Genetically Modified Organisms GMO
Tech May Be Smart But It’s Not Always Wise When It Comes To Our Food
All living things must eat . . . and up until the past 50 to 70 years, few living things have had to concern themselves with whether what they were eating could or would do them any harm. A lot has changed in that time. Before then, synthetic chemical additives and genetically altered foods were not part of any food supply. Now they are!
Food is the weakest link of any civilization. No food – no civilization – It’s that simple. Growing, harvesting and preserving food is central to civilization. Presently, the processes that bring us our food from field to fork are being challenged. Civilization, it would seem has become a threat to itself – again!
Agriculture has evolved into a very complicated and politically intertwined business. It’s about more than just planting seeds, harvesting crops, keeping livestock for slaughter and fishing. Given the continuous need for food, the industries that grow it, process it and produce it are being influenced and even infiltrated by interests that traditionally had had little to do with food itself.
Willie Nelson, founder of Farm Aid, stated that “Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.” This is not a nostalgic view at all. More farmers would mean that monopolies over food are less likely and the food supply is at once both biologically and regionally much more diverse. This would preserve the heritage of hundreds of different species of fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock that have been steadily devolving in diversity after hundreds of years of intelligent husbandry, which in itself is a contribution to a culturally and agriculturally rich heritage.
There was a simpler time when there were many, many small farmers, all growing crops, raising livestock and small fleets of fisherman catching fish on the high seas. They not only tended to their own interests by growing crops, raising livestock and catching fish; but because of their sustainable scale of operation, they also preserved the ecological interests of their lands and waters as they were tied to their livelihood and welfare of all future generations. Crops have been over producing since the 1930’s without too much tech involved. Even with that, more food gets wasted than is ever eaten, even as people starve.
Traditionally, around the world meats and fish were naturally cured by salting, spicing, drying them in the open air and smoking. Some meats were first cooked and then set into lard to keep them from exposure to air. Crops and plant sourced produce have been preserved by drying, immersion into honey or sugar, fermenting and pickling with vinegar; sometimes they were also fermented into beverages or distilled into alcoholic spirits. Then, they were kept cool, dry, away from sunlight, temperature fluctuations and away from rodents among other things.
As they did not exist before, nothing that we now might call “artificial” or, “synthetic” was added to foods at one time nor were they needed. Given the toxic nature of these new substances and the fact that there are thriving organic food growers and processors who too insist that they are not needed and refuse to use them, one has to ask; why they are suddenly needed now or being used at all both in the growing of food as in its preservation?
As it now stands the food industry is both highly organized technically and in a sordid mess ethically . . . with everyone from Wall Street brokers, to political lobbyists for petrochemical and biotech companies all vying for their own interests often at the expense of food quality. This is a global phenomenon being pushed through political influence at the highest levels and justified with questionable, or at best, selective or incomplete science, the main common denominator being greed!
There are two main camps in the food world: traditionally grown foods, now being referred to as organic foods and the chemically laced foods, surprisingly referred to as conventional foods. The conventional food producers would like to paint the organic foods as being a non-main stream specialty item, grown for rich, elitist food snobs. The fact is, that it is the conventional food producers who are the “new kid on the block,” being managed by elitist, pathological business interests. Before them, all foods worldwide were grown organically for both rich and poor for thousands of years.
We often hear about the consequences of conventionally grown foods on the environment. From artificial fertilizers being washed downstream to the oceans clogging rivers with never before seen volumes of algae growth, neutering and deforming fish and wildlife along the way and destroying coral reefs that once teemed with unimaginable varieties of vibrantly colored aquatic life.
From the news we’ve heard of flatulent cows grazing faster than the amazon rain forest can be cut down to make more room for ever more cattle, raised to be slaughtered to feed the voracious fast food industry. As they are said to contribute to everything from global warming, to the depletion of the ozone layer (whether it’s the cows eroding the ozone layer is questionable but they certainly are taking up a lot of real estate), to the destruction of indigenous people’s, the extinction of species, on and on and on – GMO’s are doing the same thing in different ways on an even larger scale. One has to wonder why conventional food production isn’t considered the alternative to the only methods of sustainable food production that humanity had ever known – organic!
Clearly, traditional farming practices posed no such threats and ensured that little if any ecological destruction came to farm lands and oceans while consistently producing foods that were completely safe to eat. It would seem that the traditional, organic non-GMO food production should be the conventional food, and what is now considered to be conventional should be the alternative method of food production. Not that intelligent science should not be incorporated into food growing but, food shortages would not be the end effect from growing foods responsibly, even though we are told otherwise.
These changes did not come naturally. Like so many other things these days, they were forced upon us. The shift away from purely organic husbandry to chemical based agriculture came about largely through persistent lobbying of governments by giant chemical companies. Not that some chemicals may not have been helpful here and there but when they are being forced onto farmers whether they needed it or not, it gradually turned into a law enforced marketing of chemicals to sometimes unwilling farmers. Farmers were told how much herbicide they had to use per acre or else and as they began using fertilizers and depleting their soils, it got to the point where if they didn’t use chemical fertilizers they would not have a decent harvest. This, in spite of the fact that there was, nor is any lack of organic fertilizers that would have nourished farmed soils. It is an accepted fact that good soils in addition to yielding abundantly, also yield healthier crops that are less prone to insect infestation. Not that pests are not a real problem but, if the organic farmers seem to not have that problem from the practices they are using why should anyone else?
Bad Food Made Even Worse
We know that we live in a world filled with toxic chemicals but, with all the endless regulations and government oversights, the last place we should expect to find them is in our food! As if the chemical contamination of foods at every stage from growing through processing wasn’t bad enough, there is an even worse threat to the food supply that the people who are aggressively promoting it don’t even want you to know about. It’s so bad, they do not even want it to be mentioned in the labelled of the foods people are buying – at least not in North America.
This technology being ushered onto the unsuspecting public is the dubious gift to our modern world by the biotech industry. But, before getting into what this new technology is about, it is best to first get a handle on why it is being forced onto everyone, often without their knowledge, like so many other things in our steadily more Orwellian “Brave New World.”
Contrary to unsubstantiated claims that this new technology is about improving crop yields and food quality, it is in fact a ploy that has everything to do with “food ownership.” A concept that has never existed before. What is meant here is not that by buying, say, an apple, that that apple is now yours to do with as you please. No, it goes far beyond that. It’s about the apple itself becoming the property of a corporation rather than a product of nature as it always had been.
What does this mean? This whole idea is to establish a base for a corporate monopoly over all food sources that have been genetically modified by those corporations through legal patent rights. That, by genetically altering food into something that has had it’s genetic make-up artificially altered, it is no longer “of nature” and therefore something that no one can now grow freely as part of the traditional collective human heritage sounds like a completely mad scheme cooked up by some arch-villain in a James Bond movie. The reality is that it is a greedy money and power grab by a handful of colluding food biotech corporations but there is no James Bond hero to rid us of them.
Welcome To The World Of Genetically Modified Organisms – GMO For Short!
The whole point of GMO is the defiance of Nature. People expect strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce . . . you name it, year round; expecting them to taste like they were grown in season. Some farmers expect to grow things, whether plant or animal, in monoculture style, using hormones, powerful fertilizers and insecticides without crop rotation, expecting bugs or weeds not to infest their plants. When you add to that, the fact that some seed suppliers would like to monopolize all that grows you have a perfectly mix of insanity with greed. Out of that comes the impetus to alter Nature rather than working with Her towards sensible solutions to feeding the world. Without accepting the fact that in the end Nature always wins and always will, the seeds of eventual failure will have been already sown. All we can do is wait to see what happens.
By now most people have seen those funny looking tomatoes at the supermarket that seem as though they were injection molded out of plastic. Although we are assured that these new “tomato products” are non-GMO they are nothing like the heirloom tomatoes we all know and love. If you slice one to taste it, you quickly realize that everything about them is far from tomatoey.
They look sort of like a tomato – and feel tomato-like in your mouth, but they are otherwise utterly tasteless, a fact of life with commercially grown tomatoes. This fact is what lead to the very first GMO product ever; the “FlavrSavr” tomato developed in Davis, California and put on the market in 1994. They were developed in an effort to improve the taste of commercially grown tomatoes and to prevent them from ripening too quickly which was accomplished by deactivating at least one gene in that strain of tomato.
The flavor part we all get, but the delay in ripening is less clear. That was done for harvesting, shipping and spoilage considerations. The only good news about this first attempt at tomato engineering was that they were completely transparent about the fact that they were GMO. That is, until they were bought out by Monsanto who were after the technology only, and later stopped producing it altogether.
