more civil and better place.

        October 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

      • I knew you would share this! For me, this shows you have to be able to look at a rant and see if there is something there you can understand where they are coming from, ie find some commonground. Quite frankly, early on for me talking with Ellen it was that I knew a lot of people with backyard chickens but didn’t know anyone with a huge farm of chickens. So even though I am part of “big ag” I have some connectivity to some of Ellen’s thoughts. Didn’t mean I agreed with the rant, but I could see how that may “set someone off.” Not sure it would have been constructive to try and talk to her mid-rant but later it certainly worked. :)

        October 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  67. Pingback: PROPOSITION 37 - Look Who Is Fighting It!!! - Page 2 - City-Data Forum

  68. I was actually in attendance at the now infamous Chicago breakfast. I got to have my breakfast with Grant and super enjoyed meeting someone from such a different way of life and such a different point of view of the delicious breakfast food we were both eating. ( I was super jealous because he’s skinny and got to have this wonderful stuffed french toast whipped cream fruit dripping thingy and I had…who knows, I just know my fat cells wouldn’t let me by with that) Anyway, back to my thought, the last thing I did before I had to leave the breakfast to get to the airport and back to Texas was give Grant my business card and look directly at him and said, “Keep asking questions, we really do want to listen.” Thanks Grant and Ellen for helping me look at each and everything we do on our farm in a much more broad perspective than I could have ever imagined. You are making a difference, and we are listening.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

  69. Doug

    I tried sharing this post on the “Occupy Monsanto” Facebook page to generate some discussion. The admin deleted the link and I got my commenting privileges revoked for the trouble. I guess your message may have not gone over well…I should have known better than to expect quality discussion anywhere on Facebook, but somehow this still bums me out.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    • elliecm

      Well, well. One could surmise much about the intentions of Occupy Monsanto from that, now, couldn’t one. We hear a lot about Monsanto engaging in bullying tactics and intimidation strategies and so far I can’t find ONE DAMN PERSON to step up and talk to me. And yet here we have first-hand experience of the Occupy Monsanto folks behaving this way. Fascifreakingnating.

      And who does it help? What is their end game? Mine: people eating healthy food and our collective society making the best decisions, no matter what they are. It has taken a lot for me to get here but I’d also say that I never deleted any comments from my blogs or FB, no matter how nasty they got. And they got nasty.

      WTF. That just makes me sad.

      October 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      • I have loved!!!! the comments on this fantastic blog post. I hope each time my email bings that it is a message about a new comment…then I gave a big sigh when I read the Occupy Monsanto antics. We all have a very big gap to fill. Everyone envolved in this ongoing conversation, print out Ellen’s quote from above and keep it handy, “People eating healthy food and our collective society making the best decisions, no matter what they are.” Have a great weekend Ellen and Ellen-followers!

        October 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  70. Pingback: Food Choices, GMOs & Falling Skies « Slow Money Farm – Life, Farm, Food

  71. This completely disregards the fact that “all natural” labeling and processed food products in general are intentionally trying to fool people… AND that we are left without an alternative option unless we have the money to pay for it, the money to access the knowledge to make educated decisions, and not to mention the time to put aside to go to the one “health food” store in your neighborhood, as opposed to the one around the corner— AND a community which has a wide-enough group that does have this knowledge so that it is worthwhile for businesses to bring in honest alternative products.

    Monsanto is a business, yes, and they are doing as businesses need to succeed, but that doesn’t make their business a well-intentioned model, or one which should have any support from those of us who ARE educated about what GMOs do to the soil, to surrounding (organic) farms soil and crops, and their monopoly over the seed market.
    Just because they have the legal right to make a certain argument, does not make that argument valid or just.

    You claim to identify with the “educated” group, but you are very clearly expressing a lack of knowledge on the matter, and a completely top-down bias, which you are shielding behind bottom up, demand-then-supply. I am drawing a comparison to institutionalized racism. Your argument here is that the marginalization of the minorities is the fault of the minorities… AND further, that it is in anyway a legitimate argument to make.

    Those of us who know about/care about the problem DO “occupy our own kitchens”, but the next step is to organize and target the larger groups that MAKE IT SO HARD TO DO THE RIGHT THING by monopolizing and wiping out all other options.

    Google monoculture and soil biology. Google colony collapse disorder.

    October 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    • elliecm

      Fran. I need you to focus. You are right that there is no choice unless we have money to pay. An you are right that Monsanto’s business is business.

      But you miss the point. Like many on our side. Like I did for a long time.

      To help you understand, I’ll ask what you find when you occupy your own kitchen. Are you making the sacrifices to not support what you believe is Monsanto’s not-well-intentioned business? Or are you supporting it by buying products and claiming, what? That you can’t help it because there is so little choice? Is it that because you have so little choice you are absolved of the reality that you are supporting their business?

      You either support them or you don’t, by either buying products or not. THAT is the reality.

      And let me point out this: just because an argument isn’t “valid” or “just” to one side, doesn’t make it something that the other side can’t believe in and pursue, because it is in fact legal.

      This is the breakdown of the liberal effort. We argue based on what is “just” and ignore the fact that it doesn’t freaking matter or get us to our goal. We have to fight based on a strategy that will actually work. We have to accept the reality and then work hard to fight against it.

      Or as my brother the retired attorney says: the law is about money and not justice.
      I hate when he says that because it sounds wrong. But if I want to win the lawsuit, I have to understand and work within that framework. Or I lose. Maybe I can feel good about how I lost but who freaking cares when the stakes are so freaking high.

      Now, as far as organizing, I agree with you — 

      Google monoculture, you’ll find that is a reality no matter if there are GMOs or not. That is a function of our country’s farm policy. Not Monsanto.
      Google soil biology, you’ll find that GMOs have actually IMPROVED it by reducing inputs significantly. Does that mean I support them? No, beacuse I choose not to support industrial agriculture — GMO or not. Just get your facts straight and understand what you are railing against, Fran.
      Google colony collapse disorder, you’ll find that is not GMO driven, it is input driven or more specifically industrial agriculture-driven. Again, GMO or not.

      I have Googled that stuff. But I didn’t just read the top listing. I started really digging in to the research, following the trails of information to see where they led.

      And please, do help me to understand: how am I clearly expressing a lack of knowledge? how am I top-down? and what the hell is wrong with understanding that our society’s macroeconomic forces are essentially market driven. Are those market forces manipulative, yes, sure! They have been since the first snake oil salesman packed up his trailer and yelled giddy up to his freaking horse. It doesn’t help us to ignore these facts, Fran. It just ensures we are running around making no progress while the other side marches on in formation.

      And please help me understand your analogy about racism. That seems incendiary for certain so bravo for that gulp of haterade but I can’t seem to see how it is otherwise specifically useful to the argument. And I fear this is precisely the kind of pseudo-intellectual smear that diverts our attention away from the task at hand.

      October 31, 2012 at 9:34 am

  72. Eron

    Ellen – your article was passed along to me in a Prop 37 discussion and I responded to them by quoting your article and providing my thoughts. I’d like to share them here with you and would love to know your feedback. I’d like to be clear that although I take a different stance as you, am not sharing this to attack or belittle your point of view. Thanks for your follow up:

    “And here’s the thing: the farmers, their customers, do like it. ” – LIE. I am a customer of farmers and I don’t like it, as are the millions of people who are fighting to get it labeled. Now if they’re talking about the corporate customers who can buy so much for so little because it is just a commodity then yes, the love it. As for the farmers, I don’t think the 270,000 farmers in India who have committed suicide based many direct and indirect offshoots of growing GM crops like it much either. (Here’s one article, you should check out talks by Vandana Shiva for more complete background – http://digitaljournal.com/article/323656)

    “Monsanto isn’t out to “dominate the food supply” in any way different than Apple is out to “dominate the mobile phone market” – TRUTH, and that is a serious problem!! I don’t mind if Apple wants to make all of the worlds phones, but I have a serious issue if a company wants to MAKE all of my seeds, patent the technology, create monocultures devoid of crucial bio-diversity, and control my food supply. Food is the leading cause and solution to the majority of our health issues as human beings – ipods aren’t.

    “Then there was the widely reported story about rats and cancer that exploded on Twitter because of the scaryass pictures of mice with gigantic tumors. The science of the study was bunk.”. LIE. It wasn’t bunk, and if you are going to say it is, then prove it.

    “Reuter’s reported on a paper that suggested pesticide use was increasing because of GMOs, without, apparently, doing any due diligence on the study, which again turned out to be drawn from bunk science.” LIE. I can’t speak for that one particular Reuter’s study, but there is plenty of PROOF that pesticide use has gone up since the introduction of GM crops. Way up. You don’t need to take my word for it, look at the statistics yourself from the Center for Food Safety – http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/USDA%20NASS%20Backgrounder-FINAL.pdf

    “So, if you are keeping track here, at this point in the blog, it is the farmers that are “the problem” because they are creating the demand.” LIE I don’t know if you have kids, but let’s say you have a 15 year old son. He starts to take drugs and buys them from a local dealer. He gets hooked and buys more, getting better deals. Now, are you going to tell me that the “problem” is that your son is buying the drugs, or that there is someone selling them to him in the first place? Now you can tell me that is a bad analogy because drugs are illegal, but GMO’s could very well be illegal except that the people who make the laws are the same people that make the GMO’s!

