Organic agriculture faces a bigger threat than the potential for weakened standards on ingredients: contamination from genetically engineered crops. I recently viewed for a second time the film, “Future of Food,” which offers much food for thought. This 80-minute documentary highlights the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply, the acquisition of independent seed companies by Monsanto, and its vigorous campaigns against farmers, private organizations, and other opponents of a corporate-controlled, genetically engineered food supply.
The outrageous industry assault on our cultural heritage has been underway for years. Nevertheless, the outcome is far from determined. Mark Mulcahy’s column in this edition reports on successful moratorium votes and resources for educating and mobilizing communities about GMOs. Several introductions of genetically engineered seeds or products have been defeated or at least temporarily withdrawn. And European citizens and nations continue to resist adoption of GMO-based agriculture; recently, Switzerland voters approved a five-year moratorium on the introduction of genetically engineered crops in their country.
Other developments reveal connections between this issue and the ongoing loss of democracy, another part of our heritage: Several state legislatures have introduced or already approved laws, orchestrated by the biotech industry, which remove local control of seeds and food security. Nationally, friends of biotech in the “adventures in empire” ruling group have rewritten the laws of their occupied colony in Iraq, not only to promote foreign ownership of the Iraqi oil industry but also to replace the indigenous agriculture with dependence on foreign agribusiness corporations.
All lead to the usual question: what to do? Alternatives exist, and the way to advance any alternative is to educate, educate, educate. Food and farming fundamentally connect us to each other in our local community and to the world, a “biotic community.” As demonstrated by many co-ops and other groups, we can model a different future and enjoy doing so.
This kind of public-spirited fun does not presume that all will be well. Rather, achieving a more positive future requires embracing solidarity and joining with others to wrestle with the difficult changes that are ahead of all of us. Much is at stake—these are exciting times!
Building a sustainable food system will involve revolutionary change, and there will be well-financed opposition. If we are to make it through the pain of necessary change, our mutual education must be deep enough to clarify and instill values. Shared values reveal why we carry on, even in the face of powerful opponents. On the deepest level, shared values and conviction make it possible to face a future that is uncertain—sometimes frightening but not yet determined. Knowing what we are about enables us to laugh in the face of official lies, public illusions, and even pain and death.
Many folks of all ages are attempting to sift through the noise and fear and corporate garbage in order to find something better. No matter how long or short the time we are here, we can seek ways of living that don’t revolve around consumerism and war but do encourage contributing to community life.
Each of us can create and nurture that kind of joyful public spirit. It’s up to you and everyone in cooperatives to provide examples. As in an old struggle song, “People like you help people like me go on, go on.”
Dave Gutknecht is editor of Cooperative Grocer ([email protected]).