This has not stopped attempts to play with the genetics of tomatoes though. They have been the object of ongoing studies that would genetically modify them to become a medical delivery platform. One such modification made the tomato produce a peptide (an amino acid chain) that would mimic HDL- the good cholesterol, to produce circulatory and heart benefits. Similar gene modifications lead to tumors in test mice. Other attempts were made to make tomatoes a delivery platform for specific vaccines. Clearly, this gets into ethics.
Yet another genetically modified tomato has cropped up in Israel where genes from roses have been added to give tomatoes a flavor that they have never had before. They don’t stand a chance of entering the EU any time soon. But, as of 2013 the only GMO tomato on the market is the “purple tomato,” developed in the UK. Touting better taste, longer shelf life and health benefits in test mice based on the activation of genes presumed dormant, this “food product” will not be allow to be sold there because of EU regulations. As you would expect they will be marketed, where else but in North America, the dumping ground for just about everything.
The only thing that can be said for sure and what is holding back these “frankenfoods” from being freely sold everywhere is the fact that in spite of clear short-term evidence of problems, any long-term problems from eating these foods are still largely unknown and cause for concern making people extremely untrusting of them.
Meanwhile, the tinkering continues and more than one expert has suggested that flavor, like just about anything in living things is about more than just tweaking one or two genes in a pool of several thousand. Given that, the public outcry over GMO’s and the costs of their regulatory approval processes, new attempts at producing a better tomato are sticking to old fashioned hybridizing through natural selection and breeding. This is good news all around and may signal where GMO’s may eventually end up.
Not the Fish Too!
You may have also heard that salmon have been genetically altered to be much bigger than they normally grow to be farmed in pens in the mouths of rivers. There is even talk of releasing them into the open ocean just to “see what would happen.” Their hope may have been that in contaminating other fish with their genes to then collect royalties from their patent rights. Let’s see where this one goes.
So far, there is GMO corn, soy, cotton, papaya, rice, rapeseed (canola) potatoes, tomatoes, peas, dairy products, with others on the way. These are all biotech industry conceived, government (FDA) approved experiments coming to your local grocery store that no one really knows the outcome of. Whether they will damage the environment or make you sick somewhere down the road no one can really say; although evidence is quickly mounting that they already have and do.
The world of Genetically Modified Organisms – GMO’s is about taking a living thing, modifying it genetically for the purpose of making it the property of whom ever has made the modifications. The corporate entities that would do this to food are in effect presuming to patent the life form itself! That governments and their high courts would even grant this is already clearly a form of global treason because the consequences of having organisms like these infesting nature is incalculable, cannot be contained and therefore irresponsible. The ethics of this have been questioned worldwide by scientists, as well as farmers and common folk who recognize the potential threat of this newly established insanity that seems to be quietly settling itself into everyday life with suspiciously colluded government backing.
This technology is being sold as the answer to famine and food quality. So far it has done the exact opposite. It has driven farmers in the third world to suicide from impossible financial burdens due to GMO crop failures. The end product is making people and livestock sick and, some farmers are electing to grow the same crops conventionally because of higher crop yields.
GMO crops, once planted, contaminate all other crops of the same species around them with their pollens, subjecting farmers growing non-genetically modified crops to patent infringements, legal actions and insane fines for having inadvertently “grown” crops without having paid the corporations who own that particular life form.
Unlike taking a piece of normal wood and turning it into a table, a form that that wood could never have assumed naturally, GMO’s are not about patenting the table design, they’re about patenting the very wood it is made out of. Seems clever at first, until you realize the megalomaniacal insanity of it. If you wanted to make that table you couldn’t just chop down a tree on your own property to get that wood. If it were a patented GMO tree, you would owe whom ever had modified it genetically a royalty for the privilege of using it whether it was to make furniture or to just burn to stay warm.
As there are few if any benefits to GMO’s, clearly, the main reason for establishing patent rights and legal ownership of life forms is about having the right to collect royalties from all foods grown with their patented genetic markers. This means that if you buy an apple tree for your yard and it happens to be a GMO apple tree, the apples it grows are not yours. They belong to whomever has patented that particular species of apple tree. Even if you bought a non-GMO apple tree, but the wind blew the pollen of a similar GMO species, contaminating your plant, it now becomes the property of the corporation who’s pollen contaminated your tree. If you pick those apples to eat, legally you owe the owner a royalty for the privilege of eating one or their “products.” Should it ever be enforced, without even knowing it, you would be instantly in debt to the patent holder! At least in theory.
Does this sound like food prices are about to go through the roof – again?
It would seem that this contamination is the deliberate intent of those propagating this technology as stated by biotech industry consultant Don Westfall who stated; “The hope of industry is that over time the market is so flooded that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.” This raises several questions. Is it the intent that GM crops and animals propagate without control to spread their artificially combined DNA? If so, would that mean that there would be a need to establish a “genetic police force” who’s sole purpose would be to check the DNA of suspect living things in order to levy fines and possibly collect royalties from virtually everyone on corporate behalf?
Another thought might be, “ just how crazy are these people? Don’t they realize that they, their children and their grand children are going to have to eat this stuff too?!” Maybe they’ll all be billionaires by then but not have to worry about passing on their wealth to their heirs because they all would have died from having over eaten their genetically modified foods?
Wait, it gets even worse!!
What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?
As annoying as having your own property stolen from you while still having it on your own land, as many farmers have found, some might still say, “what’s the big deal?” It’s just an apple! If someone has made a better apple why shouldn’t we be paying them for having provided it. It’s not that simple! No one knows the complete impact of these genetically altered foods. Will they contaminate and threaten the entire food supply? Will they transform plants that are not even part of their species? Etc. Etc. Etc. AND, above all, “ARE THEY SAFE?” The companies insist that they are but, independent and reputable research being done suggests otherwise.
A Little Agra-History
Farmers did indeed used to modify their crops and livestock genetically. They were the first genetic splicers ever and they were good at it. Not only farmers but also botanists, livestock breeders and even human couples getting married understood the name of this game for thousands of years. The end result was plants, and animals selectively bred with specific, deliberately predetermined characteristics that were desirable to yield a better crop, to better suit the climate, to produce a nicer color, flavor or just about any other trait they wanted to enhance within reason in whatever they were cross breeding.
Was this genetic manipulation? Certainly it was! This may not have been completely natural but, was it dangerous to anyone or anything? As history is the witness – absolutely not!! How and Why? Because as historically witnessed, species can and have been safely and naturally interbred or cross pollinated within their own species without fear or consequence. Anything outside of their own species has no chance or little chance of successfully propagating itself at all or at most beyond one generation.
What’s The Difference?
How does GMO differ from Natural cross breeding? Natural breeding leaves the splicing of the DNA to be arranged by Nature without any detrimental surprises to prevent monstrosities. By contrast, GMO genetic splicing, splices the genes of species that could never, ever have possibly cross bred on their own.
The genetically engineered modifications to the DNA of species might bring together the genes from the DNA of plants with those of animals and vice versa. Or, it can bring the genes of one entirely unrelated animal or plant species with that of another like say the genes of an insect with that of a mammal or, the genes of a mammal with a fish. It is easy to imagine some strange combinations that would justifiably give rise to the term “Frankenfoods” to any such combination. Who knows what’s going on in the labs?? And, why do they not want their products labelled?!!!
As if that wasn’t weird enough, known bacteria that are lethal to specific insects that may plague a particular crop, can also be spliced into a particular plant’s DNA making it produce it’s own insecticide against that particular bug. A concept not altogether without merit until you consider the consequences.
This concept was taken even further by Monsanto who also markets a herbicide called RoundUp. By integrating the man-made chemistry of this product into a plant’s DNA, that plant is then rendered resistant to that particular herbicide, in effect making it immune to the herbicide, creating a market for another of its highly toxic products. In order to grow that crop weed free, both the herbicide made by the same company selling the seeds is necessary. Presently, the result has been super weeds that are immune to the herbicide and insect resistance. This is all seemingly very clever but, what are the effects of having a bacterium or a herbicide built into a previously safe, edible plant do if eaten?
What these foods might do to animals and humans if they are eaten is already being studied and it doesn’t look good. Laboratory animals have been sickened, swollen with tumorous growths and rendered sterile after only a few generations of having eaten it.
According to Jeffrey Smith, a leading educator on matters to do with GMO’s, animal feeding studies done seem to be creating: Gastrointestinal problems – Immune problems – Reproductive problems – Organ damage – Dysfunction and dysregulation of cholesterol and Dysfunction and dysregulation of insulin. That what the feed-lot animals seem to be getting sick with from being fed GMO feed, seems to be correlating with what is showing up among the general population in North America. Are we to take this as coincidence?