    “Don’t pack a lunch with Oreos in it if you are planning to attend your local, neighborhood Occupy Monsanto protest.” TRUTH – but how are we to know not to buy Oreo’s if the pacakge isn’t labeled?! This is the whole point of the proposition – We have the RIGHT TO KNOW and make our own decisions.

    “You don’t need a label. You already know that 95+ percent of the corn grown in America is GMO. ” LIE I know that, and you know that, but hundreds of millions of american’s DON’T KNOW that. Why? Because it’s not labeled!

    “If you don’t like it, you need to work to change the lobbying laws, not get mad at a company taking legal advantage of them.” TRUTH – The ultimate solution needs to come from federal regulation but that will never happen as long as the Monsanto employees are the onces that create the laws

    “We fall for the “All Natural” label, which has no government oversight whatsoever and actually means nothing. ” TRUTH – we do all fall for it, and it is naive and disenchanted to think that the majority of americans know that “all natural” is anything but. That’s why the companies say it – to fool consumers. You can’t blame consumers for buying products that get promoted to them 24 hours a day and are deemed safe by their government.

    “They’re a bunch of people just doing their jobs and to be honest, they believe in what they are doing” LIE – not saying they’re not good people, but if they believed in what they were doing, then why would the cafeteria at Monsanto not have any GMO products?

    “They believe what they are doing is good for us, good for the environment, and the right thing to do — why doesn’t everyone see that?” LIE The author talks on and on about how what they’re doing is good for SHAREHOLDERS, at no point is it ever mentioned how or why GMOs are good for us or the environment

    “the reporting is so conflicting and so biased and, often, so ridiculous that, likely, we’ll never know who is right.” LIE – We know what’s right, and spreading the word one person at a time

    I get where you are coming from, and you are 100% right that change needs to come from us, but we need to have all the information available to make those choices. You throw out that “99% of packaged stuff has GMO’s” as if that’s an absolute truth we need to accept. Well I for one don’t accept it.

    October 31, 2012 at 1:58 am

    • elliecm

      Thanks for writing, Eron. I absolutely welcome all conversation! It’s the point of 100 Meals! I am replying inline, since it seems easier.

      “And here’s the thing: the farmers, their customers, do like it. ” – LIE. I am a customer of farmers and I don’t like it, as are the millions of people who are fighting to get it labeled. Now if they’re talking about the corporate customers who can buy so much for so little because it is just a commodity then yes, the love it. As for the farmers, I don’t think the 270,000 farmers in India who have committed suicide based many direct and indirect offshoots of growing GM crops like it much either. (Here’s one article, you should check out talks by Vandana Shiva for more complete background – http://digitaljournal.com/article/323656)

      My statement, which you quoted, notes that the farmers, Monsanto’s customers, like it. The customers of Monsanto are, indeed, farmers so I am not sure why you go off on a tangent about you as a customer of farmers, though in reality the GMO food grown is not even sold to you but rather sold to Nabsicos of the world and thus you are not even the customer of these farmers. You note, the idea of “corporate” farmers loving the product, so my statement is not a lie, if I understand your use of the word, though more correctly you could use “industrial” or “commodity.”

      I am actually seeing Vandana talk this weekend, and I am really excited about it! But I am talking here about American commodity farmers because I am not well-versed in Indian economic policy and agriculture, have ready access to sources myself or can find mainstream facts that support your claim. (Do read the “causes” portion of this Wikipedia article, paying particular note to history as well.) I don’t proclaim to address their plight and while I would be happy to learn of your own direct research on the topic, I would venture that possibly you don’t have source material or access to, either.

      I do think it is sad, but even in the event that this did have something to do with use of Monsanto’s products, I am pretty confident we couldn’t find them to be the direct cause. Though likely we could trace back to the Indian government. This is the important point I want to share. Finding the true cause of the problems and solving for that, instead of going after the wrong target.

      “Monsanto isn’t out to “dominate the food supply” in any way different than Apple is out to “dominate the mobile phone market” – TRUTH, and that is a serious problem!! I don’t mind if Apple wants to make all of the worlds phones, but I have a serious issue if a company wants to MAKE all of my seeds, patent the technology, create monocultures devoid of crucial bio-diversity, and control my food supply. Food is the leading cause and solution to the majority of our health issues as human beings – ipods aren’t.

      Sorry, and I don’t mean to sound flip though this does read that way, but commerce doesn’t care what you like. Just as BP shouldn’t care whether I personally like or dislike deep oil drilling (I don’t). This is what the government is for — regulating what society collectively believes is right or not. Now, you would rightly say “government is broken!” but that is not the fault of business, it is the fault of society.

      But I do want to point out a few things: Monsanto doesn’t “create monocultures devoid of crucial biodiversity.” I believe that American farm policy does. In fact, I think we can all point to Earl Butz, really, if we want to point fingers. Earl had no ties to Monsanto when he was overhauling our farming culture.

      I agree with you that food is the leading cause and solution to our health issues. But I think you are saying “Monsanto’s seeds” are here, and in fact that would be very much wrong. Monsanto doesn’t force food processors to create any certain foods — they sell the seeds. That’s it. I am not sure how you are demanding they are trying to control your food supply. Again, they sell seeds. Those seeds have to be grown and processed — by other companies — in order to become food. And of point in fact, you absolutely can not eat any Monsanto-derived products and I would argue that you’d likely end up much healthier as it would mean you are cutting out processed foods.

      “Then there was the widely reported story about rats and cancer that exploded on Twitter because of the scaryass pictures of mice with gigantic tumors. The science of the study was bunk.”. LIE. It wasn’t bunk, and if you are going to say it is, then prove it.

      Here.
      Here.
      Here.
      Here.

      Let me know if you need more proof.

      “Reuter’s reported on a paper that suggested pesticide use was increasing because of GMOs, without, apparently, doing any due diligence on the study, which again turned out to be drawn from bunk science.” LIE. I can’t speak for that one particular Reuter’s study, but there is plenty of PROOF that pesticide use has gone up since the introduction of GM crops. Way up. You don’t need to take my word for it, look at the statistics yourself from the Center for Food Safety – http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/USDA%20NASS%20Backgrounder-FINAL.pdf

      Of course, we are getting into a “my information vs. your information” discussion, which in my post is part of the problem — the lack of actual available evidence to truly understand these topics. I am quite sure you will claim my sources are biased. I, even though I agree with you on the overall topic, believe your sources to be biased. This is my point. I think further on in your rebuttal, you say that my assessment of this situation is a LIE. So I thought I would point it out here — there are no sources we can actually really rely on. And no, passing on unsubstantiated, unverified and unsure information from person to person doesn’t make it true, I think we all learned that in our backyards with two cans and a string. The lack of information is a problem, don’t brush it under the rug with some smug proposition that just because it is what we want it to be that it is true. That helps no one.

      Pesticides.
      First, please understand the background, which you can do here. Not all pesticides are created equal.
      Second, please read the comments in this post — FROM ACTUAL FARMERS who are reporting their experience with GMOs and how they reduce pesticide use.
      Three, there are some weed scientists I can refer you to, if you’d like. Let me know.
      And forth, here, here and here are some articles that refute center for food safety.

      I’d like to suggest this: when I learn more about Monsanto and GMOs, I am now seeing the possibilities. Like, what if we could steer them to attacking the current methods for growing strawberries. My mom eats gross Driscoll strawberries all year long and it freaks me out because those things are grown in a most toxic environment. What I see, and what I think you might be able to see if you actually stopped drinking haterade for one moment and thought about it, is that maybe, MAYBE Monsanto could help us clear up the disgusting practice of commercial strawberry growing. Would it be local/sustainable/etc? no. But commercial strawberry growing, in all likelihood, will NEVER be what we want — so, what then must we do? Do we just turn a blind eye and keep hoping for something that won’t happen or do we recalibrate our thinking and see what the best possible outcome could be.

      I think this is the real sad bit of organizations like Center for Food Safety. They have a specific agenda and I don’t even think that agenda is achievable. But something that might be drastically more awesome than what we have now actually might be achievable. But their campaigns of largely unsubstantiated fear mongering is keeping thinking people like you and me from creating a new and more sustainable and liveable solution. That’s sad stuff.

      “So, if you are keeping track here, at this point in the blog, it is the farmers that are “the problem” because they are creating the demand.” LIE I don’t know if you have kids, but let’s say you have a 15 year old son. He starts to take drugs and buys them from a local dealer. He gets hooked and buys more, getting better deals. Now, are you going to tell me that the “problem” is that your son is buying the drugs, or that there is someone selling them to him in the first place? Now you can tell me that is a bad analogy because drugs are illegal, but GMO’s could very well be illegal except that the people who make the laws are the same people that make the GMO’s!

      If your son is buying drugs and you are middle class or wealthy, it is your fault/failing, not the drug dealers because you did a shitty job raising your kid. Sorry, harsh but true. Take ownership of your failing. If your son is buying drugs and you are not doing well, it is your problem ultimately but I give you a huge pass because our society is so hellbent on keeping poor people in positions where they have no hope, decent education or respect. Either way, the drug dealer is taking advantage of an opportunity. If it wasn’t there, they wouldn’t have a job.

      Now, that said, I think you should talk to some actual farmers who buy GMOs before you make some grand proclamation about them getting caught in some horrible cycle of pain and suffering. They specifically CHOOSE the seeds that they believe will give them the best ROI. It is that simple. Many move in and out of GMOs and also selectively use them to address things like last winter’s warmth. I was where you are when I went to the USFRA breakfast. Go read my Backyarditarian blog post and you will see that. But the difference is, I have made a huge effort to learn and have begun to understand the real problems, not just ones I made up in my head.

