Corn Commentary

Farmer Assurance Provision Protects Farmers, Not Monsanto

Painting a seriously skewed portrait of the Farmer Assurance Provision, Elizabeth Kucinich played on anti-Monsanto, anti-capitalist sentiment in an attempt to whip up public fervor against a sensible law designed to protect America’s farm families. The resulting piece, which ran on the Huffington Post, uses a truly ridiculous combination of ominous implications and arguments based to mislead the masses and, in doing so, further the lack of understanding that makes so many people many fearful of their food.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, in its essence, protects American family farmers who, due to often-frivolous lawsuits based in procedural arguments and directed at major corporations, could face serious economic harm. This provision reassure farmers that they can plant and harvest crops developed through biotechnology already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a temporary stewardship agreement in the event of litigation against the agencies decision.

In simple terms, the FAP removes a potentially significant financial risk facing farmers. Without this important piece of legislation, the regulatory process for biotechnology would leave the family farmers who purchase seeds approved by their government vulnerable to costly losses should an activist group choose to legally challenge the government’s decision. Without this provision, these men and women, acting in good faith, become collateral damage in an ideological battle between those who embrace and those who eschew science.

The need for such protection has been made evident over the past several years as opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed lawsuits against the USDA on procedural grounds. In filing these suits, the anti-activists aim to disrupt the regulatory process and, in a broader fashion, undermine the science-based regulation of biotech ag products. These lawsuits strain USDA resources and delay the approval of new, innovative products America’s farmers need to grow abundant, affordable food and remain internationally competitive.

Kucinich goes so far as to advocate for these types of attacks. Implying that chemical herbicides and genetically engineered crops should be met with public rage, notably without giving any reason why these extensively tested, proven technological advances are anything less than revolutionary, she rages blindly against a world in which innovation generates a profit.

Furthermore, this farmer-bashing fiasco of a post then begins makes a massive leap into the realm of food labeling to continue its tirade against the companies who provide farmers with new technologies. She points out companies such as Monsanto and DuPont have spent money to fight GMO labeling campaigns. She fails to evaluate the actual propositions in any way. In the case of California, she conveniently forgets to mention the proposed legislation was actually backed by trial lawyers looking to find their next cash cow. Presumably, she feels comfortable with predatory lawsuits that generate no value for the community but not with companies investing in ag research and supplying the innovations needed to feed a growing world turning a profit.

While she may not understand sound science and live in constant denial of the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology is not only safe but is beneficial, she masterfully demonstrates her knowledge of how to engineer panic and fear. Her post expertly manufactures the perception of public outrage and uses it as grounds on which to attack a provision intended to protect America’s farm families from her assault on science. The scorched-earth mentality of this assault demonstrates her deep desire to maintain a weapon that inflicts massive collateral damages on honest, hardworking farm families. Rather than demonstrating a deep insight into the FAP, GMO labeling initiatives, sound science or capitalism, she exposes both her ignorance and rage-fueled fervor to burn down anything which she doesn’t understand.

Don’t fall for the self-serving hype disguised as righteous indignation. Take the step she doesn’t and get the facts. The rhetoric may be rousing, but her assault on the Farmer Assurance Provision is actually on America’s farm families.

Support for California GMO-labeling Proposition Plummets

As the election draws closer, more and more California voters oppose Proposition 37, commonly referred to as the GMO-labeling law. A sharp decline in support, 19 percent in two weeks, shows that Californians understand the regulation increases opportunities for frivolous lawsuits and redefines simple terms like “natural” in a confusing way without actually providing useful information that benefits consumers.

In a bi-monthly opinion poll released last week, 48 percent of the likely voters contacted indicated support for California’s Proposition 37, a 19 percent drop from only two weeks prior. Notably, this was the single largest shift in opinion on the 11 ballot initiatives covered in the report, which was released by the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable.

Why the change?

First, 33 daily newspapers have come out in opposition of the ballot initiative. Due to the nature of print journalism, these news sources have been able to detail the reasons to oppose the measure and dig deeper into the implications of the regulation. Armed with the facts, Californians have gained an appreciation for what the measure would actually do and grasped that the real world effect would not be what proponents promise.