In addition to health issues that are understood, there are also other ailments that had never existed before showing up in people that have been directly linked to GMO’s. This was concluded from people showing up with what appeared to be long dark fibers growing in their flesh that DNA testing showed were a fungus that contained GM agrobacterium having the capacity to transform cell growth in plants, animals and even humans. It is very noteworthy that in spite of clear evidence, the Center for Disease Control has named this new ailment Morgellon’s disease, but has also suspiciously declared it to be of unknown origins. What would it take; a leaf sprouting out of someone’s arm or head before dots get connected? It may take a few thousand incidences before it would be considered significant. What would happen if this were transferred to a growing fetus? This certainly is cause for serious concern!
The answer to “ARE GMO’s SAFE” seems to be answering itself.
This is why most countries are insisting that at the very least these Genetically Modified Foods be labeled. Some regions are calling for their outright banning altogether both from being grown on their own soils and importation.
North America Versus The Rest Of The World On GMO’s
The problems with GMO foods are more than merely superficial. Whether or not they are problematic, it will be the law of the land that will determine the legality of how they will be regulated and how people will come to know about whether or not they are in their foods. This starts with how they are being legally defined from nation to nation and whether one nation will permit what they consider to be dangerous into it’s food supply while another might not, based on how they have defined them. Herein lays the main difference between North America and the rest of the world; Europe in particular.
The genie is now out of the bottle! It is a known fact that genetic modification of some plants and animals have taken place in several technically advanced nations. In response to it these, nations have had to define where they stand scientifically as well as ethically on the matter of the Genetically Modified Organisms being created. In some nations it is a matter of democratically integrating ethics together with scientific information and public will to establish a uniform policy that is to everyone’s benefit. While in other nations it would seem that in order to avoid the question of ethics, scientific findings and popular will altogether, in lieu of profit seeking, the matter is being left to legality. In so doing the legitimacy of legal actions on any other grounds might be superseded. Or, so it would seem.
For some, a definition is based on what something actually and objectively is, while for others it is whatever happens to be the most convenient meaning for the sake of allowing what may have never been intended. Children play this game a lot by being selective with what their parents might mean when they lay down the law in their own homes. Not surprisingly, the latter is what corporations usually bring to governments so that definitions are broad enough to suit their purposes without curtailing future intent.
As stated, the purpose of genetic engineering is to transfer the genetic material of one species over to another completely different, unrelated species for the purpose of transferring a specific characteristic from one to the other by directly interacting mechanically with the DNA of that species in a laboratory. This is entirely different than if genetic material were to be transferred between living organisms of the same species through a traditional natural breeding process. Any normal, clear minded person can see and understand these distinct differences. This is what is at the core of what is being called into question in the defining of what GMO’s are.
In Europe, in recognition of this seemingly clear distinction, a genetic modification that is “transgenic,” that is to say, between entirely unrelated species, is logically considered to be deliberate and intentional genetic engineering because it would not and could not have otherwise happened naturally on it’s own. In North America the reasoning, or lack thereof, is quite different.
In the United states genetic engineering has been defined so as to not be any different from conventional cross-breeding methods. In other words, by fundamentally ignoring the nature of genetic engineering, anything to do with any kind of genetic modification through genetic engineering, although completely artificial in every way, is being regarded as completely natural. Based on that definition, a plaintiff could or would have no defense against it.
By conveniently not recognizing this fundamental difference, distinctions between what is natural as intended by nature and unnatural is completely ignored, need not be made, can be regarded as immaterial in matters of safety as a matter of legal definition before and apparently superseding any kind of scientific assessment or testing. Based on this reasoning and, adding further insult to injury, “the FDA in 1992 determined that labeling is not needed for products made from genetically modified crops because they are considered to be “substantially equivalent” to conventional crops.” By extension, they therefore do not need to be labelled as being distinctly different from what already exists naturally or from what can be achieved through traditional genetic modification methods and so health concerns about them, although proven to exist are ignored.
Which begs the question, if there are no substantial differences, then why the need for secrecy in labeling for what corporations would like to call their own by virtue of their Genetically Modified Organism having been deemed to be “substantially different enough” to warrant patent rights? The answer is simple. The established definition gets in the way of the reality, so that addressing any issues against GMO’s would not be legitimate by definition, making any ruling against them also against the law of the land, making the right of people to know whether a food has been genetically modified or not irrelevant in the eyes of the law. How much bribing did that take?
Europe, by having set the precedent through mandatory labeling has firmly established that if people knew that they were buying a genetically modified product, they likely wouldn’t. More than anything else, this is all about selling something to people that they do not want! And, in order to sell it to them they must not be told what they are buying. It would seem that this entire house of cards hangs on a corporately established legal definition translated into law more than the science behind the fact. Would you like to be sold a Chevy believing that you are buying a Volkswagen based on a definition on paper that defines them as being “substantially equivalent” merely because they are both cars – manufacturer notwithstanding? The analogy is pretty close.
Keeping completely in step with it’s neighbor to it’s South, Canadian legal definitions of genetically modified organisms are determined by whether a living thing has some new or different feature that had previously not existed but, without giving any consideration to it’s method of origin. In effect, the USA and Canada are marching together in “locked goose step.” Their regulations as regards GMO’s being virtually identical.
Organic standards, as they have been defined, make it impossible for anything “transgenic” to be marketed as truly organic. Therefore, GMO’s cannot be labelled organic creating yet another insurmountable impasse. Some have argued that by labeling a product “organic” it need not also be labelled non-GMO. But, not all products are organic. Ethically, those who buy conventionally grown crops have a right to know what they are buying.
Given that GMO corporations like Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Agrigentics Inc., Novartis, AgrEvo, and others are continuously lobbying hard on this issue and using known lobbying tactics, you can bet that they have written the laws and definitions to suit themselves, have had them rubber-stamped by elected officials who, in turn have had industry executives appointed into government regulatory positions to approve what ever they please. This is a documented fact and a clear conflict of interest!
And get this! Although the high courts in North America have granted corporations the right to patent life itself in 1980, as of 2014 they have further safeguarded them by refusing to give farmers the right to protect themselves from the patent holder’s “genetically” contaminating their non-GMO crops. They have likewise pushed for legislation that prevents people from knowing that these GMO products are in their food for reasons mentioned previously, as well as prohibiting any kind of opposition to them be it from consumers and both conventional or organic farmers. Again, likely based on the definition of what is legally regarded as a GMO. Whether this constitutes Corporatism, Fascism or, a breakdown of the democratic process is left for everyone to decide for themselves.
In Europe there is active legislation that seeks to contain GMO crops from contaminating neighboring conventional and organically grown foods that they might co-exist. By stark contrast the US has no such legislation that seeks to control that co-existence, only guidelines to farming practices.
These provisions to prevent cross-contamination have to do with a concept referred to as “pollen barriers.” An idea that suggests that providing sufficient distance between crops is enough. The problem is, who will control the wind, who is to say how wide such a barrier should be in order for it to be effective and what kind of crop should be sacrificed in acting as a barrier? Another response was still more GM modifications to the plants so that they produce pollens that would not be fertilizing. The next question is, if genetically sterile crops are being grown what does that do the quality of what is being grown with respect to it’s food value and flavor and what effect will that then have on who is eating it long term? Sterility?
Has anyone stopped to think that if you take away something as fundamental as the ability of any living thing to reproduce itself at the genetic level, that you are at the same time also diminishing all that it is and if it happens to be a food, that it’s food value must also be in some way diminished? In time, the entire concept has to fold under the weight of it’s own craziness. At the scale that these type of organisms are being grown it is impossible that they will not produce some significant and far reaching effects that cannot be calculated, estimated or even conceived of. They’re already happening!
It would seem that GMO’s create a domino effect where one problem leads to another and then another . . . etc.
It would seem that the US welcomes the cross contamination of GMO’s of all kinds to then allow the patent holding corporations to sue the affected small farmers out of existence for patent infringement, as at least one previously mentioned GMO company executive may have implied – eventually creating a monopoly through attrition.
The Rest Of The World And GMO’s
By contrast, while in the USA and Canada labeling of GM food is technically “voluntary,” but for all intents and purposes, practically prohibited – in Europe all foods whether for human consumption or intended as animal feed must be labeled as such. According to scientific findings the concerns in Europe, Russia, China and Japan have been so great that these nations have refused huge shipments of grains from the USA and Canada over concerns that they were GMO’s; the latest one being over wheat.