      “Don’t pack a lunch with Oreos in it if you are planning to attend your local, neighborhood Occupy Monsanto protest.” TRUTH – but how are we to know not to buy Oreo’s if the pacakge isn’t labeled?! This is the whole point of the proposition – We have the RIGHT TO KNOW and make our own decisions.

      I get what you are saying here because the first time a Big Ag-er suggested that if I didn’t want to eat GMOs I should just buy organic I had the same reaction. It wasn’t until I went to Monsanto and spend 12 hours in a car with Grant talking about GMOs that I realized the real truth — GMOs ARE. IN. EVERYTHING. You know this, I assume, or you wouldn’t have responded so thoroughly. And let me ask you this: what is in your fridge? what’s in your kitchen? stuff you KNOW has GMOs? yet you still buy it. You know. You don’t want to eat them. You still buy it.

      And that’s the problem! Even those of us who KNOW and REALLY CARE still buy it. Why, if we still buy it, do you think the people who don’t care will change their behaviors? Why do you think they’ll give up the Oreos and the Count Chocula and the Lean Cuisines and the Soup and the (insert everything else).

      If it has a label, it is processed food, don’t eat it. If you want that changed, go march on Washington and let them know. Washington is the problem. WASHINGTON.

      “You don’t need a label. You already know that 95+ percent of the corn grown in America is GMO. ” LIE I know that, and you know that, but hundreds of millions of american’s DON’T KNOW that. Why? Because it’s not labeled!

      I’ll grant you this. You could say that all the uneducated people in America don’t know GMOs are in there but EVERYONE WHO SIGNED THE LABEL PETITION DOES. I’d argue that the other bunch probably has a healthy cross section of folks who don’t give a crap because they actually don’t give a crap about what they eat, which is why our country’s food supply is so polluted by processed foods. Americans are ignorant when it comes to food because they want to be.

      But what if we took the millions our side is pumping into pushing for labeling and educated them about the stuff?

      And let me toss out this: The label law, because of how it is written, is actually going to make gen pop immune to the idea of GMOs because 1) the label will be on so many things that the general public will plain old overlook it because it requires too much wholesale change in their lives to avoid the GMOs (cutting out lean processed beef is one thing — you can still eat hamburgers! just not Pink Slimers — cutting out EVERYTHING is another) and 2) the exceptions are stupid and will just create a system of food companies working thru loopholes because the problem really begins at the grain elevators and they simply don’t have the ability to separate the grain there 3) ship and iterate won’t work because the change has to happen so slowly that, again, consumers will be immune.

      Also, if you end up doing as much research as I have done on this lately, and I mean seeking out both sides of the issue to get a more scientific overview, you might actually come to the conclusion that without GMOs, we are likely to return to the system of heavy reliance on pesticides we had before GMOs. Read the history of agriculture in America — the commodity system we have, without GMOs, is frighteningly reliant on chemical inputs. I fear going back, frankly. It scares the crap out of me more than GMOs scare the crap out of me.

      “If you don’t like it, you need to work to change the lobbying laws, not get mad at a company taking legal advantage of them.” TRUTH – The ultimate solution needs to come from federal regulation but that will never happen as long as the Monsanto employees are the onces that create the laws

      I am not familiar with ONE Congressman or Senator who is a Monsanto employee. Please familiarize yourself with how a bill becomes a law. Monsanto employees definitely are tapped by government to run certain portions of government — as are industry titans from every sector of our economy. It is how our government is currently set up. But Monsanto employees don’t make laws. Ever.

      Focus on the right problems, Eron — that’s all I am saying.

      “We fall for the “All Natural” label, which has no government oversight whatsoever and actually means nothing. ” TRUTH – we do all fall for it, and it is naive and disenchanted to think that the majority of americans know that “all natural” is anything but. That’s why the companies say it – to fool consumers. You can’t blame consumers for buying products that get promoted to them 24 hours a day and are deemed safe by their government.

      Wait, really? Why can’t I? I can’t blame the person whose purse is snatched or the person who is murdered in a drive-by shooting. But the person who chooses not to educate themselves about the shit they shove down their gullet — hell yeah I can blame them. They are making a choice. And just like the smoker who chooses to start and chooses not to quit, I point a finger at the person who chooses not to think, for one lucid second, what the hell is in a Lean Cuisine anyway.

      Caveat Emptor. And while it is understood it likely had no place in Latin law, it is certainly a longstanding truism.

      I think we need to stop standing around like poor ignorant sheep and start focusing on educating people about food. Because I think the strategy of standing around like poor ignorant sheep got us here in the first place. It isn’t working for us.

      “They’re a bunch of people just doing their jobs and to be honest, they believe in what they are doing” LIE – not saying they’re not good people, but if they believed in what they were doing, then why would the cafeteria at Monsanto not have any GMO products?

      Have you eaten there? I have. Are you curious to know if I (and my hosts) ate GMO products at Monsanto? Or do you just want to perpetuate that myth. I mean, I don’t want to burst your bubble. I can imagine how being able to pass along that “chestnut” is important for a certain type of person with a certain type of aim. And I have no idea at this point what your aim is … is it truth and finding a way forward or is it hating? Cause I don’t know you and don’t really care one way or the other about your personal views

      Also, are you curious to know if I now have some kickass lip balm made from GMO soy, even?

      “They believe what they are doing is good for us, good for the environment, and the right thing to do — why doesn’t everyone see that?” LIE The author talks on and on about how what they’re doing is good for SHAREHOLDERS, at no point is it ever mentioned how or why GMOs are good for us or the environment

      Dude. The responsibility in this country for a publicly traded company is to deliver for stockholders. So, yes, I talk on and on about that. But it is also a different point to this. Don’t just twist shit to make a point. I met these people and sat with them for hours. I have done extensive follow up. I think I am more qualified than you, by the very fact that I have actually bloody talked to them and you haven’t, to make an assessment of what I believe their personal motives are. I don’t think you are helping anything by trying to incite anger and discredit me with your unverified and unsubstantiated opinions.

      Let’s not be Fox News for Liberals. Let’s be better than that. Let’s be rational people who seek the facts — the real facts — and engage the other side with truth and honesty instead of urban legend and plain old ignorant opinion. OK?

      “the reporting is so conflicting and so biased and, often, so ridiculous that, likely, we’ll never know who is right.” LIE – We know what’s right, and spreading the word one person at a time

      See above.

      The scary thing is, Eron, you don’t know what is right (I don’t either, so don’t go all crazypants that I am saying I do) and you actually also don’t know what you are wishing for and you actually don’t know what you could be giving up. That’s the bit I am fixated on right now. What could we do? What could we accomplish if we stopped assuming it is best to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      I am not eating GMOs. Actively. So don’t think I am some brainwashed drone here. I am on your side. If your side is to actually explore, honestly and with intellectual rigor, what the facts really are and how we could use them to achieve our aims.

      But really, don’t suggest that passing along dubious information from person to person is a viable solution to anything. Like I said to a gal on Twitter, we all know that Richard Gere had a incident with a squirrel, right? That’s how we sound. Ridiculous.

      I get where you are coming from, and you are 100% right that change needs to come from us, but we need to have all the information available to make those choices. You throw out that “99% of packaged stuff has GMO’s” as if that’s an absolute truth we need to accept. Well I for one don’t accept it.

      So…. your big conclusion is that you “don’t accept reality.” Seriously, go meditate on that. That’s like a diabetic not accepting the reality that sugar can kill them. Like, so they go ahead and eat the sugar in their not accepting realityness and die. Goodie, I guess, they won by not accepting reality. Cause, that’s how your statement sounds, yo.

      By saying accept reality, I am not suggesting that we shove GMOs down your throat like a foie gras goose. What I am suggesting is that as long as you “don’t accept” reality and keep buying their shit, you are supporting their business. DUDE. THINK! Seriously. What you are saying is completely illogical and what you are proposing is plain old dumb.

      Until you actually accept the reality, you will keep buying their shit, you will keep supporting their business. You can bawl and stomp your feet all you want but the reality is, you, my friend, are supporting their business model when you buy products that are produced from plants grown from their seeds. You are either part of the solution (not buying) or part of the problem (buying). You might not like it, but its the reality.

      And my point is: people like me —— and you — can be the fulcrum of real change in this world. But only if we accept the reality and the fight, strategically and smartly, to change that reality.

      October 31, 2012 at 9:17 am

      • Ellen, keep being awesome and keep digging deeper. What the world really needs is personal/parental responsibility. There’s entirely too much emphasis these days on people wanting someone else to watch out for them and protect us from everything that might be scary. Let’s all do some homework on the things that are important to us and at least take a glance at all sides of an issue. Even me, a farmer who plants transgenic crops, etc even if I find something I don’t like from time to time. Thanks for all you are doing.

        October 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm

        • elliecm

          Brian, thanks. BUT I AM EXHAUSTED!

          Here’s the thing: we need to be careful with the “personal responsibility” thing. I think many of us CAN be personally responsible and if we can, our responsibility is to be personally responsible. But the issue as a blanket statement also sends many of us softie lefties into a rabbit hole of thinking about how important government really is (Hurricane Sandy) and how sad it can be when we demand that people make their own way (the 47% comments).