Second, Californians are getting the message straight from the farmer’ mouth. Groups opposing the measure, including the National Corn Growers Association, have taken their message to the airwaves through a series of television commercials. With one spot highlighting what the conversation would be if they “Ask a Farmer,” voters have a chance to hear why this “GMO-labeling law” would increase the cost to farm and would hit consumer pocketbooks at the grocery store checkout.

Consumers and voters should be able to base their decisions on the facts. Increasingly, Californians are looking at Proposition 37 and seeing past the propaganda. In staggering numbers, they are deciding to oppose the costly, confusing measure that would help agenda-driven interest groups and hurt both the people who grow food and those who buy it.

Californians want the information necessary to make solid decisions. They want to analyze the facts for themselves. In doing so, they are standing up for themselves and family farmers across the country. They are standing against Proposition 37.

Non-Arguments and GMO Labeling

After our post yesterday on Prop. 37, a person commented on Twitter that it was “sillytalk” because 50 other countries, including CHINA (her emphasis, not mine) label GMOs. My comment that that was not really an argument displeased her. And, she picked the wrong country to want to emulate. There’s lots of things China does that we may not wish to do. If China jumped off the bridge, should we?

Today, we have another non-argument. Apparently, a bunch of celebrities support Prop. 37. If we don’t care whether China likes labeling, why should we care what Rosanne Barr thinks?

For a lesson in real argumentation, we offer this, from Monty Python. Please, do watch.

What Does the “Right to Know” Really Mean?

California Proposition 37, which if it passes in November will require labeling of some foods sold in that state that have genetically engineered ingredients,  is billed as protecting consumers’ “right to know” what’s in their food.

But where is this nebulous “right” spelled out? It is certainly not a legal right, although the government does require food labeling that pertains to the health or safety of foods sold.  Likewise, food makers have the option to label their food to meet certain marketing needs, such as Kosher. Here is one philosopher’s opinion of the difference between “moral right” and “legal right.” There is a big difference between the two, especially when it comes to governmental involvement.

The fact is, I don’t blame people who want to know what’s in the food they buy.  And there are a lot of sources of information people can turn to, to find out about GMOs. Here’s one, for example.  If you are shopping for food, and don’t want “GMOs,” and the food maker or seller does not give you the information, go somewhere else or get something else.

Frankly, if enough consumers demand GMO-free food ingredients, the marketplace will deliver, as it has for other ingredients that have been debated over time, regardless of the scientific merit or non-merit of the debate. We don’t need to force the government and politicians to take over.

More Opposition to California Proposition

A growing number of organizations are coming out against a ballot initiative in California that would require labeling of many products containing genetically-engineered (GE) food.

While those in favor of Proposition 37 include trial lawyers, those urging Californians to vote No on Prop 37 include nearly 60 agricultural organizations. San Joaquin valley diversified farmer Greg Palla says the initiative would effectively ban the sale of tens of thousands of common grocery products only in California, unless they are relabeled or made with more costly ingredients. “We feel that it’s a very deceptive initiative,” he said, noting that it has a “whole host of exemptions that fly in the face of common sense.”

An example of exemptions that make no sense - cow’s milk is exempt but soy milk requires a label. Dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry are all exempt. Fruit juice requires a label, but alcohol made with some of the same GE ingredients is exempt. Food sold in a grocery store requires a label, but the same food sold in a restaurant is exempt.

Palla says Proposition 37 would have a definite impact outside the state of California, since it would apply to retail products made in other locations. “The impact would be swift and clear,” he said, noting that other states might follow California’s example.

Besides state and national agricultural groups, Prop 37 is being opposed by a broad coalition of community and business organizations, as well as groups representing scientists, doctors, and taxpayers. Find out more at

Listen to my interview with Greg Palla here: California farmer Greg Palla on Prop 37

The Company Proposition 37 Keeps

Voters, confronted by an onslaught of political advertising this year, might not have the time or energy to carefully peruse every issue confronting them on the ballot. With a myriad of possible implications and unspecified consequences, each issue presents challenges for even the politically-minded citizen.

