If last week’s chilling tale about biotechnology and the widespread planting of largely unregulated, inadequately tested bioengineered crops wasn’t scary enough, sit tight. I’ve saved another frightening feature for the final days preceding Halloween, and Election Day.
You see, the unlabeled "Frankenfoods" that line our supermarket shelves today are largely the result of political decisions, manipulated by corporate interests. For example, recall that in 1992 then Vice President Dan Quayle, under the influence of Monsanto, announced that "no new laws would be passed to regulate biotechnology."
Today, most corn, soy and canola crops grown on U.S. soil are genetically modified, placing our planet and personal health at unknown risk.
Who knew that our votes for president and state and local representatives could trickle down and affect our water, air, soil and food quality? In fact, every bite of food we take hinges on local, state and national policy.
Consider concentrated animal feeding operations, better known as "factory farms." As Amy Peterson, doctor of veterinary medicine at Johns Hopkins University, explains, consolidating and confining animals on an "industrial scale" has a "serious impact" on our natural resources because of the tremendous volume of urine and feces generated from thousands of animals living in dreadfully close quarters.
And that’s just a whiff of this stinking horror story. Peterson studies antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how antibiotic resistance develops as a result of routinely feeding antibiotics to animals to enhance growth.
"This is not just a food and farm issue," she said. We are losing our ability to treat infections in human populations, and we are creating "more virulent forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria." They’re present in air and contaminated water from CAFOs. And, Peterson added, they can even be present on raw meat from CAFOs that’s sold in supermarkets.
"On the most basic, grass-roots level of democracy," said Michael Holzknecht, former Hickory County prosecuting attorney, "we can elect county commissioners who will instate and uphold county health ordinances that protect our natural resources, children’s health and property rights."
Want to have a family picnic in the wafting aroma of hog or chicken excrement? I didn’t think so. But when we elect representatives who receive funding and side with corporate agribusiness interests, then we give a free pass to factory farms to suck money from our local economies, harm our health and tear at the social fabric of our rural communities.
What’s really scary is that, according to the Federal Election Commission, just slightly more than half - 56.7 percent - of all eligible voters cast their ballots for president in the 2004 election.
That’s frightening because democracy depends on full, active and informed participation in our government.
Be smart and speak out. In the remaining few days before the election, get to know where your candidates stand on issues that protect your basic rights. Who funds your candidate’s campaign? How does your candidate intend to support small, independent family farmers?
Otto Von Bismarck, the 19th-century Prussian politician, said: "Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made." But he was dead wrong. We had better pay close to attention to how both are made because our very health and future of our nation depend on how we feed ourselves.
I believe we have reached a critical fork in the road. We are heading quickly down the consolidated and contracted highway lined with genetically modified monocultures that leave us vulnerable to crop failure, contamination and disease. Think sharecroppers on steroids.
The risky road depends heavily on pesticides and fossil fuels and leads to famine.
My advice is to use this election to apply the brakes and steer hard down the road our forefathers valued - towards agricultural biodiversity, organic farming methods, independent family farmers, strong rural communities and true democracy.
Learn more. Visit the Center for Responsive Politics: www.opensecrets.org.