          I am beginning to think that we really need new vocabularies for everything. Right now, it’s like we are Inuits with only one word for snow. So we bring up personal responsibility and we can’t even discuss it because your brain is going one way and my brain is going another. Or pesticides. Crap, that was an eye-opening learning I did when that discussion came up!

          It’s why Eron and I are having trouble communicating. Because he/she writes “not accepting reality” and I immediately understand that to be that he/she isn’t accepting that GMOs are in everything with a package and he/she is thinking all Rosa Parksy. And it makes the whole conversation so difficult because of the passion and frustration that the other side is saying something so seemingly crazypants.

          So, I totally agree with you when it comes to those of us who can make a choice, even if it is hard, that we need to take personal responsibility for that choice. But I also wanna say “watch out” because I think your statement, which I believe I know the point you are making and it doesn’t mean we should leave some poor starving kid to fend for himself, might set the other side off completely.

          November 1, 2012 at 7:46 am

          • Exactly. Personal responsibility doesn’t mean we don’t offer help to those who can’t help themselves. But let’s not enable those who could make something of themselves if they tried to remain sitting on their butts.

            I’ve had two conversations about pesticide in the last 24 hours in which I’ve had to clarify if the convo was really about insecticide. That’s part of the language barrier. I related squares and rectangles to pesticides. All insecticides are pesticides, but not all pesticides are insecticides. Technically speaking. I have a pesticide applicators license from the state of Indiana. That means I can apply insecticides and herbicides. Since “pest” is in there I think most people assume bugs. As a side note for the sake of confusion I cannot legally use fumigants with my license. But I’m a corn and soybean farmer, not and Orkin man so that’s fine.

            November 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm

  73. Eron

    Thanks for the prompt and thorough reply Ellen, I can see why your blog is so popular and interactive.
    To be honest I don’t have the time or energy right now to give a fittingly thorough “rebuttal” but there were a few things I wanted to address
    – In the blog commenting game of “Top That”, there always seems to be unnecessary degradation of the “opponent”, as if that is required to prove your point. Although your assumptions and vitriol would suggest otherwise, you don’t me, you don’t know my buying habits, you don’t know my education, or how I’ve obtained my information
    – You had a lot to say about me “not accepting” the reality of how pervasive GMOs are in our food supply. I believe you mistook “accept” in this context. I am quite aware of the situation as it stands today, but I refuse to accept it. There is a BIG difference between not accepting and ignoring. If a black man didn’t “accept” segregation in the 50’s and 60’s, would you accuse them of being out of touch with reality and “illogical and dumb” as you did with me? We as society have not accepted “realities” such as taxation without representation, slavery, prohibition, and segregation, and we’re working our way to not accepting chemical companies controlling our seeds, our food supplies, and our government policies to regulate them all
    – I’m thrilled you’re going to see Vandana Shiva and would love to hear your thoughts afterwards. She has more knowledge than the both of us combined, and is a vigilant detractor of GMO and supporter of labeling laws.
    – You’re a great writer with a lot of passion, a strong ability to clearly articulate your points, and a captive audience to take it all in. You also admittedly actively avoid GMO’s. Think about how much positive change you could create if you used your skills to promote why people should avoid GMOs, and encourage them to join together for REAL change, instead of defending one piece of a puzzle you oppose because it is getting “unfairly” singled out. I truly, truly hope that you use your powers for good :)

    November 1, 2012 at 1:16 am

    • elliecm

      Eron, thanks for commenting though I am disappointing you are bowing out of the conversation. I am finding everyone who is anti-GMO just bows out once the conversation gets difficult, which is super frustrating and likely a reason that we all as a society aren’t getting anywhere.

      Of course I don’t know anything about you. Which is why I asked questions in my comment rather than assuming. Though I will admit that my mind is right now wandering into assuming why you aren’t writing back. Please prove me wrong! And if I got something wrong — say so!

      I think one of the reasons our society has gotten so completely out of whack is that no one ever sits down with the other side and powers through the difficult conversations. Everyone gets all dainty and walks away. How will this ever bring about a kind of understanding that forces change? Monsanto let me in their doors, despite knowing I thought what they did was pure evil. They were brave and brought a bunch of high-level people into a conference room to not lecture to me, to ask me questions and hear what I had to say. They were even polite enough to say, “this was made with GMOs if you don’t want to eat it, it’s ok.” Why is it when I bring this information back to my camp, everyone freaks out an calls me a liar and a drone, biased toward Big Ag, etc. Yea, that is frustrating so maybe there is some frustration in there.

      Writing is hard because there is no facial expression to help convey points. What you see as vitriol is, really, how I talk. Intense, sure, sometimes I think Grant just gets exhausted sitting in the same room as me. I am known for that in every area of my life. (My poor business partner!) I tend to just say what is on my mind without much editing, so it’s not vitriol, it’s just me. Though, as I mentioned above, there is likely a tang of frustration, too. Because I was where you are now a few short months ago and it is so frustrating to me that the anti-GMO folks aren’t getting the actual reality that their purchase behavior is really the only way to effect real change. Prop 37, if it passes, isn’t going to do much of anything. There are too many loopholes and too many ways to create new loopholes. And I think it will end up being counter-productive. That’s frustrating. But actually not nearly as frustrating as the fact that I don’t think anyone has thought about what will happen in agriculture if we loose GMOs. We’re not going back to some agrarian ideal of 1899. We’d go back to cropdusting kinda stuff.

      I want to figure out how to break through the brick wall of thinking the Little Aggers have erected and see if I can get them to pass along, person to person, that maybe we need to think a little clearer.

      But there was no unnecessary degradation — any more or less than the degradation of my new friends. Yes, friends. There are many I am meeting who are now becoming my friends because they are good people and believe in the same outcomes in life that I do — healthy planet with healthy people. I can now begin to see that we just get there a different way. And so yes, it is degrading — all the Little Aggers who have called me a liar for stating that these are good people just trying to do a good job and who actually believe what they are doing is ultimately good. But the people getting degraded are not you and me, it’s them.

      Accepting — I get where you are going. Here’s what I am saying: change didn’t really start happening for the black man (or woman — Rosa! Parks!) until they would not accept the reality by not sitting in the back of the bus. They simply stopped complying. And my suggestion to you is that you do the same — Stop. Buying. If you don’t accept, you don’t buy. You throw the tea overboard! That is the point of my blog post. That is the first step in “not accepting.”

      From what I see, your not accepting is wanting there to be a label on a package because you hope that what will happen is a replica of the Pink Slime market failure. Please tell me if I am getting this wrong. (Again, always!) But what I am saying is that if we are really going to not accept reality, we absolutely can’t buy the stuff. That’s our equivalent of not sitting in the back of the bus.

      When Grant was here one morning post-Monsanto, we were sitting at my kitchen table and I told him my grand conclusion about GMOs and the color drained from his face. Of course, as I was telling him this, he was eating a little snacky from Starbucks. Grant is a model of local eating. Crazypants awesome commitment, concerned, active, everything. And yet, he had been running late that morning and stopped at Starbucks on the way. What most people would say is: “it sucks that he is so trapped by the pervasiveness of GMOs that he has so few choices, or really no viable choices!” And I say, sure, yeah, but whining about that doesn’t get us to our goal. The only — and I mean ONLY! — way we would get to the goal of no GMOs is if we don’t buy them. Period. Ever. That is the reality I am hoping people accept when they are actively not accepting reality.

      But again, I think a little more thinking is needed. I think (and I don’t know, I simply am starting to think) that GMOs might actually be BETTER for our environment than non-GMOs. And so far, really, I am trying, I am not finding any conclusive evidence that says GMOs in and of themselves are actually bad. I am learning this and while I am not sure yet, I am seeing enough evidence and coupling that with enough logic about what we’ll return to in ag if we lose GMOs to wonder if getting rid of GMOs is actually even the smartest solution.

      Really. Feels all kinds of f-ed up to write that but if I am going to be honest and not just politically correct, that’s where my head is right now.

      I am really sad you didn’t respond to those questions about your kitchen. It is hard to answer those questions and when I ordered a pizza the other night because I was utterly broken down with exhaustion from my job (good exhaustion, we reached the goal, but the climb to the summit was debilitating), I reminded myself of the choices I was really making. I was supporting, lock-stock and two smoking guns, industrial ag, food additives, CAFOs. Unfortunately, the pizza was tasty. GGGRRRR!!!

      This is just one piece of the puzzle, sure, but this is the blog comments of one meal out of one hundred. It is supposed to be just a piece. But considering the law under discussion, it is clearly important. And actually, it might be one of The Most Important. Because this was the breakthrough blog. This was the one meal where my post-prandial digestion starting breaking down my own brick walls of ignorance.

      I hope you join us for the whole puzzle, sure, but definitely hope you join back for this piece of the puzzle. Is it hard? YES! Really, really hard! Does it mean we have to hear things we don’t want to hear, in ways we might not like hearing them? YES! So what! We’re adults here! And does it mean we might have to admit we were wrong? Double Triple YES! I did! And anyway, Jeff Bezos says that means I am super smart so, fine! I was wrong, Bezos!!

      But just because it hard and means we might be wrong doesn’t mean we should abandon the conversation.

      I kinda wanna double dog dare you to stay — unlike most every one of the anti-GMO folks who, I can only surmise, can’t stomach one of their own joining asking them really hard questions (OK, I’ll add — aggressively. Ugh, working on that. My biz partner is helping me, and I swear I am trying).

