I usually steer clear of politics. I hate our two-party system and wish we could have other choices. But I have been listening to the debates, and I admit that I cheered a couple times during Barack’s come-backs to Romney (“we don’t have as many horses and bayonets either.”) But there is one issue on the California ballot that could actually change things: Prop 37. It basically requires food to be labeled if it is genetically modified. I worked in genetics labs for years when I was studying Biology at the University of Washington. Among other things, I sequenced DNA. We were fumbling around in the dark. We didn’t know then (or now) exactly how DNA worked. There’s an elaborate signaling system (I was studying protein kinase receptors) that is still being worked out.

So when I hear that scientists are genetically modifying food, I think I know what that looks like. Lots of growing vector bacteria, lots of scattershot insertion of DNA into that vector, and then the insertion of the replicated DNA into the organism. Grow the genetically modified plant out and see what happened. It is science, but that doesn’t mean it’s exact. I’m all for science–I love that I don’t have polio or that, during flu season, I can get a flu vaccination. But science needs to be tested to be sure it’s safe. The GMO plants don’t seem like they have been put through vigorous enough trials to prove that it’s absolutely safe for human consumption. That’s why I’m voting yes for 37! (If you don’t live in Cali, if it passes here, it might show up in other progressive states soon).

Also, tonight (October 23) I’ll be doing a reading/talk with Rebecca Solnit at USF Cowell Hall, Room 106. 7:30. I’m bringing figs and limes–GMO free, naturally.

14 responses to “Politics

  1. The EU countries, Japan and now Russia dont allow GMO foods so one would think this would be a win win for non GMO American farmers, food makers who want to sell to the rest of the world because that is a huge market.

    It also puzzles me because here in CA food is already labeled as country of origin, and organic or not. Milk is labeled no growth hormone etc. I read labels and when looking at items at Raley’s, Whole Foods etc I see on various items warnings about a food being processed on equipment that may have processed corn, nuts, wheat etc so those allergic to corn, wheat, nuts have a warning.

    The idea this will cost millions and millions to change labels to denote NO GMO us laughable. Like how much space and ink does it take to print NO GMO?

  2. How much does it cost to make a one-pound box (16 ounce) box into a 14 ounce box? Obviously, no one minds the costs of those changes of labeling and even smaller packages! I think machines would have to be adjusted, amongst other things.

  3. I agree with you 100% on all points of your post. Thank you for sharing your view.

  4. Thank you, Novella. I get so discouraged by the manipulative, fear-based, and non-sensical ads that are on the radio AGAINST 37. Apparently those ads are working, and Monsanto, et al. have the funds to keep pumping them out. And people thought DDT was the best thing that ever happened, too, way back when….which I remember.

  5. Thank you so much for speaking out in support of this prop. i feel like a lot of people steer clear of anything political to avoid stepping on toes, but it’s just so important that everyone see the truth behind this prop and not these awful lies. I know of so many people who are ‘on the fence’ because they are just bombarded by the opposition. I’m trying to reach out to as many people as I can who aren’t in the know, and for those spreading the word to their followers and fans, it is an IMMENSE help. Everyone’s vote will really count on this one. I have to also point out democracy now’s recent broadcast (democracynow.org, go to the wednesday October 24th broadcast) featured michael pollan, and there was discussion of the prop, and also discussion of what it means not just for CA, but for the entire country. Very insightful on so many levels, I highly recommend checking it out.

  6. OMG — i have no idea what you’re talking about with the dna science bit, but i love it and i am going to parrot it whenever i can. i’m cutting and pasting this to my fb peeps. thanks.

  7. I think Ruth Poe has a great idea. I’ll do the same. Thank you so much, Novella!

  8. If you DO live in CA, you have likely been bombarded with radio and TV ads. When we got a flier in the mail, I put together a response from the perspective of a small farmer and a mom on our farm blog. http://godfreyfamilyfarms.com/how-stupid-do-the-no-on-prop-37-people-think-californians-are/

  9. I’m kinda on the fence about the who thing. If so called Organic farmers just took the liberty of labeling their items themselves. This wouldn’t need to be on the ballet. I’m not for GMO foods what so ever. I grow most of my own produce in Oakland, Ca.
    With all the small organic farmers behind this piece of legislation but I haven’t seen any of them label their foods stating that they are not GMO.
    You can grow a GMO crop not using pesticides and herbicides and still call it organic. I know it defeats the purpose, but it can be done. which is a reason why I’m not a fan of the word organic.

  10. Deejay: There is the non-gmo project (for example, Strauss dairy and Nature’s Path cereals are certified non-gmo) which has strict rules about testing for GMOs, but the sad thing is that a lot of organic produce and products have been contaminated by GMOs and can’t even label themselves as gmo free. The majority of gmo crops tend to be silage/processing corn (not sweet corn, except for that walmart corn), soy, sugar beets, stuff you wouldn’t typically see at the farmer’s market anyway. And the people that do produce organic processed food but aren’t part of the non-gmo project are likely either contaminated, or whatever other reasons. Organic certification is a whole other can of worms..

  11. Thanks Novella. A nice “behind the scenes” view of why we should stop messing with our food supply

  12. Great post Novella – my daughter is one of your fans and has been reading your book as part of a college course and she is loving it, though I’ve yet to actually see her in the veg. garden. We are originally from the UK and the whole nation did a massive freak out when Monsanto were trying to peddle their seeds in Europe several years ago. I’m unable to vote yet, being only a resident and not a citizen but I urge everyone to get out and join the Yes on 37 campaign if you feel moved because this is only a tiny step towards protecting the food supply and holding back the enormous health problems caused by processed foods. I’m doing a ‘honk and wave’ in Oakland on Thursday 4.30pm around 12th and Broadway I think. More details on http://www.carighttoknow.org/events

  13. MJ I grew up on farm in Iowa. I’m pretty familiar with what you stated. Labeling foods GMO wont change the situation either. And if by chance things are all contaminated. Damn near every pack will have to have GMO on it.
    And It kills me that every time I pick up a piece of fruit from the market it’s like NASCAR with all the stickers on it.
    Over all I just think the prop is pointless. If consumers want to stop big Ag and go against the man, Monsanto. Then it would be wise to do some research. Find out who their affiliates are. You would have to stop shopping at Whole Foods that’s for sure (assuming one shops there). Cascadian Farms, Naked, Kashi even use ingredients that are from GMO crops and all have a organic labels on some of their products.
    In lieu of labeling maybe there should be more community gardens, people gardening, and education behind agriculture practices. Seems like a more effective approach to being proactive and working backwards to a healthier food supply. The trend seems to be going that way. At least to me b/c I’m looking for it, so it’s always in my face.

  14. I found your blog quite interesting and the concern in the blog is really impressive.

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