It was found out that a test crop of GMO wheat had been planted in Oregon after a non-GMO bill had been passed in their legislature. That crop was deliberately destroyed by fire, likely buy local people in protest. It became quite an affair, with the FBI getting involved and labeling it not merely an act of vandalism, but a full blown “terrorist act,” if you can imagine. In burning that crop, it brought international attention to the fact that a GMO wheat strain was being developed. The nations who were importing American wheat quickly became concerned about possible cross contamination of conventionally grown US wheat prompting the cancellation of all wheat contracts for export to those nations until testing could verify that it was still GMO free.
This is not a trade war, it reflects genuine concerns about scientifically substantiated effects in those countries of what these foods could do to the citizenry and livestock of concerned nations. Even so, there seems to be a schizophrenic attitude about GMO’s worldwide. Some nations have outright banned them, while some have allowed them provisionally. Hungary, defiantly burned an entire crop of test GMO corn over legitimate concerns that it would contaminate it’s existing maize crops and has declared itself GMO free in perpetuity. In the EU, the cultivation of GMO crops has been approved in principle, while preserving the right of individual nations and regions within the EU to opt out of growing them if they so choose.
India represents a very suspicious case where in return for appeasing Monsanto’s desire to ban all conventional cotton seeds in favor of their patented “terminator” seeds, India was given IMF (International Monetary Fund) loans to help with it’s poverty rate. The result of this “deal with the devil” was, an estimated 1000 farmer suicides per month due to insurmountable debts sustained from having purchased Monsanto seeds that cost 1000 times the cost of normal seeds based on promised returns, that instead produced widespread crop failure and insect infestation. An interesting question to ask might be; how does a corporation get the “pull” to influence the IMF to that degree? We are left to wonder who else, in what nations, have colluded in this or other ways in favor of introducing these never before known modified crop species.
While in India farmers are committing suicide over impossible debt, in South America peasant farmers and indigenous people are being shot dead for asserting their legal rights to their own lands in the face of huge GMO concerns and their hired guns. It is as ugly a mess as it can possibly get. Anyone who wants to investigate the catastrophic environmental and social-economic tragedies at the hands of GMO agribusiness and Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready soy seeds and pesticides in South America can do so as it is too vast an issue to include into the scope of this article.
Mexico, the land where corn came from, is putting up major resistance to GMO Maize. On December 30th, 2013 a Mexican judge threw out appeals brought by Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, together with Monsanto, who were jointly trying to overturn a court ruling made earlier in September, that legally banned the planting of GMO maize (corn) in Mexico by multinationals like Monsanto. On the weight of evidence presented by 22 concerned organizations backed by a group of 53 scientists, the judge cited; “the risk of imminent harm to the environment,” “a commitment to respect the “Precautionary Principle” expressed in various international treaties,” emphasizing that “the government is obliged to protect the human rights of Mexicans against the economic interests of big business.” If only more were that courageous!
Switzerland which is another major hub of Genetic Engineering science (Syngenta AG) has only had two trials on their own soil back in 1991/92. Do they know something we don’t?
Ironically, China, who will not import North American wheat or corn. Whether it is under the pretense that it is GMO or, because it is a new political football they are learning to play with, it’s hard to say. But, given that China is one of the largest producers of GMO crops and other questionable products contaminated with everything from lead, to other food contaminants, it could also be a major case of self serving hypocrisy. Who knows?
As American As GMO Apple Pie
The United States itself, although the biggest producer, consumer and global pusher of GMO’s seems to have it’s own schizophrenic relationship with them. Between it’s government, that is firmly in the pockets of GMO corporations and it’s citizenry that generally does not want them, it is a battle waiting to happen. For being the “land of the free” and “the home of the brave,” there doesn’t seem to be a lot of freely functioning democracy bravely going on.
To date there are over 20 US states and counting that have passed, or are in the process of passing one kind of bill or another that would ban or declare moratoria on GMO test crops being planted or mandatory labeling. Some pass but are immediately challenged by the federal government or with law suits from the corporations themselves. The populations themselves seem to be so woefully uneducated on the facts of the matter, or are influenced by massive corporate backed marketing campaigns to side against GE food labeling to make them fail at the ballot box. What good is a political process if the will of the people is given less voice than that of corporate interests? Or, if corporate interests can be permitted to blatantly sway public opinion on nothing more than an empty commercial?
Not even apples are safe anymore in North America. Is anything really been wrong with apples as they are that they need to be made over? Well, it seems that some nut with a genetic tool box has seen fit to genetically alter the venerable apple so that;
A) a patent could be obtained and
B) to show that in not oxidizing (turn brown) when cut they have been somehow improved.
In addition to being a food, like every other food, apples have been used as remedies for thousands of years. Apple peels (organic) were made into a tea to calm the nerves, especially for stutterers and if the apple were grated into pulp and allowed to oxidize, it was commonly used to stop diarrhea. From the natural point of view this means that a GM apple can no longer be used as a remedy which makes you wonder whether it can still be called an apple even though it may still look like one?
It would seem that because of these new developments in apple manipulation the “mom and apple pie” cliche that has long been taken for granted may have taken a major hit as the wholesomeness of the “apple” itself is being questioned after being made over from what it once was into what some are now calling a “frankenapple.”
After having examined the science behind it and defining it’s terms very carefully the EU has taken issue against this brand spanking new “frankenfood,” not allowing it into the EU zone . . . and here’s why.
In order to make these “new” apples not turn brown their RNA (part of DNA) has been spliced with a gene found in an antibiotic called Kanamycin. The EU contends that given the fact that people are becoming immune to antibiotics in general from them already being overly prevalent in many other foods, that this new specific antibiotic contamination, risks making it ineffective should it be needed for certain life threatening conditions.
Because of this and the fact that there is potential for uniform cross contamination from these newly trademarked “Arctic” apples, with all other apple species grown in North America, it could threaten all apple exports to the EU, Russia, Costa Rica, Mexico and even China. This, in the face of already greatly reduced apple exports due to questionable chemical dependent North American apple growing practices with no less than 42 chemicals traced on a conventionally grown apple. If that isn’t enough to scare a conventional farmer into growing organic crops, it’s hard to say what might.
With this love-hate relationship between GMO’s , national governments and corporations on one side, and the populations of nations on the other, this is shaping up to be a huge mess in the making, the consequences of which are impossible to foresee politically, ecologically and health-wise. It would seem that the GMO corporations are running out of “feet to shoot themselves in” and may have to rely on their tried and true methods of marketing which have included; legal bullying, bribery through “legal” channels, government infiltration and other intimidation tactics to get their way.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them – And Then Fool Them
In the past decade or so, seeing the popularity of organic foods soaring to the stratosphere, a common tactic of major food companies in North America trying to gain a “food hold” into the “natural foods” market was to buy existing natural food companies. Clearly, the idea was to ride on the coat tails of their already established reputation as wholesome organic products producers selling to “health food” stores. Once bought-out, the existing high quality was gradually adulterated and cheapened in the name of cutting costs for profitability, likely hoping that no one would notice the difference while still marketing it as “all-natural.”
This happened to the once reputable “Kashi” brand which was bought out by Kellogg’s. According to a report by the Organic Consumers Association, it would seem that somebody started noticing the gradual changes in ingredients and initiated a class action law suit alleging that Kashi, although always having enjoyed a reputation as a wholesome organic food product company, is now routinely using questionable, artificial and even GMO’s in their ingredients while still maintaining they are “all-natural” – organic.
What’s worse is that they have intentionally been misleading their own customers by justifying itself in saying that, “Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination;” suggesting that there is little difference between organic and GMO foods. The details of this imbroglio can be easily found, but the main point is that these buy-out’s seem to be a way of creating a melting pot where all foods, whereby in North America, all foods can be regarded as all being “substantially equivalent” whether organic, chemically infested or, genetically modified, labeling notwithstanding.
And, oh yes, was it mentioned that Kashi also contributed to the industry campaign against GMO labeling? Something to think about next time you see this product on the shelf. The Organic Consumers Association is calling for a Boycott of the Kashi brand. Let’s see where this goes.
What is interesting is that a major component of this law suit again revolves around legal definitions more than science and ethics, which in this case revolves around what the terms “natural” or “all-natural” actually mean in the context of food. That this debate should even be taking place is alarming as this is a line that should never have been crossed. And, as the defining of what should already be self evident becomes even more cumbersome and obscured, it may get to the point that we will be redefining ourselves into an ever tighter straightjacket of laws where no one can move in any direction without breaking them except for those who can afford to by virtue of shear size and influence.
