I am not a farmer. My alarm clock is a mobile phone that does not sound when the darkness is still clenched around the corners of ground like ropes holding tent pegs fast. My hands have not milked a goat or threshed wheat. They do not know the certain precision required for pulling a sugar beet from the earth. They don’t know what it means to farm soybeans or shuck corn.
I am a cook.
I am a canner (as in yes, I can).
I am a preserver.
I am an artist.
I am a friend.
I am a wife.
I am a daughter.
I am a worker bee.
I am a wordsmith.
And, I care about where our food comes from. I care that it underwent no weird transformations that only belong in science fiction books in a future Philip K. Dick would not believe. Before us is the fight to reclaim our food. On this, we cannot stay silent. That pharmaceutical companies have taken an interest and profit from the food we eat should cause each of us to seriously question what is on our plates. That they contributed over $17 million to keeping Washington shoppers in the dark about the food they eat and continue to try and confuse voters about the issue at hand shows they have a vested stake in the battle of Washington state’s Initiative-522. I would urge you to vote Yes on 522 if you live in WA. If you don’t, reach out to friends and family and talk to them about I-522.
Before Prop 37, I considered myself apolitical. An immediate family member has poured many years of time, sweat and energy into their political pursuits and it seemed to relinquish any need I saw of getting involved personally. When I learned that Prop 37, the California initiative to label genetically modified food was seeing a change in voter behavior due to false and misleading advertising on the issues, I found my political voice. My activist voice. My speak for those who cannot speak or don’t care to speak voice. Prop 37 lost by the slimmest margin you can imagine. It lost by 2.8 percent. We were crushed. I remember watching the California counties light up either in favor of Prop 37 or against it by majority vote. I did a happy dance, exulting, “Way to go Santa Cruz! Way to go Mendocino! continuing the tally until the final results drove the grim reality home. Even though California is the top producer of agricultural products in the nation, as Californians, we don’t have the visibility into whether our food is genetically modified. All of this culminated in a big way. It unleashed something powerful inside of me that is inside of you.
Did you know that 64 countries including Syria already have labels on genetically modified food? Does it bother you that as a developed nation we are behind on this issue let alone, detractors are spending millions to keep fellow citizens in the dark about their food? As someone whose primary passion revolves around food that nourishes and sustains, I cannot abide this.
And, I hope you can’t either.
Did you know that I-522 was authored by 350,000 people in the state of Washington who feel they have a right to know what is in their food? Did you know that companies already change their labels more often than they would probably care to admit and don’t transfer that cost over to customers? Don’t be fooled. This is a money game just like any other and why the No on 522 side is willing to dole out money I will never see in my lifetime is because GMO food labeling will hit their bottom line. Hard. Did you know 93% of Americans want GMO food labeling?
I am not a farmer, but I care about them. I have nothing to profit from them, and everything to profit of them. As Wendell Berry reminds us, “Eating is an agricultural act.” So, whether you have an interest in the state of farming in America or not, it impacts you. My livelihood is founded in their livelihood. If farmers all lay down their equipment and stopped growing food, that would impact me sorely. I care about the food they are trying to raise. I care about the ones trying to produce a higher yield of crops to keep food on their families’ tables. This is something I personally understand. And in my estimation, the choices are too large to stick with GMO seeds whether it’s from the vantage point of thinking about super-pests which are now impervious to pesticides or the notion that GMO seeds do not yield greater numbers of crops or that the seeds only harvest once. That kind of mischief is against nature. The idea of patenting nature also stumps me as do the lawsuits waged against farmers who are victims of GMO seed being carried into their crops by the air and since they didn’t buy them from the source, they are deemed illegal and the farmers are sued.
From a young age I was taught that you can be a part of the problem or part of the solution and if I could convince farmers that their livelihood and interests are best found in non-GMO, organic methods I would. But, I don’t speak their language and I don’t know their battles. All I know is that I care about where my food comes from and I care about the people that grow it. I am that slice of America willing to spend more to know my hard earned money is supporting other Americans working the land and seeing it naturally bountiful.
I am arm in arm with brothers and sisters in Haiti who have rejected and burned GMO seeds. I am stalwartly standing with brothers and sisters in Mexico protecting their maize from outside intervention. I am one woman who cares enough to put her one voice out there to join with countless others saying we are sick (literally) and tired of having our democracy bought and sold to the highest bidder. Edmund Burke once famously said, “The only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good people to remain silent.” Let it be known that GMO food labeling will pass eventually, so what are we waiting for? If we have labeled country of origin, labeled between natural and artificial flavors, this is one more crucial piece of information shoppers need to make educated shopping decisions. Don’t let others make the decision for you- you have a right to know what’s in your food. If you live in Washington state, vote Yes on 522.