GMOs and Real Food in the News
Lot of great things going on in the news this week. Enjoy! Mom
Goodbye, Factory Farm: ‘Food, Inc.’ Chicken Farmer Goes Rogue
Fed up with the horrific conditions, former Perdue contractor Carole Morison has started a humane, free-range farm.
By Megan Bedard
May 7, 2012
“Know where your food comes from and how it got to your table. Know your farmer!” says Carole Morison, a proud new free-range farm owner. (Photo: Carole Morison)
When Food, Inc.—a documentary exposing the highly mechanized food industry—hit theaters in 2008, it left many Americans feeling queasy about the unsavory methods that bring food to their plates. Carole Morison, a Maryland chicken farmer under contract with Perdue Farms, was featured prominently in the film. “I’ve just made up my mind I’m gonna say what I have to say,” she says in the film, before opening the door to her henhouse to expose the filthy, overcrowded conditions of her factory-style farm.
Five years after filming, she’s a long way from that moment. When her contract with Perdue Farm was terminated (the company ended the relationship when Carole and her husband refused an “upgrade” that would have closed the chickens off from sunlight and fresh air) Carole and her husband left the factory farming system in the dust and started a humane, free range farm.
So what’s different? Pretty much everything.
|Why Hasn’t the FDA Banned Arsenic in Chicken Feed?|
TakePart: Five years ago, when Food, Inc. was being filmed, you were already visibly disgusted by the conditions on your farm and the pressures put on you by Perdue. What finally pushed you over the edge and inspired your change?
Carole Morison: Becoming disgusted with the conditions on the farm and the pressures from Perdue was a gradual buildup of things until the final questioning of myself: “How did I get like this?”
I wasn’t born a farmer; I married a farmer. In the beginning I thought that the way we were raising chickens was the only way it was done. About five years into contract farming, I started questioning the conditions that farmers were forced into through the contracts. I learned early that you weren’t supposed to talk about it—at least not publicly. A well-meaning friend of my husband said at that time that I needed to put a lid on it or we would lose our contract. Having not grown up in the system, it was impossible for me to understand that we weren’t allowed to speak or that we had no say over how we operated our farm and the raising of the chickens. Looking back, I can remember us sitting at the kitchen table talking about the system and actually lowering our voices as if someone might hear. It’s humorous now, but at the time the fear was real.
Picking up dead chickens and having to kill many that weren’t thrifty or uniform in the size that the company wanted was a daily chore. It was disheartening. There was never any choice in the matter or the option to give the animal a chance. The culling [killing] of chickens was something that I could never bring myself to do; I always left it for my husband. I do believe in euthanizing animals that are suffering or don’t stand a chance of survival; however, I don’t believe in killing animals just because they don’t measure up to the cookie cutter demands by industry.
TakePart: What other kinds of demands does the industry put on you? Can you describe how they affected your farm?
Carole Morison: Industry mixing and matching of breeds and genetics produces chickens that meet consumer demands, such as large breasts. Chickens which grow at such a rapid weight that they reach slaughter within six to seven weeks enable the companies to produce pounds of meat quickly. Watching these chickens grow to the point that they couldn’t take more than a few steps and then plop down in exhaustion or had bad legs because their bones couldn’t support the weight was normal. Many would flip over and die from heart attacks.
The control over our farm and constant demands for upgrades to housing and equipment infuriated me. It was as if we had turned our bank account over to the company and they had a blank check. If we didn’t allow the company to spend our money for us, the threat of contract termination was used as the enforcer. Many times I had to bite my tongue to not tell the company men to put the contract where the sun doesn’t shine. When both of us had to get off-farm jobs in order to support the farm and put food on the table, it made absolutely no sense to me. It was like we were supporting a very expensive habit that we could do without.
TakePart: How did you cope with something you knew was wrong?
Carole Morison: I became numb to these things in order to cope on a daily basis. If I blocked it from my mind, then I didn’t have to feel bad about the things we were forced to do in order to survive. Pride and stubbornness are farmer traits, and losing the family farm is not on the “to-do list.”
TakePart: So industry demands were obviously upsetting you. What else did you see as problematic about the poultry industry?
Carole Morison: Industry handling of environmental issues over runoff from manure and overloading of nutrients boggled my mind and still does to this day. Absolute denial by industry was followed by passing all of the blame to farmers. I have never understood how the companies can claim ownership of the flock of chickens on the farm (a written clause in the contract) and then take no responsibility of the manure that their chickens produce. The only time that the chickens belong to the farmer is when they are dead. I’ve always said that when the time comes that chicken manure is worth money, the companies will assume ownership.
When antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other public-health issues emerged, I knew in my mind that the culprit was the industry. Finding out that arsenic was in the feed that the company sends (which the farmer has to use—another contract item) infuriated me. It had been going on for years. Unknowingly we were spreading manure containing arsenic on our land as well as being exposed to it on a daily basis from the dust and feed in the chicken house. I went ballistic wondering how our right to know didn’t figure into the equation.
An interview with “Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic” Joel Salatin
Baylen Linnekin | May 5, 2012
I first met farmer, author, entrepreneur, thinker, and self-described “Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic” Joel Salatin at his rural Virginia farm, Polyface, in 2009. We sat in rocking chairs in his home office and talked about everything from food and agriculture to law, regulations, and the Bill of Rights.
I’ve seen Salatin several times since—in Washington, DC, and Little Rock, Arkansas and, most recently, back at his farm—and have even invoked his unsubsidized farming practices to argue that he and farmers like him should serve as the model for supporters of sustainable agriculture—meaning farming that eschews government subsidies while both minimizing environmental impacts and also turning a profit.
Salatin’s books include Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, probably the best book on the crushing regulatory burden faced by small- and medium-sized farmers in America. In his most recent work, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, Salatin takes a broader look at what once was normal and how a modern society like ours can still embrace elements of traditional normalcy without resigning ourselves to a Luddite future.
What follows below, the result of an interview I conducted with Salatin by email in late April and early May, are Salatin’s thoughts on everything from farm subsidies to intern labor, and from the War on Drugs to which fast food joints he’s eaten at over the years. Oh, and Salatin reveals which home-cooked meal makes him say “yum.”
Full Disclosure: Salatin is a member and supporter of my nonprofit, Keep Food Legal.
Reason: You recently posted your response to a column by James McWilliams, a professor and vegan and the author of the anti-locavorism book Just Food. McWilliams claimed only a vegan diet can save the planet. You responded in part that the farming practices you employ are often better for the environment than those touted by McWilliams. The thing about the conversation that interests me most is not whether either of you is objectively correct. Rather, it’s your competing visions of how to build a better food system. Should the government take sides in this debate by implementing particular policies that favor your views? Or should the government just allow this debate to flourish in the marketplace of ideas?
Joel Salatin: I think the government should allow this debate to flourish in the marketplace of ideas. The government entered this debate in the early 1970s by publishing the first food pyramid, a guide for what Americans should eat. The obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country are a direct result of that intrusion, sponsored and massaged along by the grain cartel and big ag, from chemical companies to equipment dealers. Grain requires more machinery, more energy, and more risk (hence justification for manipulation) than pasture based livestock, and especially forage-based herbivores.
In the last 50 years, Americans have doubled their consumption of wheat. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are direct results of American agriculture policy and specifically the government’s wading into the food arena. Eliminating government involvement stimulates people to inform themselves and actively participate in the discussion. As soon as the credentialed officials enter the fray, the average person withdraws to let the experts figure it out, which always leads to ubiquitous ignorance.
Reason: How do you make money without federal government subsidies?
Salatin: In general, we run the farm like a business instead of a welfare recipient and we adhere to historically-validated patterns. For example, instead of buying petroleum fertilizer, we self-generate fertilizer with our own carbon and manures through large scale composting, which we turn with pigs (pigaerators) rather than machinery. Letting the animals do the work takes the capital-intensive depreciable infrastructure out of the equation and creates profitability that is size-neutral.
Read the rest here: http://reason.com/archives/2012/05/05/the-joel-salatin-interview/singlepage
Something Historical is About to Happen – But Your Participation is Critical
May 01 2012 | 189,991 views | 183 comments |
- Between May 1 and May 26, a broad coalition of food, farming, health groups, and organic food manufacturers, will attempt to raise one million dollars to defeat Monsanto propaganda and get the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the ballot for November 6, and passed into law.
- Money raised in this Million Dollar Money Bomb on Monsanto campaign will support the California Ballot Initiative and other state GE-labeling campaigns.
- If donations totaling $1 million is reached by May 26, a coalition of benefactors will MATCH it, bringing the Money Bomb to $2 million!
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By Dr. Mercola
I’m pleased to announce that the Money Bomb Against Monsanto has been officially launched!
Yes, it is official.
Volunteers and staff from the California Right to Know Campaign are submitting nearly 1 million signed petitions from registered voters across the state of California to county officials, to place Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the Ballot for November 6.
Starting May 1, and extending through May 26, a broad coalition of farmers, health groups, and organic food manufacturers, will attempt to raise one million dollars (i.e. “The Money Bomb”). Donations can be made online, via regular snail mail, and over the phone. All donations will support state GMO-labeling campaigns and their defense from biotech bully lawsuits.