In the battle to make a choice that reflects their actual intention, many voters, quite wisely, follow the money trail back to the groups supporting the measure. Basically, the company an issue keeps often tells quite a story about the intricate workings of that particular legislation.

In California, Proposition 37 has made some less-than-reputable friends. Backed by trial lawyers, this ballot initiative would provide fertile soil for nuisance lawsuits that would further clog an overloaded court system. Skilled at the art of persuasion and expert in the drafting of fine print, the lawyers behind Proposition 37 cloaked a piece of regulation pregnant with potential lawsuits in a veil of fiery rhetoric promoting consumer choice.

In reality, the lawyers’ pocketbooks would get fatter if the proposition passes. America’s consumers would pay for the dubious labeling scheme with true costs of this law reflected in every grocery checkout lane, contributing to massive settlements the lawyers anticipate with every food purchase they make.

Take a long, critical look at the facts. Trial lawyers, not generally a group known for their charitable nature, have no vested interest in backing Proposition 37 unless it stands to provide another avenue in which to practice their craft. In the end, consumers stand to pay repeatedly should they give the labeling-law that they have crafted the benefit of the doubt.

So, watch the company Proposition 37 keeps. It may look like the good-hearted girl-next-door, but it runs around with a notoriously disreputable crew.

Consumers Have a Right to Know

In the California GMO Labeling debate, it seems everyone involved can agree upon one basic premise – consumers have a right to know. The debate occurs around exactly what that right entails.

Arguing to redefine terms such as “natural”, even to the exclusion of foods such as olive oil, proponents of the bill seem to believe consumers have a right to know exactly what their agenda-driven groups says that they do.

On the other hand, farmers believe that consumers have a right to know too. In a recent blog post, farmer Mike Haley carefully explained a side of the story that labeling loonies would prefer to push to the backburner.  Walking readers through the specific actions that this law would require of him, Haley shows the hidden costs of supporting the propositions hidden agenda.

Take a minute to see the true costs of this measure.  If it passes, everyone will pay.

Consumers have a right to know what they eat. They also have a right to know the consequences of their vote.

GMO Labeling Proponents Tell Consumers They Know Everything, Trust They Know Nothing

Hypocrisy has a strange way of coming to light during campaign season. For candidates and for ballot initiatives alike, the incongruent motivations of the groups promoting a particular vote often tanks what, at first glance, seemed to be a positive, simple campaign.  A ruling last week clarifying the ballot language to be used on California Proposition 37, the GMO-labeling law, brought the hypocritical intentions of the measures proponents to the forefront.

Simply, Prop. 37 backers claim consumers have a right to know if the food they purchase contains any ingredients which have been genetically modified. Playing off public fears of the unknown, they appeal to mass hysteria instead of the reasoned, scientific judgment of relevant authorities, including the World Health Organization and American Medical Association, that genetically engineered crops pose no health risk.

On the surface, the claims of those supporting the labeling-measure appear to be about consumer rights. From early on in the campaign, it became apparent this measure was different, as it would base a mandatory food label on something for an unscientific reason. Now, it appears these agenda-driven niche market proponents have masked another troubling provision with their consumer rights costume.

The labeling mandated in this proposition actually does not only target genetically modified ingredients, it also targets any processed food, even those without GE ingredients. In addition to the new labels, these supposed champions of the people would ban any processed food, regardless of what is actually in it, from claims of being “natural.”

Could this actually add to consumer confusion and hurt farmers? Yes, it most certainly could.

In a recent Farm Press interview, one California olive oil producer explained that, even though genetically modified olives do not even exist, his oils would no longer be able to be labeled as “natural” simply because the olives were processed into oil.

Does this seem a bit over the top to anyone? Or is anyone even paying attention?

If there is not a greater public outrage forming over situations like these, the later seems more probable. Which is troubling because, on its very surface, proponents of the labeling measure have cloaked it in the nearly sacred robes of a consumer’s right to information. Underneath those shiny garments lies something far less glorious, a regulation that would mandate the use of labels that would confuse and mislead shoppers.

If no one is paying attention now, how can they possibly be expected to understand what exactly they see should this pass? Seemingly, Yes on 37 campaigners hope that they pay just as little attention then.