It is also very strange that it would take a private class action law suit to set a legal precedent in the market place to establish general food safety benchmarks, rather than the expected government regulatory agencies to define the terms of what good food and good food practices in favor of the public interest to everyone’s satisfaction.
What are consumers left to believe? Foods can only come from nature, as there is no other food source but nature. To question what is “natural” in food is like questioning what life itself is. Left to the food corporations, it is quite clear that they would like to make “life” itself their own property and held for ransom to the highest bidder.
Perhaps the biggest irony in this little story is the fact that the Kellogg cereal company was itself founded on principles of good health by the brother of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. The purpose of Kellogg’s was to produce corn flakes as a healthy food that had been promoted by the good doctor himself at his holistic sanitariums in Battle Creek, Michigan in the late 1800’s before the complete take over of all that had to do with health by corporations. Kellogg’s created the breakfast cereal industry and promoted the health food movement on the basis of sincere and good nutritional practices only for it to come to this.
Meanwhile, out of the blue, General Mills in response to public pressure and in an attempt to save it’s brand and market share, has declared that it is coming out with GMO free Cheerios – just like they always had been. Forbes Magazine stated that:
“The answer is that public opinion is reaching critical mass. Ninety-percent of Americans believe that GMOs are unsafe, 93 percent of Americans favor stringent federal GMO labeling regulations, and 57 percent say they would be less likely to buy products labeled as genetically modified. When we shift the focus from General Mills motivations to the timing of its decision, we see why every food manufacturer ought to be taking notice, whether another brand-name kitchen table staple goes non-GMO or not.”
Is the GMO house of cards falling apart? Well, let’s hope this is the “writing on the wall” for what GMO’s will eventually be faced with. It would seem that the only reason they oppose labeling GMO content is near universal public rejection of them.
For what it is worth, the following is a list of nations that are refusing to have GMO’s on their soil compiled by GENET, the European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering. Although the main governmental body of the EU has the final say; to date, those nations having elected to be completely or partially GE free zones have had their wishes respected.
This is a short list. Not surprisingly Canada and the United States are not included.
Europe Has A Very Different Attitude Towards GMO’s
In Europe most things revolve around some sort of clear quality versus quantity evaluation. As a result the matter of GMO’s in the food supply has been greatly simplified. Acutely aware of the infiltration of the lurking GMO monster and the consequences it could have on both health and economy, the European Union is showing a “zero tolerance” to genetically modified crops. Because research has consistently showed that GMO’s pose a very real health threat, labeling is mandatory. If a product contains more than 0.9% GMO content it must be labelled as such. In order to be labelled Organic a food product must have less than 0.1% GMO content. No ambiguity, no exceptions, no negotiation – end of story!
When it comes right down to it, even though Canada and the United States would like to force the EU to buy their GM products through trade agreements, it would be to no avail. There is no real trade barrier preventing the sale of goods to the European public but, protected and informed through mandatory labeling they will simply not buy them which goes back to the quality versus quality consciousness of the people. It would seem that labeling also cleverly takes controversy right out of the equation when it comes to international trade agreements showing that ultimately, a well informed public is the best defense of any nation’s interests.
Information readily in hand, the European public quickly chose not to buy food products that contained GMO’s. Whereby, the companies that were making the products stopped marketing them to Europe. But, being forever in search of a willing market, companies like Nestle and others, through their North American subsidiaries are now pushing their wares onto North America where the framework for GMO’s can best be described as misleading, and the general public, often confused by conflicting information, is often not well enough informed to know or care about the difference.
These companies realize that the North American market is not as discerning about quality because generally they have not grown up with it and often cannot tell the difference between a poor brand, an okay brand or an exceptional product especially when it comes to food. That, and from having become accustomed to the steady marketing pitch they’ve grown up with everywhere and in all media, are often easily persuaded to buy just about anything if it is pitched right. But, things are slowly changing.
Whereas, the top 10 GMO crops; corn, soy, cotton, papaya, rice, rapeseed (canola) potatoes, tomatoes peas, dairy products with more on the way are the norm in North America, for the most part Europe is virtually GMO free. So far, they have permitted only one crop to be grown legally on their soil; Monsanto’s infamous Bt-maize (MON810) corn.
While limiting GMO’s growing on their soils citing legitimate health concerns to people and livestock and potentially irreparable environmental damage, Europe does allow the limited importation of GMO’s confined to animal feed only, creating at least one degree of separation between them and those eating their meats.
When another questionable GMO corn crop, Pioneer’s maize 1507, asked to be grown on their soils it was quickly prohibited. Brought to a vote on January 16, 2014, the EU parliament rejected it, with a margin of 385 to 201, on scientifically backed environmental and health concerns, citing that; “We are Europe, we have seen what these type of crops have done to North America, Brazil and Argentina. We should learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.” Are we to fault Europe for actually having functioning democracies?
One might ask, that if a crop requires the approval of government simply for permission to be grown on their soils, there must be reason to suspect that there’s an underlying problem that would illicit that kind of caution at that level of governance. For all it’s faults, the collective scientific community in Europe is showing itself to be not only world class but, it also seems to show a conscience that is more than merely profit driven or prostituted for a bribe.
Those who voted on this must have realized that they would have had to live where this potential contaminant to their food supply is being grown – not to mention backlashes from their citizenry! And, in considering mounting evidence about the very real health and environmental risks of GMO’s wouldn’t anyone with any conscience not have voted in similar fashion?
Something unusual is happening here. The EU governing body, at least in this instance, is acting intelligently and in the best interests of it’s own people. We’re not used to that any more in the once “democratic bastion of freedom” of North America.
There are articles all over the internet citing study after study done by reputable scientists that indicate very real concerns. It would be hard to coin a word that would describe the mindset that would call itself scientific but would, at the same time, be one sided in selecting what scientific studies it would choose to believe, in favor of short term gains at the risk of consequences that would be made to bear on future generations.
European food companies are concerned about food quality and safety in a way that is different from how North Americans see food itself. Whereas in North America people readily eat foods they are being sold that might seem great to the average person but, that perception is often based more on how that food has been marketed to them than for its actual quality or taste value. And, in the absence of anything else to really compare it to, people satisfy themselves with it, sometimes thinking that by “super-sizing” the meal that it’s quality has somehow been improved.
American style fast food places for the most part have not found a warm reception In Europe. There already were all kinds of fast food genres all over Europe for centuries that do not resemble any kind of fast foods seen here. In Spain they have Tapas, in Venice they have Cicchetti served in Cafes. These are inexpensive, freshly made morsels of bite sized foods, served over the counter, eaten with a glass of wine. Fresh, never frozen, each bite is a fresh flavor experience made from ingredients freshly caught from the sea or, made from cured meats and pickled veggies served up hors d’oeuvre style. Given that every region has it’s own variation of these types of fresh “fast foods,” why settle for McDonald’s? All factors being equal; if you could drive a high end Mercedes Benz for the same price, or less of driving a Smart Car, which would you choose?
If you go to a busy bus station in Europe you’ll find no vending machines selling food because people will not buy it. Expect to find instead, freshly baked, high-end, world class little pastries, biscotti, panini and an array of coffees served in an atmosphere that is less a colorful carnival designed by focus groups to generate more sales, and more a poised and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy what you’re buying and eating. They do not want and will not buy or settle for what amounts to sugar glazed fried dough and mediocre coffee served in a Styrofoam or paper cup to have on-the-run!
By the same token it is so hard to get North Americans to understand that if your ingredients are good to begin with, you do not have to mask them, cover them with sauces or compensate for them by having too many different types of ingredients, or serving a larger portion size. If the food sucks, don’t eat it! Simply insist on better ingredients, prepared properly! Sadly, after eating mediocre foods for generations most can’t tell the difference. These distinctions have absolutely nothing to do with food snobbery. It has to do with the perception of quality versus actual quality and fast turnaround.
The “Slow Food” Movement!
This is why when Europeans go to a real, non-food chain pizzeria, that they have chosen specifically to relish the artfully developed flavors of the ingredients, they do not want to have those flavors buried by more ingredients than can possibly be tasted at one time. In using better quality flour without quick leavening agents, freshly prepared tomato sauce, fresh basil leaves on top of mozzarella cheese with all ingredients being fresh and more or less organic, they then sit down to eat it on real plates rather than to be satisfied eating out of a cardboard box tasting the flavor of cardboard as they eat.
Again, this is not at all a matter of food snobbery! They eat not just because they are hungry, but also to enjoy what they are eating while eating it, in the moment.
