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WHAT’S FOR DINNER?


Jim Hightower

Have

you heard of the "Butterfly Effect?" Both a scientific concept and an

ecological reality, its essence is that the flapping of a million butterfly

wings in central Mexico can have consequences in New York City, Rome, or Hong

Kong. The notion is that our physical world is more intricately balanced than we

know. Seemingly inconsequential acts in even the remotest area are connected to

results far away in both time and space.

OK,

let me step down from the professional pose and put this in terms I understand:

We human geniuses don’t know what the &#%$! we’re doing. Corporations spew

tons of nasty chemicals called organochlorines into our air and water and

suddenly male alligators in Florida are born without penises (you did know they

had penises, didn’t you?) Detroit loads up its auto air conditioners with CFCs

and-Lo!-there’s a big hole in the earth’s ozone layer. At issue here are

industrial practices that amount to peeling a grape with an ax-the ax does get

the peel off, but it makes a horrible mess of the pulp.

In

the past couple of decades, such brutish industrial practices have increasingly

been applied to the very genetic make-up of our food supply-and now the

Butterfly Effect is beginning to affect butterflies . . . not to mention you and

me. The ax wielders are biotechnology giants that are determined to outsmart

Mother Nature by manipulating the DNA structure within the cells of plants.

They’ll take a gene from a fish and put it in a tomato, a gene from a mouse and

put it in corn cells, a gene from a peanut and put it in potatoes. The

combinations are limitless-Here a gene, there a gene / everywhere a gene, gene /

Old McDonald had a lab / E-I-E-I-O." The results are variously known as GA

(genetically-altered food), GMO (genetically modified organisms), GM

(genetically-manipulated), GE (genetically engineered) . . . or, more rudely,

Frankenfood.

In

the forefront of this Brave New Food World are the big four global giants who

refer to themselves with a straight face as "life science"

corporations: Monsanto, Novartis, DuPont, and Hoescht. Their intention is no

less arrogant than to re-make the world’s food supply, all done in the interest

of humanity, of course, including foods with vaccines in them, foods that can go

weeks without spoiling, and foods that have pesticides genetically implanted in

them. But what if you’re deathly allergic to certain of these peanuts-in-potato

concoctions, or what if we don’t want our children consuming foods with unknown

vaccines and sex-hormones (yes, sex hormones, too, are being added by the

beneficent life-science people) . . . and what the holy hell do you mean that

pesticides are genetically implanted in the foods?!

No

problem, you think, I don’t have to buy their GA, GM, GMO, GE, or whatever other

GD term they apply to the Frankenfoods that come out of their laboratory larder.

You wish. Do your kids drink Coca Cola, have you had a McDonald’s french fry,

has Kraft salad dressing been on your table, have you poured a cup of Nestle’s

hot chocolate, is Land o’ Lakes butter in your fridge, do you use NutraSweet,

and-get this-have you fed your babies with Similac infant formula? Welcome to

the Brave New Food World. All of these products have genetically manipulated

ingredients in them. In all, more than 30,000 food products on America’s grocery

shelves today-from milk to sodas, from Big Macs to tofu burgers-contain

genetically manipulated organisms. Altered seeds from the labs of biotech giants

now are used to plant 25 percent of America’s corn crop, 30 percent of the

soybeans, 40 percent of cotton, and 50 percent of canola.

Yes,

but, surely they’re safe . . . right? The government has tested each of these to

assure that nothing bad can happen from eating this altered assortment of DNA,

hasn’t it? Well, Pollyanna, er, uh (how shall I put this?), um: "No."

Still, the FDA and EPA insist that genetically engineered foods are safe.

Actually, these so-called public watchdogs cleverly put their assurances in the

negative, asserting that the bio-engineered goodies "have not been proven

to be un-safe." As the great Native-American activist and writer Vine

DeLoria once said, "Sure you can trust the government. Ask an Indian."

Bottom line: There have been no long-term human tests on these products. The

government, at the behest of the biotech manufacturers, has simply shoved the

burden of proof onto us consumers, which is to say that you and your family

literally are the guinea pigs in this grand genetic experiment.