      As for the writing: THANKS! I am so not a writer, so I do appreciate the props. Here’s the funny thing — this is me trying to use my powers for good. It’s me trying to enter into a conversation with the other side (BigAg) as civilly as possible (I fail a lot!) and with an open mind (I am actually pretty good at that!). Why don’t you do the same? No one says you have to agree, but maybe you would just listen, with the idea that you are willing to learn. It is super crazy exhausting and often the very people you are most philosophically aligned will call you out as a LIAR when you aren’t and that is depressing at best but the nugget is that possibly you’ll have a better view of the future that maybe could make a difference.

      Because I don’t know you, but I can safely guess that you want those damn Driscoll strawberries to be grown differently. And I think there’s a way to get that done. And I think our world deserves that kind of new reality if we can all work together to get there.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:35 am

      • Eron

        Great reply Ellen. There is ONE reason why I bowed out of the conversation – time. I have a more than full-time job that has nothing to do with anything we’re discussing, and a full-time 3 month old son who I will do my best to make sure never has a GMO in his body. I would have this conversation all day long if I could (if you don’t believe me then ask my wife and everyone I work with :))

        As for me and my family? We are working to eradicate all processed foods, shop as much as possible at Farmer’s markets, make our own dressings and sauces, buy non-gmo verified and organic whenever the option is available, and are ingredient hawks at the grocery stores. So yes – I am doing all I can to “put my money where my mouth is”.

        Let me make one thing clear. I believe in Prop 37 more for the indirect impact of what will spawn from it then the direct impact if it’s stated mission. Having one state require GMO labeling is absurd for every part of the chain of food supply. But what it does is help to elevate the national debate over federal labeling laws so that we can catch up with the rest of the modern world. Even beyond that, once consumers become more aware and choose not to eat GMO’s, the good people of Monsanto will follow the money and find something else to do.

        Monsanto is one part of a much larger, systemic problem that our country has with food. It’s one of the biggest singular players though, and therefore has become the “face” of this movement. I for one have no problem with that.

        November 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        • elliecm

          Thanks for responding. It’s awesome to know you are living the gospel as well! I found the easiest way was to remove ALL processed foods completely. Which means eating meat, veg, fruit, fat. Boom — that’s it. I swear I feel better. That said. When I am exhausted, though, I fall off wagon and order a pizza. Frustrating!!!!

          I gotta ask a bunch of questions:

          • If your time is so limited, why are you spending it spreading rumors instead of campaigning for truth?
          • And this seems the same but it sorta isn’t: Does it bother you that a lot of the information “we” have about Monsanto is wrong? Or are you OK with it as long as it serves the goal of spreading no-GMO gospel?
          • Does it worry you that using Monsanto as the scapegoat for our country’s systemic problem might be diverting efforts from an initiative more likely to achieve an outcome we want?
          • Are you even remotely curious to explore the idea that Monsanto technology, which in vegetables is not used to create GMOs, could in fact possibly do things like “save strawberries” or do you just want the evil to go away? Or put another way: Are you so blinded by rage that you’d be willing to chop off the head before finding out if they really are your enemy or not? I think there must be a Shakespearean version of that, something about someone storming a castle in a suit of armor and getting killed before the King realizes it is his son or something.
          • Do you consider the idea that without GMOs, we might return to more aggressively pollution-driven agriculture? Which we factually know will harm your son? Because no matter what you and I believe, the danger of GMOs is actually not factually proven or not. It’s unknown, really, but BPA is known, for example. Maybe we should be campaigning against GRAS, which is far and away more scary in a real way.
          • This whole idea of “just getting a win and banking on a snowball” is really incredibly shortsighted. I stand in the grocery store and watch what people put in their carts and I realize that what we are talking about is a wholesale change of our entire society — not buying Lean Textured Beef is one thing, not buying EVERYTHING is another. And one can’t ignore the fact that Americans are lazy sons of bitches who seem hellbent on ignoring everything they should pay attention to in the quest for convenience and cheapness. And I worry that the whole thing is gonna get watered down to a point where no one cares. I think it is a risky proposition, what the Prop 37 people are suggesting. And it isn’t that I don’t get “ship and iterate,” I run a tech company after all.

            I think Little Agsters want to feel a win because it would make them feel good. A checkmark in their column. Like I say — be careful what you wish for.

          November 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm

  74. I have personally always seen the main issue at hand to be the processing of the food that we throw into our grocery carts. I don’t throw that into my cart. I have not done so for many years. What I do throw into my cart is what Ellen eats: fruits, veggies, meats, fat. I also eat a very, very limited amount of corn and wheat (because I love mexican tacos and burritos so much.) I am sure where we differ a little is that I don’t buy organic, unless thats the only lettuce that day to buy.

    I don’t throw processed food or fast food or prepared foods into my basket. Most of them contain MSG which makes me sick and makes my joints hurt. When I don’t eat MSG, I am fine.

    I am a farmer. I agree with so many of the things that the “non-farm community who are concerned with their food” that I often find myself wondering where the problem is. But as you have pointed out many times Ellen, the problems are that both sides have ear plugs in and that we all call out for pizza or stop by Starbucks for a sweet thingy.

    I BELIEVE that GMOs are safe from the many sources that I have found over the course of the past year while doing my own one hundred meals research. I KNOW that GMOs are letting us farm in a cleaner safer way than ever before on our own farm and we will not go back to non-GMO farming that would require us to revert back to enormus chemical usage and more tillage on the soil. We would quit and someone would take over our farms who would be willing to go back to the old way of chemical and tillage methods. Those farms would not revert back to belly high grass with buffalo grazing.

    You are also so right to point out that there is research besides GMO research that is improving our food and how we can grow that food. That research is so vitally important for our future.

    I will never be able to grow all my own food: 1) I don’t want to 2) The Chihuahuan Desert doesn’t grow much of anything anyway 3) who would run my business for 10 hours a day while I tended my garden?

    I need farmers to raise my food. I need food companies to do a better job and stop putting MSG into everything. I need places like Monsanto to keep doing research so that Ellen’s mother can have strawberries when ever she likes.

    November 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    • elliecm

      Thanks, Susie! You are an awesome addition to the conversation, as always. I love tacos and burritos too. Apparently also pizza. Hope to some day visit your desert!!!!

      November 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  75. Dave Miller

    I am a farmer in southern Iowa. I grow corn and soybeans because those are the crops that will make my farm most profitable. Nearly all my seed contains Monsanto’s Round-up Ready genes. But to avoid development of herbicide resistance on my land, I generally to not use Round-up on my corn, unless due to weather and other factors there are weeds that were not controlled by the other herbicide applications. The land I farm is hilly. In the “good old days” farmers plowed the fields and with heavy rainfall events tons of soil were eroded away. I farm all of my land with “no-till” There is virtually no erosion of these fields now. I could not farm no-till if it were not for GMOs.
    I used to plant “public varieties” of soybeans, and saved back part of the crop as seed for the next year. I quit doing that because the yields were substandard. There is very little support for research on public varieties — the public wanted private industry to fund that research. Now it does, and with that we have had consolidation in the seed industry because research is expensive and to a large degree is only affordable with large scale sales to support the research.
    My father farmed when hybrid seeds were developed. They switched from open pollinated seeds to hybrid seeds because their farm was more profitable when they incorporated the technology of hybrid seeds into their farm. During the more than 40 years when I have farmed, I have seen the adoption of biotechnology in our seed technology. I use that biotechnology because I am more profitable using it and because I can take better care of my land using biotechnology.
    On a more philosophical note, everyone makes choices. We choose the life we want to live. If eating organic is really important to you, please go buy a parcel of land and grow organic foods. Knowing what I know about how the genes in GMOs express themselves in corn and soybeans as proteins or amino acids that the body breaks down like nearly any other protein or amino acid (and yes, I am aware that some people have allergies to particular proteins like tree nuts, milk proteins, etc), I have no problem eating GMOs. Yes, I mostly eat a healthy diet (a good balance of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, etc), but I also occasionally enjoy a HoHo or a Snickers bar. I like that our food system provides bountiful food choices at very affordable prices. I like that I can choose to not spend 2 or 3 hours per day in the kitchen. I understand there are those that choose differently, but please do not make the assumption that I make my choices out of ignorance or lack of information.
    I used to have a great big garden – nearly an acre. I did it because the land was available and I had “excess labor” (time to work in the garden rather than do other things) and it made financial sense for me to try and grow my own foods. Now, I have other things that I would rather do with the time. I like the fact that our food system allows me to go to a grocery store and buy a lot of products that are pre-packaged, processed or save me labor. As a consumer, the system is doing exactly what I want it to do.

    Thank you Ellie for a very thoughtful blog and continued line of discussion. You are asking the right questions.
    As for me, Monsanto is not my enemy, nor do they control me. I can choose to not use their product any time I like. I amy not be able to make that decision without it costing me more, but I can make that decision. The options are there. The products they offer are the best for my farm and I hope they continue to develop new products that allow the science of biotechnology to improve product quality, yield, insect resistance and other factors.

    November 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    • elliecm

      THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS DAVE MILLER! It really helps us to read really straight-forward accounts from actual farmers. Please stay with the discussion as we go thru our meals and weigh in when you can! Thanks!!!!!