Similarly, in Europe they don’t drink their coffee on the run, in their cars while weaving in and out of traffic at 80 MPH on the highway as they drive to work. Instead, all households have a manual or electric coffee grinder that they pull out every morning to freshly grind their coffee beans to brew a great tasting cup of coffee while sitting at their table before heading off for the day. With the exception of maybe the UK – YOU WILL NOT READILY FIND INSTANT COFFEE there!! Their mindset insists that you enjoy what you are eating, while you are eating it, because the experience should be as enjoyable as the food itself. If that is not possible, then why eat it at all?
Is it surprising that with this attitude, Italy in particular has distanced itself from the whole fast food – GMO idea? They want nothing to do with it! Italy is the birth place of a lot of monumental and historical firsts as well as having created some of the worlds favorite and most recognized food genres. It has nothing to apologize for in rejecting fast food, let alone GMO’s. In an effort to preserve food quality and in retaliation to the unprovoked fast food invasion of Europe in general and Italy in particular, Italy has brought back an awareness to the joy of eating by starting the “Slow Food” movement – the notion that both food and the experience of eating it are not trivial and should not be taken for granted.
Slowing things down for the sake of relishing life while respecting the regionality of truly great foods and the experience of eating them has worth. Time should be taken that life be enjoyed and savored rather than done-on-the-run as so many have habitually gotten used to doing on this side of the Atlantic. While in that frantic mindless blur, life screams by too quickly to be felt or remembered. Not only is this hurried frenzy futile and senseless it’s also unhealthy for body, soul and spirit.
This Zen like relationship to life and food, is the real value of the Italian “Slow Food” movement! The idea that food is an even greater part of culture than literature, art, architecture, philosophy and so on because food is the giver of life that permitted all other aspects of culture to develop and flourish.
It must again be emphasized that this has nothing to do with snob appeal! It’s an attitude towards life being actively reflected in every aspect of life by living in the moment, that the moment might be savored and that life be contemplated that much more through the simple pleasure of eating a great, sometimes mouth watering delight even if it be nothing more than a simple snack. Why should that brief but very necessary experiencing of life through food not be as much a delectably focused interaction as any other? After all, it is what makes everything we do in between it and our next meal possible and, as essential and important as everything else we might do.
This major cultural difference between the two continents is to be seen as much in
how they live, how they dress, the permanence of what they build, the beauty of the built environment they live in as well as in what and how they eat. Europe is no paradise but, like well aged wine and cheese, Europe has had time to mature and come of age after over 4,000 years of sometimes trying history. North America is not quite into it’s adolescence, and for all of it’s effervescent energy, enthusiasm and “can-do” attitude, this sometimes shows.
This is not to snub or knock North America. After all, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peppers, chocolate, concord grapes, pecans, peanuts and several tropical fruits that the whole world now enjoys are from this part of the world. At the same time, many of the foods we consider to be exclusively North American were imported a long, long time ago; mainly from Europe.
All grains besides corn – apples, pears, peaches, plums, almonds, hazelnuts, wine grapes, white grapes, figs, cherries, dates, citrus fruit and many others are all from the old world. Cows and horses that we sometimes associate exclusively with the West are in fact from the old world as are sheep, goats, chickens, hogs and the honey bee.
If You Cannot Find It Anywhere, You Have To Import It
Just like the original European settlers of North America, we eat European imported foods to experience old world tastes and flavors that we cannot find in North America. Ironically, some of the ingredients in those foods, like wheat may sometimes originate from North America but, their exported end products are something so completely different from anything we already have or produce here as to be in a genre of their own. And so, we import them to savor them; changing our own cultures as we do.
We all know gelato is of Italian origins and can now have it at high end restaurants. Nutella is now so familiar that you can buy it at Costco. The humble biscotto, a normal everyday part of Italian life, is now standard fare at any reputable cafe or coffee shop. No household is complete without some balsamic vinegar to season salads or, reduced over a slow heat to be poured over everything from meats to cakes to ice cream. Polenta is another Italian classic that bears little resemblance to grits. To name just a few now familiar cultural transplants from up and down the Italian boot.
North America has nothing that really compares with pannettone or torrone. There is no concept of an “Amaretto” cookie outside of Italy. Although we all know that tomatoes are indigenous to Mexico, Italian tomato sauces, tomato pastes and other delectably combined tomato based foods do not resemble Mexican salsa at all. Peppers that may also have originally came from Mexico are not to be found there roasted and tightly packed and preserved in a glass jar with garlic and spices in olive oil to be served on a fresh slice of bread to make your mouth water. The same goes for dozens of different types of pickled vegetables that have all been stamped with that special Italian prepared flavor.
European foods imported into North America are typically of high quality and because of the European stance of GMO’s are generally GMO free. A person buying them, is buying a food of superior quality by default because of the very strict European intolerance to excessive chemical additives and GMO content. They are health foods by default, so we find ourselves importing these foods, buying them and enjoying them like the specialties that they truly are without the concerns over GMO’s.
Why could they not be made here????? Simple the government is against artesianal foods. Not officially or directly mind you; that would be political suicide. Instead, they regulate these type of businesses to death with bogus health and sanitary regulations that make no sense. How do you make cheese without the cheese culture that would turn milk into cheese when aged? Are we only to have sterile processed fake cheeses that are more plastic than food simply because they have no natural mold on them and deemed safe from being chemically inert? They are edible but are they foods?
Having said that, it must be noted that Non-GMO and completely organic foods are also available in North America. This is an huge irony given that they exist in the land that spawned the health food movement, but that is now also pushing GMO’s to the point of threatening all other foods types. These foods are often prepared as “health foods” first and gourmet items a distant second. It would seem that the movement towards tastier fare that is also completely in keeping with the unadulterated health food concept is gradually maturing from exposure to European and other cultures and how they balance purest quality with great flavors.
When Europeans came to North America, even as late as the 50‘s and 60‘s they began seeking out the foods and flavors from their native European countries; not always out of nostalgia but also because they found that the food variety as well as flavors available to them were quite limited in their newly adopted homeland. There was great and easily available abundance but, it was predominantly a meat and potatoes culture offering very little in between.
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, from the Executive Office of The White House stated that; “U.S. imports of agricultural products from EU countries totaled $16.6 billion in 2012.” Proportionately, based on population, the Canadian importation of same is likely about one tenth of that or $1.66 billion for a total of $18.26 billion in total agricultural imports to North America from the EU. These include wine and beer, essential oils, snack foods, processed fruit and vegetables and feeds and fodders for livestock.
Staying True To Their Roots As Part Of Health, Heritage and Good Business
Italian food companies buy their grains and other raw food stuffs either from domestic growers or selectively import them, insisting that they be non-GMO. It’s a matter of fastidious attention to the details of their food production practices which forms the basis of trust between them and their customers. You see, in Europe companies do a lot less marketing than companies in North America customarily do. Their philosophy is based on the very sound notion that if you consistently produce a quality product and provide good service at a reasonable price, your product quality becomes its own marketing. In trying that product, people, won over by it’s quality, will keep on buying it based on quality alone! No marketing push is needed beyond that. These companies are content to grow gradually and organically along with the demand for their products solely on the basis that people like what they are being sold.
By contrast, North America has a very different approach; the philosophy being, that perception often matters more than actual substance. Not that marketing is not effective but, in North America large companies rely heavily on marketing the impression that they are a great company with incomparably great products while often producing something of lesser or even questionable quality and value. This is very much a “sucker beware” approach to business and perhaps even to life.
Without constantly reinforcing their message through repetition it is quickly forgotten, drowned out by their competition, as the experience with their product is often found to be less than what it was being made out to be. This is why in the marketing of foods in North America, the quality of the food cannot be the main focus, as it is not the food itself that is being focused on because it’s quality is mediocre at best. Instead, we see clowns selling the experience and offering gimmicks to reinforce it rather than the food itself, especially in the marketing of food to children. Some have even shown that people can be made addicted to these foods through their added additives. The reality is that in North America the focus is more about money through fast turn over, than food quality. The food regulations place the consumer in last place after the heavily lobbied corporate interests, forcing the buyer to become wary!
You will see this in other North American industries too. We saw it in the auto industry where for decades cars produced in North America were at least 10 years behind imported brands in both design and technology and are still lagging behind the rest of the world in fuel economy. Again, it’s about perception over substance. We also saw it in the Ford Pinto, that although known to be a car that exploded on impact with other cars, it was found more cost effective to pay out damages from law suits than fix the car’s considerable engineering defects. Would you trust a company who’s attitude towards food was like that?