Are

the products safe? Three ways to check it out: ONE, ask the insurance industry.

It declines to provide long-term insurance for the corporations or farmers

engaged in these biotech adventures. What if some of these altered genetic

genies get out of the bottle and taint other crops or hybridize into something

not only unforeseen but destructive-who is libel? These "What ifs"

already are happening-87,000 bags of organic corn chips sent from the U.S. to

Europe were rejected this year because tests by the importer found they

contained genetically altered corn. It turns out the organic corn from which the

chips were made had been contaminated by cross-pollination from some of the

surrounding farms raising the altered varieties of corn. All 87,000 bags were

destroyed.

TWO,

ask the butterflies. Half of North America’s beautiful, orange and black monarch

butterflies breed in the Midwest corn belt, where the monarch caterpillars sole

food supply is the milkweed plant that frequently grows along the fence rows of

the cornfields. Millions of acres of this corn is now of the Bt

variety-genetically engineered by Monsanto, DuPont, and Novartis to contain the

Bt toxin throughout each corn plant. The Bt is meant to kill the corn borer that

feeds on the crop. The corporations claimed there was zero chance of damage to

"non-targeted" insects, birds, or other life. But, oops, a Cornell

University research team reported in May that windborne pollen from the altered

corn can kill the monarchs. In a controlled study, some milkweed leaves were

dusted with Bt corn pollen. Half of the monarch caterpillars that ate these

leaves died, and those that survived only grew to half their normal size.

Monarchs that ate milkweed dusted with non-altered corn pollen did just fine.

"Why is it that this study was not done before the approval of Bt

corn?" asked the Union of Concerned Scientists. "This is 20 million

acres of Bt corn too late. This should serve as a warning that there are more

unpleasant surprises ahead," the group said.

THREE,

and most important, ask yourself. Ask yourself why the industry and government,

in a cabal of avarice and arrogance, has unleashed this technology so quickly

and quietly. The sudden surge in these crops has come in just the last few years

without any public debate. Yet, whether you want it or not, unless you are

buying nothing but certified organic food, chances are that your family is

consuming huge amounts of genetically-altered foods, completely unaware that

you’re doing so. Also, if this stuff is so safe, ask yourself why there is no

requirement that it be labeled so you can know what you’re getting? The food

industry has to label for salt, fat, and cholesterol content, letting consumers

decide for themselves which products they want to buy-yet, we aren’t being told

which food bin or package contains the corn that’s had its DNA rearranged, or

which carton has the milk with artificial sex hormones in it?

The

good news is that the rebellion against this corporate bullying is building

around the globe. In Japan, two-thirds of the country’s local governments have

petitioned to compel national labeling of any genetically-altered food. In

India, the supreme court upheld a ban on the testing of such crops, and enraged

farmers have torched fields suspected of testing for Monsanto. In England, the

British Medical Association has called for a ban on growing the crops and on the

sale of the food products there, adding its prestige to Prince Charles’ royal

vow that biotech food would never pass his lips. The public reaction in Europe

is so heatedly negative that the very name Monsanto is now an epithet, and such

major food marketers as Unilever, Nestle, and Cadbury-Schweppes have rushed out

in recent days to declare their products to be biotech-free. Likewise, the

largest supermarket chains in six European countries have made a public

commitment that they will not sell genetically-altered products.

In

these places, Frankenfood has become a major political issue-a member of the

British Parliament even denounced Monsanto in the House of Commons as

"Public Enemy No. 1." Yet, here politicians and the general public are

quiet about it, not because they approve, but because the companies, the

government, and the media have kept the issue buried. It won’t stay buried,

though. Thanks to activist groups and independent news outlets (including this

newsletter and my radio broadcasts), word is spreading that this is being done

to us and, as everywhere else in the world, this will become an explosive issue.

They can’t mess with what people feed their babies and think there’ll be no

consequences. Before it’s over, people here will be hunting the perpetrators of

this perversion with dogs.