      November 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    • Well said, Dave. I too am a farmer who uses biotech. One misconception I continually run into is farmers like you and I are locked into using a particular company’s products once we start using them. I came across this idea enough times that I figured I may as well just scan a copy of my Monsanto technology agreement and put it on my website and then break it down line by line in my own words. As you know, we aren’t bound by any contract to purchase seed from anyone from one year to the next. I could try and grow bananas next year, but it probably won’t work out too well, so I grow corn, soybeans, popcorn, and wheat again. I look at buying seed each year as division of labor. Seed companies large and small are very good at breeding, etc. You and I do a very good job growing a bountiful crop.

      Here’s a link to that post about those tech agreements we sign. http://su.pr/2ySr27

      November 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm

  76. Eron

    Ellen – I know your chummy chum with the Monsanto folks ever since they let you spend time with them, but please try to see this through a broader lens. There are artificial “ingredients” that make up 90% of our food supply that have not been required for federal testing and is relied upon by the scientists who work for the manufacturer’s (many of which you get “unflattering” results are summarily fired and discredited. Don’t have time to post the links, look it up, not hard to find)
    You seem to think that the whole country is as informed as you and your readers. Newslfash – their not. And they never will be if the information stays hidden from them.
    Take a look at this link – http://www.swagbucks.com/p/polls. It is a poll that ran on Swagbucks.com(my company) with a user submitted question about GMO’s. We had over 65,000 people respond (a pretty decent “sample size” I’m sure you’ll agree) and over 400 comments. 60% did not know what a GMO was. 60%! And you blame THEM for buying products with those ingredients when they’re not being told that they are in those products?! This is the definition of CRAZY!
    And no, it doesn’t bother me one bit if Monsanto is being scapegoated for our systemic problems. I don’t care how many good things they do, they are a significant player in controlling the food supply to a country that is suffering from a food-related health CRISIS. Shame on Monsanto, and shame on you for defending them.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    • elliecm

      Eron, I totally appreciate you still commenting cause this is really important. I am down with the food additives that are not regulated/tested appropriately. Grant and I plan on covering these issues on our project and I agree with you that what seems to be the reality of GRAS is totally scary. And freakypants, as Grant pointed out, that we tend to eat these food additives with more regularity than we may take drugs that require more testing. It’s f-ed up.

      But I gotta point out that the GRAS issue you reference and lack of testing of food additives has virtually nothing to do with GMOs or Monsanto, right?

      This isn’t me “defending” them. This is me pointing out an indesputable fact.

      Unrelated to this comment but responding to yours: I don’t ever presume that most Americans know about GMOs, so I am not sure where that comes from. What I do speculate that, based on the buying habits of people who do know about GMOs (including myself!) I believe most either don’t care or won’t care enough to change their buying habits to accomodate the complete and utter penetration of GMOs in our food supply. That belief and your claim are two different things.

      I am super sorry I am frustrating you so — and asking hard questions that aren’t fun to answer. It sucked for me, too, when I was starting to learn. But I think this is precisely the kind of discussion we all need to have to get to not only the truth, but possibly a way forward. Hope you take my comments on face value and not assume a bunch of sarcasm or snarkiness. I write with humility and compassion.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

  77. Eron

    You said:
    “And my suggestion to you is that you do the same — Stop. Buying.”

    “…if we are really going to not accept reality, we absolutely can’t buy the stuff.”

    “The only — and I mean ONLY! — way we would get to the goal of no GMOs is if we don’t buy them. Period. Ever.”

    Tell me then, how do you expect consumers to stop buying GMO products if they don’t know what products contain GMO’s? It would seem that of all people you would be the first in line to endorse a labeling law – but you don’t. And why is that?

    Because you’ve already decided that it won’t work:

    “And one can’t ignore the fact that Americans are lazy sons of bitches who seem hellbent on ignoring everything they should pay attention to in the quest for convenience and cheapness.”

    “I believe most either don’t care or won’t care enough to change their buying habits”

    “Americans are ignorant when it comes to food because they want to be.”

    If I may borrow that broad-tipped brush of yours, Americans aren’t stupid – they’re just lemmings. Americans didn’t know what carbohydrates were until they were told (right or wrong) that they’re bad. Now everything is low carb. They didn’t know what gluten was until they were told (right or wrong) it was bad. Now everything is gluten-free. They’re not gonna know what GMO’s are until we tell them (right or wrong) it is bad. Then everything can be GMO free.

    Unfortunately that won’t happen because people like you don’t believe they have the right to know what’s in their food.

    November 2, 2012 at 1:06 am

    • elliecm

      One big question: under what circumstances would you consider taking a different position about GMOs?
      For example: Would you consider a different position if GMOs actually did reduce pesticide use and thus made for more sustainable industrial farming practices?
      I really am interested in finding this out.

      And then my responses:

      I don’t endorse Prop37 for a few reasons:
      1) because I think having something “just in California” and “ripe with loopholes” is not actually going to solve the problem in any meaningful way — and I sincerely am concerned that the non-meaningfulness is going to make people immune to the concept of GMOs in general so it will ultimately backfire the initiative.
      2) because I think the way the law is written is ridiculous — and that the ridiculousness is going to create situations like two people sitting in a McDonald’s or a Starbucks toasting a Big Win on Prop37 because they absolutely don’t want to eat GMOs… while they are eating GMOs.
      3) because I don’t conclusively believe that we actually understand what industrial agriculture will become after GMOs — so I see this whole initiative as a Pandora’s box and I am willing to fight for more understanding and transparency in order to get to a real solution.
      4) because I don’t believe that a wrong law/label/whatever is in any way good — low-carb food is really freaking bad for people — just like low-fat food was — and we can all see that the more we perpetuate wrong ideas the sicker American’s and their food supply becomes. (Those with diagnosed Celiac aside, gluten-free food also diverts Americans away from really understanding the point of what is “wrong” with their diet in the first place.)

      For the record, I do believe that an animal that unthinkingly follows the herd off a cliff to it’s death (the popular conception of lemmings) is, in fact, stupid. So I think we have some semantic differences there. But I would love to hear from your perspective in what instance that is a good thing.

      I do think people should know what is in their food — absolutely! But in an intelligent way. Unfortunately, the information that we all have access to is biased and filled with folklore. The very stuff you posted in your original comments — and since, actually — is the exact stuff I was learning before I started to actually start getting to the truth. That Monsanto doesn’t have GMOs in their cafeterias, that there are additives in our food that are killing us and those additives have something to do with GMOs, that thousands of poor Indian farmers committed suicide because of GMOs and not because of widespread drought and horrible government support.

      You might think it is OK for American’s to shove a bunch of low-carb or low-gluten crap in their bodies because, wait, why? Why do you even use those analogies, they are ridiculous. I want more for them. I want them to be honestly educated and not just ramrodded into something just because a portion of the population is scared and doesn’t have the wherewithall to do actual research to discover the truth.

      Also, I have done the best I can to answer all your questions as honestly and forthrightly as I can because I believe it is the honorable thing to do in this conversation. I know the answers get long, but I also want you to know I am listening and considering all your comments and questions so I do apologize for the length of my responses! Just trying to do right by you in the back and forth!

      November 2, 2012 at 8:04 am

  78. Pingback: Trust is increasingly important component of food system « Ohio Ag Net | Ohio's Country Journal

  79. Eron

    Would you consider a different position if GMOs actually did reduce pesticide use and thus made for more sustainable industrial farming practices?
    Let’s say it did reduce pesticide use. At what expense? destroying our health and biodiversity? You continue to say that there is no proof of harmful effects of GMO’s (I disagree), but how could you possibly be in favor of something dominating our food supply without FIRST undergoing mandatory, LONG TERM, human studies?

    1) That’s nice that you have concern it will backfire, but it didn’t backfire in the 50+ countries that now label GMOs so I don’t know why it should be any different here. On that note, please answer me this – why do your pals at Monsanto fully support GMO labeling in the UK but spend millions of dollars to prevent it in the US – http://renegadehealth.com/blog/monsanto-supported-gmo-labeling-in-uk

    2) What’s so ridiculous about keeping the law focused on CPG’s? Seems to me that this will help to remove loopholes and makes it a very focused proposition

    3) This is totally irrelavant to Prop 37. Whether GMO’s are good or bad, industrial agriculutral becomes better or worse, has nothing to do with it being labeled in the ingredients so I can know what’s in the food I buy. This proposition does not call for a warning sign like cigarettes, just a label in the ingredients

    4) Agreed – low fat and and low carb is really bad – because it is UNNATURAL. We need carbs and fats to function properly. For whatever impact GMO’s have in agriculture, they have NO BENEFITS to human health. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. So yes, if it’s in my food, I want to know about it

    If you want people to know what’s in their food as you claim, then TELL THEM WHAT’S IN THEIR FOOD. There is no more intelligent way than this. How do you tell them? LABELS. Many people will ignore it, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there for the people that want to know.

    Not thousands of indian farmers. hundreds of thousands of indian farmers. When are you going to see Vandana Shiva? She’ll set you straight. And if you disagree with her when her talk is over, then I implore you to get on the mic during Q&A and tell her she’s wrong because you went to Monsanto HQ and you know better than she does. I’m no expert, but I am passing along info that came from one.

    I also want Americans to be educated but we that is very difficult when the companies with the most money and the unhealthiest products have the biggest megaphone and control the message. But what good would education do if people didn’t know what was in their food?

    I truly appreciate the comprehensive answers, you definitely don’t need to apologize for being thorough in your response

    November 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    • elliecm

      Eron, thanks for your full on comment! I am out for rest of day. will get back to you tomorrow!! didn’t want you thinking I was blowing you off. THANKS!