This same “sucker beware” attitude fostered through deliberately keeping a customer from the facts of what they are purchasing is behind the unwillingness of food companies to simply label their GMO food products for what they are. How else could it be defined but a deliberate and reckless endangerment hiding behind deceptive legal definitions that would obscure potential dangers that have been internationally recognized as being substantial. In Europe, it would have been the end of any company that did that from a complete loss in customer trust, let alone government oversight.
By stark contrast, in Europe, whether it has to do with cars, clothes, housing, regular consumer goods and especially food, the exact opposite practice to how business is conducted in North America is the norm. For example, when the EU was forming, Great Britain proposed permitting artificial ingredients in the making of beer, to which Germany flatly stated, they were not interested in being part of the EU if their beer and likely other food related items were to be compromised in this way. And that, as they say, was the end of that!
Many, now large European food companies making foods started with old family recipes with the express intent of creating something unique and of quality at their inception. The old recipes called for exacting ingredients that at times were grown in specific areas to provide that special extra nuance of flavor that could not be found anywhere else. That is what in the end made that special difference in flavor, making their final product stand apart from all others. That uniqueness is the “stand alone” marketing for that product and the EU actively protects that. Not having been raised with fine food quality as being important, we here, who will accept Twinkies as food, do not understand that extent of food protection.
Food And Habitat
Most in North America have never had the experience of eating the same foods they are familiar with from outside of North America. When we eat a plain potato, we do not consider that they are generally grown in one area, in depleted, chemically fertilized soils and are sometimes even irradiated, leaving no potato flavor left to be tasted. Consequently, not knowing the difference, whether we order it anywhere between Florida to Canada, we taste the same bland, tastelessness every single time not knowing what it should actually taste like.
That same potato grown in, say, Mexico or even Europe, served in the exact same way will taste completely different. For most, it’s their first encounter with the actual taste of the potato. Some might think this an impossibility. The reality is, that if you’ve never had that simple food experience comparison, you likely have not traveled and therefore cannot know that such differences exist or are even possible. This is the difference between foods grown with greater care from different areas.
It is also not unusual in Europe for crops originally indigenous to other parts of the world to now be growing on their own soils to have become part of the food heritage of it’s adopted country and culture. In the preservation of both the food and it’s quality those now native foods are being grown to exacting standards to yield their special flavor from having been grown in their new native soils. All of Europe and Europeans recognize this but it was the French who gave it a name.
The French recognizing this subtlety, calling attention to the regionalism of foods in the word “terroir” – meaning, “of or from the soils of the region.” This quality is something that is given to foods from the Earth itself. It is different in specific parts of the world and to particular regions of a land, imparting that special “je ne sais quoi” that no other place on Earth can give it. Vintners are especially sensitive to this in their wine making.
Once you destroy that very fine quality in the soils in the various regions of the world it is difficult, if not impossible to restore it to what it had been. It is sad that after having been preserved even after thousands of years of continuous cultivation, that this precious “terroir” can be so easily destroyed in only a few short generations.
That appreciation is lost in North America where it is a well known fact that the once most productive soils have either been turned into subdivisions or depleted to the point that they will not yield crops without artificial fertilizers. This may be just one more reason why in Europe, a culture where food is central to cultural identity, being uncompromisingly serious about producing food using too many chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and especially GMO’s is not just frowned upon, they are positively repulsed by the very idea.
In the case of Italy and a few other nations in the EU, several of it regions have democratically elected to make themselves GMO FREE zones. The results have been ratified by their national governments, effectively giving them authority under Italian law to overturn EU decisions regarding at least this particular issue.
European Guaranteed Quality Assurance
Long before concerns over GMO’s arose, there were regulations in place to protect the quality, integrity and regional uniqueness of foods in Europe. This began in France where in 1411, Roquefort cheese was actually regulated by parliamentary decree. In order to qualify as Roquefort cheese, it must be made from the milk of only a certain breed of sheep and allowed to age in the caves where the particular fungus for that cheese exists, which is near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France. It cannot get any more explicit than that!
This type of quality assurance was later termed Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) which translates as “Controlled Designation of Origin.” This designation is a certification that requires that foods be produced within a specified region using both defined methods and quality standards. It is a recognition of the value of food from the lover affair people have traditionally had with it. The idea that protecting the reputation of the regional foods by eliminating unfair competition that could mislead consumers with non-genuine products is a concept that does not exist to this extent, or at all in North America because of the obsession with production volume!
This designation extends to unique foods, wines, cheeses butters, honey, meats, things like lavender and all kinds of unique agricultural products all over Europe. More than that, these regulations go as far as to even protect the names of all unique regional foods. We are not talking about corporate owned patents here. This is about regional preservation and the regionalism of foods as part of an implied trademark of those foods based on regional and traditional food production processes and practices.
The EU extends an equivalent standard called the “Protected Designation of Origin” to all of Europe. This is why even though many companies worldwide may be able to distill wine and call it brandy, only those in the Cognac region of France can legally be called Cognac. This extends to all European foods like Somerset Cider Brandy, Gorgonzola, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Camembert, Balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Piave cheese, Asiago cheese . . . on and on. These familiar foods can only be labelled as such if they come from the regions that have traditionally produced them with strict adherence to the traditional practices, protecting both the respective regions and those who have traditionally worked to give each region it’s unique character. This is active protection of heritage.
In Italy this same concept is known as “Denominazione di origine controllata” (DOC). Some Italian food producers went a step further. In guaranteeing their customers of their dedication to regionalism, fastidious attention to food authenticity and, in feeling that at times the DOC designation was sometimes being given too liberally, they established “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” (DOCG) meaning “controlled designation of origin guaranteed.”
North America has a similar type of standard but it only applies to wines as they are a regional product by default. This could never work for most other foods produced on this continent as it would be a little ridiculous to apply it to something like Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip, Kraft cheese food slices or Cheez Whiz which are more corporate icons tied to no region, and as far from artisanal foods as you can get.
Of course people value eating in North America too but, as of the present, they place far less value on food itself possibly because, we have not had enough time or the mindset to develop a mature regionally identifiable character and translate it into our foods to the extent that they are part of a regional heritage. In a predominantly fast food culture, that is very hard to establish. Often, you will find that foods are being served up as “Italian, French, Greek, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian or some other ethnic identity because arguably, with few exceptions and “corporate” foods aside, except for foods of Native American origins there really isn’t a food that can truly call itself “American” or “Canadian.” Is anyone up for some pemmican? Sure you can eat it, but . . .
It is clear that with the interests of all the different regions of Europe to be considered in it’s food policies the EU has had to protect the many food based economies of all the diverse regions within it’s borders. This cannot be done without first safeguarding the prime regional food stuffs from every kind of potential contamination, the most threatening one being GMO’s. Strict standards are therefore quite justified.
The Regionalism Of European Foods
When settlers came to the Americas, all they saw was native peoples whom they considered primitive, tribal savages. They forgot that the land they came from was at one time made up of dozens of barbaric tribes as well, and that to the far more civilized Arabs, Persians and Orientals they, themselves were not much different. In time, they matured; each tribe foraging in general isolation of the others, developing their own unique identity and growing to form the character of their respective nations.
When arriving in this new land, everywhere throughout the vast North American frontier where the Europeans settled became a mini European outpost of sorts with more or less similar cultural habits, beliefs and cuisines that all blended together. Because of that more or less homogeneity among white people, their foods too were similar enough to be considered uniform. Regionalism didn’t really have time to develop organically. So, it is understandably hard for some to imagine that most areas in Europe are specifically known for and sometimes synonymous with various types of industry, crafts and foods that have been steadily cultivated and refined over the centuries out of indigenous resources.
You do not have to travel very far in Europe to find hundreds of different areas, each with their own traditional wares and foods prepared artisanally with artistic flare showing itself in unique and amazing artistry and flavors reflecting each culture in them. Although geographically diverse, North America only has a few examples of this type of regional uniqueness while fostering uniformity through standardized industry and ubiquitous fast foods.
It should also be understood that North America, although a vast land of industry, wealth, prosperity, power and know-how is also a land of enormous resources, that few realize happen to also be limited in variety. Europe on the other hand had been blessed with variety, which is the inspiration for our own food varieties, food combinations and preparation methods.
In recognition of it’s strong European roots there is an understanding of the value of emulating or at least exploiting the artisanal concept and attitude towards doing things. A sense that brought together a disciplined and caring effort and placing it into whatever someone was doing to produce something of exceptional quality. In an effort to capture the near mystical status that suggests quality out of love of craftsmanship and attention to detail, some foods in North America are arbitrarily labeled as “artisanal” even in the complete absence of it.