The Right to Know Gentically Engineered Food Act
This Act will require food manufacturers to identify genetically engineered ingredients on the labels of foods sold in California.
When California voters pass this ballot initiative, the Label Genetically Engineered Food Act will also not allow the common practice of mislabeling genetically engineered foods as “natural” or “all natural.” It’s imperative to understand why this initiative is so important and how it can affect all Americans, regardless of where you live.
California has the eighth largest economy in the world, so passing a labeling law for genetically engineered foods in California can have the same impact as passing a federal law.
Large food companies are unlikely to accept having dual labeling; one for California and another for the rest of the country. It would be an expensive logistical nightmare, not to mention a massive PR problem.
To avoid the dual labeling, many would likely opt to not include using any genetically engineered ingredients in their product, especially if the new label would be the equivalent of a skull and crossbones. Those who opt not to replace GE ingredients from the get-go will likely find themselves unable to sell their products, as a majority of consumers reportedly will not buy foods once they know they’re genetically engineered. Unable to sell their products, such companies will eventually be forced to stop contaminating our food with genetically engineered ingredients, or risk going out of business.
This is what happened in Europe and over 40 countries around the world. It can happen in the U.S. This is why we can’t leave California to battle the biotech giants on their own. They need your help! Donating funds to this campaign may be the best money you’ll spend all year to safeguard your health, and the health of your children.
Do you know which foods are genetically engineered when you go grocery shopping for your family? Wouldn’t you want to know? Genetically engineered foods have been on the market since 1996. It’s time they tell us what’s in the food we’re eating on a daily basis. Making a generous donation to this campaign is the best chance every American has at this point to make that happen!
The Proverbial David versus Goliath
Naturally, the biotech industry is not about to let this pass without a fight. Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, along with corporate agribusiness, are all raising millions of dollars to spread their propaganda in an effort to defeat the California Ballot Initiative, just like they did a decade ago in Oregon. At that time, a cabal of corporate giants, including Monsanto and DuPont, calling themselves The Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law, outspent the pro-labeling group 30-1, and successfully defeated the labeling initiative by scaring voters into believing that labeling genetically engineered foods was unnecessary and would raise food prices.
They did it again in Washington state last month, where campaign contributions to three of the eight politicians on the Senate Agriculture Committee—Democrat Brian Hatfield, and Republicans Jim Honeyford and Mark Schoesler—guaranteed the bill’s demise in committee. Right now, the biotech industry is also working to defeat similar GE labeling bills in Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, and other states. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Monsanto spent $8 million on their lobbying efforts in 2010 alone, and gave more than $400,000 in political contributions. Monsanto also spent $120 million on advertising, to convince consumers that genetically engineered foods are safe – despite the overwhelming scientific evidence showing otherwise.
Let’s send them a message, loud and clear: We have the right to know what they put into our food!
You can do so by making a donation right now. The money will be used to counter the industry propaganda so that we can win this ballot.
We’re Dropping the Money Bomb!
About twenty years ago, the FDA decided to deny consumers the right to know whether their food was genetically altered or not. This shameful regulation was spearheaded by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer who transferred into the offices of the FDA. Taylor is not the only ex-Monsanto employee that ended up in a position of power within the US federal government and its regulatory agencies, and this is precisely why previous efforts to get genetically engineered foods labeled have been blocked.
Not so this time!
Ballot Initiatives like the one in California is one way for citizens to take back control from compromised politicians and government officials and bypass them entirely. To sweeten the deal further, a group of “Right to Know” public interest organizations and organic companies have pledged to match the first million dollars raised in this nationwide “Drop the Money Bomb on Monsanto Campaign.”
So click here, and help us raise 1 million dollars to win this historic campaign! These “Right to Know” groups include:
- The Organic Consumers Association
- Food Democracy Now
- Nature’s Path
- Lundberg Family Farms
- Eden Foods, and
- The Organic Consumers Fund
- Institute For Responsible Technology
Can We Win?
Yes, I believe we can! But we need to get the word out, which requires a strong campaign to educate the citizens of California to vote for the initiative on November 6. According to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, we stand a good chance of winning in California because:
- This time, we have far more scientific information and greater public awareness on our side. GE contamination is now a mainstream media issue. Monsanto has become the most hated corporation in the world.
- This time, we have overwhelming public support. Polls show that more than 8 out of 10 voters in California want mandatory GE labeling.
- This time, we have built the strongest coalition of concerned food consumers in history, for the exclusive purpose of passing this law.
Read the rest and donate here:
Read more, great Monday Mania posts here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/monday-mania-572012/
Read more great Fat Tuesday posts here: http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-may-7-2012/
Read more great, Real Food Wednesday posts here: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2012/05/real-food-wednesday-522012.html