      November 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    • elliecm

      Sorry I was MIA yesterday. I run my own company and it sometimes leaves me exhausted by the end of the week. Add in all this and boom. I BE TIRED!

      Would you consider a different position if GMOs actually did reduce pesticide use and thus made for more sustainable industrial farming practices?
      Let’s say it did reduce pesticide use. At what expense? destroying our health and biodiversity? You continue to say that there is no proof of harmful effects of GMO’s (I disagree), but how could you possibly be in favor of something dominating our food supply without FIRST undergoing mandatory, LONG TERM, human studies?

      THANKS FOR ANSWERING THE QUESTION! This is a variation of the question I am asking Vandana Shiva today and I think it is an important one.

      Biodiversity (I’ll assume you are not talking about the insect populations that are coming back as a result of reduced ‘cide use but rather actual flora/fauna diversity on farms. I agree! IMPORTANT! But GMOs have nothing to do with this issue. Farm Policy, subsidies, etc. do.

      HEALTH! AGREED! this is why, despite what I am finding is virtually all credible scientific evidence proves that GMOs are safe, I choose not to eat them. I totally am with you there. I say there is no proof of harmful effects because, really, there isn’t. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with you that I am leery and avoid them. Just my own personal heebeejeebees. But I embrace the fact that it is that. Like my irrational fear of flying despite the fact that I often drive around the city without a helmet on a scooter. Irrational but works for me. (I am flying for Thanksgiving to see my mom, though, cause Moms trump irrational fear.)

      1) That’s nice that you have concern it will backfire, but it didn’t backfire in the 50+ countries that now label GMOs so I don’t know why it should be any different here. On that note, please answer me this – why do your pals at Monsanto fully support GMO labeling in the UK but spend millions of dollars to prevent it in the US – http://renegadehealth.com/blog/monsanto-supported-gmo-labeling-in-uk

      All do respect, what I have read about the label laws in other countries (a lot of really boring academic papers) is stupid sad. Strict laws that are completely unmonitored. Laws that allow tons of stuff but labels a sliver, like maybe soy oil. Laws that are completely bypassed by repackaging goods. Also, those laws were mostly put into effect before GMOs had completely infiltrated the food supply so the implementation of even dumb laws. So, I am not sure how much those laws should be something we look to for salvation.

      I can’t answer the GMO in UK question without asking Monsanto. I wish I could even guess but I am not sure, really. A lot of the studies of label laws in other countries point to people not caring or choosing the product because it is cheaper. Some just takes one product off a shelf and leaves so much that maybe it looks like good PR to seem a good citizen. But this is all just crap coming out of my head and I think we need less of people like me making shit up and more asking Monsanto and demanding a straight answer. (For the record, they are really good about sending you third party information, and that includes links to things like Treehugger so don’t be all skeptical that the stuff they send is “biased.” Although Treehugger is definitely biased!! (that was a funny).

      2) What’s so ridiculous about keeping the law focused on CPG’s? Seems to me that this will help to remove loopholes and makes it a very focused proposition

      My experience in this country has been that CPGs don’t close loopholes. My experience is that one of the things this country seems to excel at is to create loopholes and then widen them.

      3) This is totally irrelavant to Prop 37. Whether GMO’s are good or bad, industrial agriculutral becomes better or worse, has nothing to do with it being labeled in the ingredients so I can know what’s in the food I buy. This proposition does not call for a warning sign like cigarettes, just a label in the ingredients

      I can kinda see where you are going there, yes. But I think the goal, if I am not mistaken, is a cleaner food supply and a healthier planet, no? I don’t suppose you are going all Veruca Salt and demanding a label and demanding it now just because. I imagine that it has a larger, more productive goal than that. And if so, what is the goal? And is the label going to get us there?

      Because if GMOs are shifting a completely ‘cide driven agricultural industry to more planet-healthy practices, we all win, no? And if people are not educated on the realities of GMOs (like, they have nothing to do with the additives in our food, as you noted earlier) they might be making a decision that is diametrically opposed to their goals.

      Please note: there are ALL DIFFERENT KINDS of GMOs. From the salmon (still freaks me out) to the drought-tolerant corn that leverages a naturally occurring protein to inserting weird non-plant DNA into a seed to everything else. Again, like being Inuits with one word for snow, having one designation — GMO — for a gigantic spectrum of stuff is super limiting for all of us.

      4) Agreed – low fat and and low carb is really bad – because it is UNNATURAL. We need carbs and fats to function properly. For whatever impact GMO’s have in agriculture, they have NO BENEFITS to human health. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. So yes, if it’s in my food, I want to know about it

      Well, now here I have to disagree. For one, fewer pesticides in your sons food would be a good thing, no? And in his water supply? And in the fatty fish his body will need but unfortunately right now are magnets for agricultural toxins.

      It seems to me that Monsanto is making a concerted effort to create products that they believe are positive for human health. Things like Vistive Gold Soybean Oil. This stuff is specifically designed to be a healthier fat for folks to fry in, etc. And why fries aren’t awesome, we can’t deny that Americans shovel a lot of them into their gullets and if they can do that and the fat doesn’t contain trans fats, that’s a good thing, no?

      And this is really a peek into what I see as a possibility. They are also getting into vegetables in a super interesting way. Again, probably not making products that you and I would buy, but products that, maybe, someone without access to nutrient dense foods could choose and get better nutrients. I won’t go into a long bit about that because I am thinking of making this a One Hundred Meal topic, but I think, really, there is a possibility for “us” as a society to say to Monsanto — we want you to take your seed chipper technology and make strawberries that can grow without methyl iodide, which WILL be TOTALLY BENEFICIAL to human health.

      If you want people to know what’s in their food as you claim, then TELL THEM WHAT’S IN THEIR FOOD. There is no more intelligent way than this. How do you tell them? LABELS. Many people will ignore it, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there for the people that want to know.

      That statement is not arguable, of course. I would like for people to actually have facts surrounding the information. Again, you’ve demonstrated that you, who cares a ton for this stuff, are not armed with verifiable facts. There was another commenter this morning that didn’t even know that corn was essentially 95% GMO in this country. What the hell are you guys fighting against? You don’t even know.

      That is my problem with Prop 37. That and the fact that it doesn’t solve the problem, if there is one. It is a little band aid on a head wound.

      Which is why I came to the only logical conclusion if one wants to avoid GMO — don’t buy products in packages. Period. Ever.

      Not thousands of indian farmers. hundreds of thousands of indian farmers. When are you going to see Vandana Shiva? She’ll set you straight. And if you disagree with her when her talk is over, then I implore you to get on the mic during Q&A and tell her she’s wrong because you went to Monsanto HQ and you know better than she does. I’m no expert, but I am passing along info that came from one.

      I am going to see her today. And I am going to get on the mic and ask her a question. I am not asking about the Indian farmers because there is too much actual factual information from which I can glean the answer, which is that they died from the drought and shitty government. Here, which I share not for the article as much as the references at the bottom.

      It was a lonely moment in my life when I came back from Monsanto and started Googling all the “facts” that I felt I had learned from Vandana Shiva. She is an activist. Her heart is in the right place. She has a lot of amazing motives. I believe that people like her belong in this world and that they have a noble purpose and a higher vision for the world that we all need. But I also encourage you to read the research around her theories as fervently as you read her books.

      I also want Americans to be educated but we that is very difficult when the companies with the most money and the unhealthiest products have the biggest megaphone and control the message. But what good would education do if people didn’t know what was in their food?

      I think people do need to know what is in their food. If I had my way, Prop 37 would be focused on rejecting GRAS. I think that food additives will impact your lovely son’s life more than a GMO label. BPA! WHY IS THAT NOT BANNED! Why don’t cans have a label! Aspartame! Why do we not run Rumsfeld up the freaking flag pole for that bullshit. What I want is for us, those of us with passion, to focus on getting solid information and then focus on the right battles. We only have so many chess moves. Only so many times we can gain the national megaphone. Why the hell are we wasting it on freaking GMO labeling when we don’t even have accurate information about it period? Why are we not outraged by shit we absolutely know is absolutely killing us?

      That’s my point.

      I truly appreciate the comprehensive answers, you definitely don’t need to apologize for being thorough in your response

      Thanks. My business partner is obviously failing in his quest to make my writing shorter. Much, much shorter. He needs to work harder.

      Have a great day, Eron.

      November 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

    • elliecm

      One more thing I just realized.

      By spreading half-truths and outright untruths, what we on our side are doing is scaring people into just plain old fearing GMOs, which actually takes away their choice. If we want people to have true choice, our role — those of us like you and me who are outspoken on the topic — is to dig deep into research, be diligent on being clear about what is absolutely true and what is “supposed,” and to make sure we are, in fact, telling the absolute truth.

      That would be us campaigning for choice.

      November 3, 2012 at 8:42 am

  80. I think you have done a fantastic job with this piece!! I am all for power of the dollar, as in any industry, you have to have a product that consumers are willing and excited to buy, at a price they are willing to pay. While Organic is a fantastic option, many consumers are unable to pay the increased cost. Developing ownership and responsibly spending your dollars, on the products you know, trust and believe in is the way to create markets. Agriculture is constantly in a state of change and development, we have to keep up with the products consumers want and can afford. If there weren’t farmers growing all sorts of fresh and healthy choices for you to choose from at the store, you’d be left with only the products made with “… all a bunch of gross made-up chemicals…” Take an inventory of every. single. thing. you eat and drink, just for one day. Think about where those items started out, how they were produced, how they made their way to the point of purchase and ultimately how you felt when you purchased them. Incredible. We are all guilty of making bad choices (myself included), but I take ownership in my decision to vote with my dollar, and expect others to do the same. Thank you for this! Nicely done!

