Degeneration Nation: Connecting the Dots Between Factory Farms, Roundup, GMOs, and Fake ‘Natural’ Foods

You can help to prompt significant change in the agricultural industry by boycotting CAFO and GE products and instead purchasing food grown only by local farmers who are using natural methods and soil-regenerative techniques, such as no-till, cover crops, composting and livestock integration. Look for farmers markets, food co-ops and direct-from-the-farm sales in your area — these sustainable alternatives are growing rapidly across the U.S. and will offer you fresher, healthier food and the satisfaction of knowing you are helping to drive permanent positive changes in food production. – “Factory Farms Consuming the U.S.,” Mercola.com, June 20, 2017

After years of single-issue campaigning against America’s degenerate food and farming system, with real but limited success, it’s time for a change of strategy and tactics. By connecting the dots between a range of heretofore separate issues and campaigns, by focusing on some of the major weaknesses or vulnerabilities of the system, we can speed up our transition to an organic and regenerative food and farming system before our health, environmental and climate crises turn into full-blown catastrophe.

After decades of trying to reform public policy on food and farming, including an intense four-year battle to force mandatory labeling of GMOs (rudely terminated in 2016 when Congress and the Obama administration rammed through the outrageous DARK Act), food activists and conscious consumers find ourselves wondering “what’s the use of lobbying the government?” Do we really think the Trump administration, the Republican Congress, and farm state and Establishment Democrats care about the toxicity, exploitation and environmental destruction of our food system?

The culinary directive from Congress and the White House this summer goes something like this: Don’t worry. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods, cheap junk foods, and factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry. Don’t worry about Monsanto’s Roundup or Dow’s neonic residues in your food and water. Don’t worry about the dubious fare at your local supermarkets, including thousands of products fraudulently labeled or advertised as “natural.”

Don’t worry about cancer, diabetes, heart attacks or supersizing yourself and your kids with chemical and GMO-tainted food, we’re told. Don’t worry about contaminated food pouring in from China and Brazil. Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormone disruptors, BPA and other carcinogens and hormone disruptors. And don’t worry about global warming, or the precarious state of bees, birds and the environment. Put your trust in America’s industrial food system and factory farms and Monsanto’s minions–indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and the mass media.

If we’re ever going to have a food and farming system that’s healthy for us and the planet, one of the things we’ll have to do is “throw the bums out” and elect a Brand New Government, from Main Street to Washington D.C. But in the meantime, since Our Revolution is going to take a while, a growing number of food activists, including myself, believe it’s time to step up the attack on Monsanto, pesticides, factory farms, fake “natural” products, organic fraud, and the entire degenerative food and farming system.

It’s time to make organic and healthy food the norm, not just the niche market that it still is.

Over the past several decades, public education, protests and boycotts against GMOs, pesticides, factory farms and junk food have begun to transform U.S. consumer consciousness, driving a combined annual $55-billion organic and grass-fed market that now comprises more than 5 percent of all grocery store sales (and 15 percent of all produce sales). This is a good start. But our challenge over the next four years, while we can expect Congress to do little or nothing, is to double the size of the organic and grass-fed market, moving from a niche position to the tipping point.

Surveys indicate that Americans are increasingly alarmed about deteriorating public health, and the pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs lurking in conventional food brands, restaurant fare and school cafeterias. We obviously can’t count on a corrupt Congress or a Trump/Pence administration to protect our food and our environment. So it’s time to step up our marketplace pressure, with boycotts, lawsuits, brand de-legitimization and direct action.

Our job is to escalate our food fights into what can only be described as a food revolution. Our health, environment and climate stability require that we turn away from our degenerate food, farming and land use system to one which is regenerative.

How do we do this? Here are six steps we as individuals, and we as a food movement, need to take:

1.  Boycott GMO foods. Practically speaking, every grocery and restaurant food product or menu item that contains soy, corn, canola, vegetable oil or sweeteners, unless labeled “organic,” is GMO-derived. The same is true for every meat, dairy or egg product that is not labeled or advertised as organic, transition to organic, grass-fed, or genuinely free range.

Our answer to the anti-consumer DARK Act SmartCodes (which substitute bar codes and company websites for clear on-package GMO labeling) must be to boycott every one of the thousands of supermarket food products that display a QR SmartCode, the veritable “Mark of Monsanto.”

2.  Boycott factory-farm meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. We need to stop the overconsumption of CAFO meat and animal products in general. Americans consume on the average 10 ounces a day of meat, whereas natural health experts recommend three, none of which should come from factory farms.

Factory farming, a trillion-dollar industry, is the lynchpin of the GMO industry and the primary driver of deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, water pollution and global warming.

Factory farms:

• Imprison billions of farm animals in filthy, unhealthy, inhumane confinement, where they are drugged, implanted and injected with synthetic hormones and growth promoters, and fed a steady diet of pesticide-drenched GMO grains.

• Occupy the majority of U.S. and global farmland today, either for raising animals before they are sent to the CAFO feedlots, or to grow the GMO and chemical-intensive crops such as alfalfa, canola, corn and soybeans to feed animals.

• Are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farm meat, dairy and egg products are leading causes of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, reproductive defects, hormone disruption and obesity.

3.  Drive Monsanto’s Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) off the market. Roundup is the DDT of our times, and it is polluting the entire country, and the world. We need to force farmers and food brands to stop using Roundup, but we also need to convince homeowners and landscape managers to stop buying it.

Up to 90 percent of all GMO crops are sprayed with Roundup, as are a growing number of other foods, even if they are not yet genetically engineered, including (non-organic) wheat, oats and beans. Roundup is used as a desiccant on many of these crops, to dry them out before harvest.

But we also need to keep in mind that 30 percent of all Roundup herbicides (representing 50 percent of Monsanto’s Roundup profits) are sold to consumers (for lawn and garden spraying) and local governments (for spraying in parks, schoolyards, and along roads and transmission lines). We need to pressure major retail and online vendors of Roundup (Amazon, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Costco) to stop selling this poison, as well as other toxic pesticides, such as bee-killing neonic pesticides, and Agent Orange 2-4 D. We also need to do the same with local governments, park boards and school boards. If local officials refuse to stop spraying Roundup, we need to expose them and then vote them out of office. Organic landscaping for lawns, parks, roadways, and schoolyards is an integral part of the Regeneration Revolution.

4.  Increase independent lab testing of brand-name foods, especially those pretending to be “natural” or “all natural,” for pesticides like Roundup, so we can reveal the pesticides, poisons and toxins lurking in non-organic foods. Once we expose the pesticides and toxins laced into these foods we can sue the fake natural, greenwashing companies for false advertising while launching grassroots campaigns to boycott them. It’s time to expose the fraud of so-called “Natural” and “All Natural” products and underline the difference between these fake organic and genuine organic products.

5.  Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

6.  Move beyond single-issue thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and silos and begin to “connect the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace and democracy. We need to work together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution.

It’s time to take back control of our food system, our health, our government and regulatory agencies. If the government won’t allow proper labeling and safety testing of foods, then we, the global grassroots, need to investigate, expose and boycott toxic products and chemicals. If industry and the government won’t fund “sound science,” then we will need to crowdsource and fund independent, sound science ourselves.

In the meantime, we need to defend ourselves and our families, especially the children and most vulnerable, by buying organic and truly natural foods and products, today and every day. Grow your own. Build up local food hubs and community capacity. Support economic justice campaigns so that poor and minority communities can afford and gain access to organic foods. Reach out to others and get organized. Don’t just mourn or complain, Resist and Boycott.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

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