If a product has to say it is artisanal, odds are it isn’t. It’s just another marketing ploy. So you have products like: Tostito Artisan tortilla chips, Starbucks Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches, Dominos Artisan pizzas and many other mass-produced foods hiding behind a word they have nothing to do with. They’re just poor copies of taste tested foods based on focus group marketing studies.
Seeing the value of truly artisanal food quality, there is an honest and growing movement towards it in North America. The problem is sometimes thwarted by regulations that do not understand the concept. They often cite the presence of mold and mold spores as hazardous to health but forget that cheese could not be cheese and various types of cured meats could not be what they are without them.
The fact that these molds have never harmed anyone is ignored. In an effort to sterilize everything, many foods often end up biologically dead, with measurable but little food value and incapable of naturally decomposing. A case of shelf life and appearances having precedence over life itself.
North American artisanal food producers typically create beers, breads, cured meats, chocolates, pickles, jams and cheeses in small batches by dedicated craftsman in their trades. Sometimes having to import the craftsmen from Europe to do it. A great new development. What you will notice however is that these foods, with the exception of those made with chocolate, beans, peppers, squash, corn, maple syrup, cranberries, concord grapes and a few others, are not necessarily made from indigenous ingredients that can be considered typically North American.
The American Southwest and Mexico seems to be among the few places where foods typical to North America are still being served using processes and ingredients that have been cultivated over hundreds or even thousands of years. The Europeans made much of what they found in the Americas. They turned Maple tree sap into maple syrup in the areas of New England and across Eastern Canada. They cultivated the corn that they saw the Indians planting and turned the tart cranberry into both food and remedy. In places like New Orleans you have gumbo that came with help from the Black Africans who had been taken there.
When you compare this to Europe, one is immediately struck by the shear variety in both genres of foods and the variety of food flavors within each genre and the uncompromising quality from the various regions. This didn’t just happen to satisfy marketing criteria. These are the indigenous foods of the different people’s that populated Europe that took hundreds and in some cases thousands of years to develop.
Foods From Different Regions
Vienna, Austria is known for the Sachertorte, a very fine cake among many others made world famous by one particular Hotel Cafe and Marzipan, a fine flavored almond paste. Ottoman influences aside, apple studel is typically Austrian, but what we know as strudel in North America, after having been made industrially looks and tastes nothing like it. Instead, you have Pop Tart like foods labeled as Strudel. Or, sugared fried dough labeled as scones that have nothing what so ever to do with what a scone is.
The city of Parma in Italy is home to the world renowned Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese – the kind high-end restaurants freshly grate over your pasta. The regions of Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna are also permitted to produce it. These areas are also famous for their Prosciutto – Italian cured ham.
The town of Asiago in the province of Vicenza in the Veneto region of Italy is where Asiago Cheese is from.
The City of Modena, Italy is famous for at least two things Balsamic vinegar and Ferrari. They are not made anywhere else.
In Sicily there are towns that celebrate their unique pistachios and capers. The city of Marsala in Sicily is where the Marsala wine and Crema Marsala are made.
Italy has every imaginable type of cured meat from mortadella, to salami, to prosciutto, to Guanciale, Muset, Copicollo . . . with too many varieties to mention when all regions are considered. The same goes for cheeses, pastries, wines, liquors, breads, sweet breads and confections. That same can be said of all other nations in the EU.
Germany alone has dozens of different kinds of sausages only one of which is the Frankfurter – the forerunner of the American hot dog. The hot dog bun however was classic American marketing genius. The Hamburger also traces it’s origins to Hamburg Germany but, like the hot dog, it took American marketing genius to develop a round hamburger bun to market it successfully.
Although more popular in Northern Europe Mustard as the condiment people spread on their fish and fast food is of Roman origins. Ketchup is considered to be a typical American condiment. It was developed by Chinese immigrants working on the transcontinental railroad. What it has become is not something that should be eaten due to added chemicals, GMO’s and modified sugars made from GMO’s.
Throughout Europe, there is a continuous celebration of food. There are festivals for new wine, spring wine, vendemia – the picking of grapes to make wine, Oktoberfest, traditional foods for days of religious significance that seem to never end. These are the origins of North American Thanksgiving but go far beyond it.
Here are a few Italian companies that are exacting and uncompromising in their quality when they produce foods.
Italy And Pasta
Italy cannot lay claim to the pasta concept. Noodles are Chinese, introduced to Italy by Marco Polo in the late 1200’s. In calling it “pasta” and adapting it to their culture, the Italian stamp they have put on them can rightfully be called art. An art that many Italian pasta makers are extremely zealous about!
Here is the mission statement from the web site of the Italian firm Riscossa Pasta. A multi-generational “pastificcio” that has been in business of making fine pasta since 1902.
“To obtain a tasty, high quality product that cooks to perfection and is healthy and safe, it is essential to select the finest raw materials.
The best durum wheat, non GMO!
Riscossa uses the finest durum wheat from the Italian regions of Puglia, Basilicata as well as from other nations that are best suited to the making of pasta based on their natural color, quality and quantity of gluten. For this purpose 15-20% of the very best quality durum wheat available from Australia, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico and Arizona are also used to assure the consumer of an optimum protein content.
“In the Riscossa product line there are is no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) content.”
It would be hard to give a more clear directive of intent of purpose than this in the making of a food product.
Italy and Tomatoes
Tomatoes are from Mexico, Central and South America. We all know this. But, culturally, in their cultivation, Italy, Italians and Italian foods seem to be synonymous with tomatoes and one species in particular, the San Marzano.
The San Marzano tomato came to Italy in the 1770 as a gift from the Viceroy of Peru to the King of Naples, when both Peru and Naples were ruled by Spain. It was planted near Naples in the small town of San Marzano sul Sarno, after which it was named. It has proved to be a very valuable food indeed, not only to the Neapolitan region but to Italy itself culturally. After it’s seeds had found their way back across the Atlantic, likely via Italian immigrants, the San Marzano tomato, it’s flesh being much thicker, having fewer seeds and a stronger, sweeter taste with less acidity, became “the most important industrial tomato of the 20th century.” It’s also been hybridized into the more familiar Roma tomato among many others.
The San Marzano, being the original non-hybridized strain of this tomato in Italy, preserved both in species and region is now part of Italian heritage. Which means that when they are grown in the valley by the river Sarno in Italy; the area where they were originally planted, they are classified as “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino” which affords them and any product made with them the further designation and protection of the Italian D.O.P. as well as the EU PDO in their labeling.
Anything less, as with any other food given the DOP label, is legally considered fraud. Just to show that these designations to food have teeth, in 2010, 1,470 tons of canned tomatoes were confiscated for having been mislabeled “San Marzano,” from nothing having been grown in a particular area.
And, get this. Given that Pizza is a traditional Neapolitan food, originally made with San Marzano tomatoes, only San Marzano tomatoes can be used in the making of “True Neapolitan Pizza.” So there!
In North America this might be taken as “lack of freedom” but, would it be better to allow poison into foods for the sake of freedom? Or, is it right to take away the hard work of those who had dedicated themselves to developing a region and it’s character? It is no different than being given a patent right in recognition for having created value in having established a national heritage.
Clearly Europe would have a lot to loose if it endangered it’s agriculture through the wholesale introduction of GMO’s. Through their genetic contamination they would threaten all regions, not only in matters of health but, also the regional food based economies and the diversity of food related cottage industries. Not having that same variety of foods or food traditions, it is hard for North Americans to comprehend what would be at stake.
With it’s attitude towards life and product production in general, Europe has maintained itself as a leading edge global powerhouse of production that extends to all facets of industry. It is doing it’s level best to extend that mindset to food production heritage as well and all other nations should take notice. For reasons like these there is little if anything to fear from buying from the EU which produces world class products in every genre that they often dominate in their chosen niche. They are often copied and imitated but never quite duplicated. Let’s hope everyone listens, watches and learns before sacrificing what has always been ours in our global food heritage.
By contrast, given the scientific evidence, people do have a legitimate concern when buying some foods grown and manufactured in the USA and Canada but not because of the willful acts of individuals or some small companies who are honestly trying to produce great foods and even food products of artisan quality by the European model. No, it is because of how corporations are redefining the food playing field in North America to suit themselves in every way as they march towards creating a monopoly in food production and practices seemingly without opposition.
Vote with your wallet. Find good non GMO food, local producers and farmers who produce them and support them by buying their products. The world changes when the little people of world wake up and take control of their own lives and in this case, their food!!!
Fix that problem and all other problems are fixed!