    November 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm

  81. stephanie

    This essay is intriguing, but founded on faulty logic: The author criticizes consumers for purchasing foods containing GMO’s, because by doing so, we’re encouraging the industry. But how are consumers supposed to KNOW that they are consuming GMO’s, if the product is not labeled? The authors answer, that we should already know, is illogical:

    “And this is the thing, we’re the ones who are doing the wrong thing: when we leave the Occupy Monsanto meeting, pumped up and ready for a fight, and we stop by Whole Foods to get a snack and we actively ignore the fact that it is likely laced with GMOs if it isn’t labeled organic”

    We are “actively ignoring” that our food is “LIKELY laced” with GMO’s?? Not even the author can make a definite statement about what does and does not contain GMO’s. The dubiousness of this statement is *exactly* what labelling is supposed to fix. It is supposed to make us aware of the fact that “95+ percent of the corn grown in America is GMO” (which I did NOT know…) Genetically Modified Organisms are definitely not on peoples radar as much as is assumed in this article.

    I also don’t understand the “poor Monsanto” mentality here- First off, Apple IS trying and SUCCEEDING at dominating the phone market, just as Monsanto is dominating the seed market, and that doesn’t make either of these companies defensible. Yeah, Monsanto is trying to make a profit and protect their market. Duh. That doesn’t make what they do okay. Using lobbying laws to promote the welfare of your company is legal, but that doesn’t mean its not shady and it’s not selfish. Monsanto is a multinational corporation, and they have the money (lots of it) to pool enough legal resources and lobbying efforts that no opposing force could match them. I guess that’s just capitalism. But if a company is worried about labels on their product, explaining what is IN their product, than maybe their is more to Monsanto seeds than what they would like you to think. Either way, why don’t people have a right to know?

    November 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    • elliecm

      Stephanie, thanks for posting.
      I’ll jump right in: if in fact you were unaware of the fact that 95% of the corn is GMO, I can only surmise that your knowledge of the GMO question is completely lacking in order to even weigh in with an opinion just yet. I mean, that is the first fact you learn no matter what side of the battle you are on. Might we speculate that you actually don’t have enough information to even know if GMOs are “bad?” Why are you choosing to not eat something you are completely uneducated about? Why if you care enough to comment on some random blog about it, do you not spend some time learning so you can actually make a reasoned argument or judgement?

      That said, to your comments:

      It would seem, on the face of it, that your point is well reasoned.

      I do not directly make the definitive statement of what contains GMOs, no, though I suggest that 1) if it has a label at all, you should likely not eat it if you want to not eat GMOs, unless it specifically says so. But even then, if it has cheese or dairy or other meat product, you can be sure that you have no idea if the animal ate GMOs so, again, if it requires a label for purchase, don’t buy it. I also suggest that if it is labeled organic, it doesn’t contain GMOs (caveat the meat thing in last point).

      And I think that is the point you should focus on if you are trying to figure out what might have GMOs or not. Without a machine to test the proteins, even in countries with “strict label laws,” people eat GMO-laced foods. Unfortunately, Prop 37 is not “set up” to “fix the problem.” Which is my problem with Prop 37. Because people who have next to know information about a topic are demanding a label so they can … what? Think they are actively avoiding a product when 1) they aren’t since the law is so flimsy and allows for so much and 2) they actually don’t even have a basic command of the topic?

      Sillysauce.

      As for businesses having a triple bottom line: you can impact that with your dollar. Or not. Unfortunately that is how a capitalist society works. Duh.

      If it is legal, it is officially OK. It may not be what you like. But just cause you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is not OK.

      Also, Monsanto labels their products as GMOs. They promote their GMOness. I think I pointed that out in my post and you can easily test this yourself by just going to the website and see what they are most proud of sharing. And in fact, they will happily bring someone like me to their facility and walk me through because they believe I have a right to know. Sorry to be so sharp but I am stating this stuff over and over in these comments and people seem more committed to believing their own half truths than learning the truth so they can find a way forward that is actually productive and may, in fact, resolve some of our food and environmental problems.

      November 3, 2012 at 7:35 am

  82. Sarah

    As a farmer I applaud your post. It was very rational and made the most sense out of any of the other people arguing gmo. It seems everyone is quick to judge and point fingers before doing any research. One of the things I cannot get over is some are actually arguing am I eating ham or human. Anywho thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    -California farmer girl

    November 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

  83. Eron

    Ellen – to your reply to Stephanie, if Monsanto is so proud of their GMO’s, why have the contributed the most money to defeat Prop 37?

    Also please see this interview with Vandana Shiva – http://uprisingradio.org/home/2012/10/31/vandana-shiva-on-prop-37-gmos-food-sovereignty-and-more/

    You find many flaws in my point of view, PLEASE take the time to specifically point out to me where she is wrong.

    November 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    • elliecm

      I actually don’t know, though I could speculate some business reasons. I would imagine mostly because consumers have such wildly wrong ideas about GMOs (like they have some connection to food additives) and they feel the products made from the food grown from their seeds would be unfairly judged. And, I think his string sorta proves they would be right on that, no?

      Again. Read the facts of what I am writing. Try to divorce your emotions and fears.

      As for Vandana. I just heard her speak and will start a post. May take a few days.

      November 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      • Eron

        Looking forward to a full post on Vandana, but would be appreciative if you could give a “teaser” by answering a couple questions – feel free to just say yes/or no and save the “meat” for your post.

        She is adamantly for Prop 37, you are against it.

        Is she wrong?
        Is she unaware?
        Is she missing something?
        Are her reasons faulty?
        Is her information based on facts?
        Did she change your point of view whatsoever?

        November 3, 2012 at 5:11 pm

        • elliecm

          Eron. I heard her tell an outright lie. I heard it. Myself. Sitting there. No bias. No twisted second-hand whatever. Me hearing her — tell an outright lie. Purposely. For effect. So, yeah. My point of view was changed because I never imagined that would happen. And it was really sad. Really sad.

          November 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm

        • elliecm

          Sorry, Eron, that was probably too emotional.

          But this whole process is really, really hard. It is exhausting to have to spread open your mind enough to accept ideas you bet your life were wrong. It is hard to slog through reams of really freaking boring academic crap. It is really hard to learn that people you looked up to — heros — are manipulating truths. This week, the reactions to the post. They are brutal to read. Trying to stay even and humble and calm because I know I was where you were not too long ago so I need to be patient as people were with me. But today was a body blow. And so I am really just feeling the aftermath.

          If we are going to win the ultimate battle of healthy planet, healthy food, we all have to start facing each other honestly and with open minds and hearts and start talking openly. We have to accept when we are wrong and be grateful we can learn to be right. We have to seek the truth and not rely on ideals and ideas with no merit or little ultimate gain. This isn’t a battle of us or them it is a battle we all are fighting together. For our lives.

          It is the only way we are going to dig ourselves out of the mess.

          Your answers:
          Is she wrong? She is clever in her presentation of right and simplistic in her crafting of nonwrongness. Unless she is outright lying, then indeed, she is wrong.
          Is she unaware? Yes. Painfully. Sadly, considering she said MANY MANY TIMES she consults and advises world leaders.
          Is she missing something? OMG YES. Actually, a few things. Gandhi would not be proud, although she evokes him in her speaking. Natch.
          Is her information based on facts? Partially, yes, but it is easy to present facts to support and idea, which is different than presenting facts.
          Did she change my point of view, yes, as I said earlier.

          Sorry I didn’t just answer straight up the first time. I was angry and feeling lazy.

          November 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      • John

        Not openly claiming accountability for their own products is shady. They will always look shady until they label. What we learn from 3,000 year of history: they are not upfront therefore they created their own problem.

        June 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm

  84. Eron

    Wow. Sounds like she had quite an impact on you, although probably not in the way that you (or I) thought going in. Thanks for providing the feedback. I’m really curious to know what it was she said that was an outright lie, I’m sure you’ll cover it in the full blog post so I’ll let you off the hook :). I think I may have gone over my quota of comments and questions for one blog anyway…

    November 4, 2012 at 1:41 am

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  90. John

    Apple is a bad example you chose: they don’t pay there taxes. It is OK to cheat then give the example of not paying taxes, claming originality when you have none and sell snobism (http://www.neowin.net/news/lg-had-an-ipad-back-in-2001), not labelling to receive undeserved revenue by maliciously profiting on people’s temporary inattention or lack of education, not respecting other people food choice in general.

    You article condone those practices. Are you condoning those practices?

    June 21, 2013 at 6:17 pm

  91. ThinkingWink

    Great article. Although , you seem confused about accepting the safety studies. You want to accept the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Consensus, but still don’t eat GMO’s? That does not make sense at all.. O.o

    One more step I guess, you are opening your mind, so I assume your sacred cow will fall like all of the other delusions you have so rightly shed. Good job using your brain.. :)

    Thanks for writing this, at least some folks may start to use their brains, and not just shout from emotion.

    “The Good Life is one that is Inspired by Love, but Guided by Knowledge”
    ~ Bertrand Russell

    June 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

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