Farmers and Food Artisans Speak Out on Prop 37
October 12, 2012
This November, Californians will have the chance to cast a vote for or against Proposition 37, which requires labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. As Michael Pollan writes in this week’s New York Times Magazine, “One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a ‘food movement’ in America worthy of the name—that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.”
For those who care about the food they’re putting into their bodies and its impact on people and the environment, GE labeling provides transparency. Consumer choice has been the cornerstone of the Yes on 37/California Right to Know campaign, and farmers and food producers have as much of a stake in the outcome of this initiative as eaters. We asked some Ferry Plaza Farmers Market farmers and food artisans to weigh in about the proposition.
It’s real simple. People have a right to know what’s in their food. While I’m an organic farmer, and I believe in caring for the earth and life on earth in a sustainable way, I don’t think there’s enough science to reassure us that there’s not going to be some long-term impacts from GMOs. I think GMOs are one more step in a long history of corporations taking over our food supply. They’re basically denying us the ability to save our own seeds and grow our own vegetables. I think it’s also a trend toward genetic degradation, destroying the diversity of our gene pool, the vast array of fruits and vegetables that we have developed over the centuries.
—"Farmer Al" Courchesne, Frog Hollow Farm
There is broad support among Californians for Prop 37. There is also big opposition from big agriculture and food conglomerates that have contributed $25 million to date to oppose Prop 37. If these companies thought that consumers really wanted to ingest GMOs, why would they not be proud to label their products with their true ingredients? Read more.
—Thaddeus Barsotti, Capay Organic/Farm Fresh to You
Prop 37 has the potential to change the face of agriculture in our country and it impacts a lot of different people: farmers, farmworkers, everyone. But it comes down to the simple fact that if we have the information, we can make the right choice for ourselves. When I shop at the grocery store (which probably 100% of us do), I am a label-reader. Not everyone is, but if people want the information, it should be there for them, just like nutrition labeling.
—Kirsten Olson, Hunter Orchards
I’m in favor of Prop 37 because I think it’s in people’s best interest to be able to choose what they put in their bodies and know what they’re eating. I think GMOs are kind of scary. It’s taking science a little too far. There may be some benefits, but what are the long-range detriments? We don’t know yet.
—Jesse Kuhn, Marin Roots Farm
The point of genetic engineering is not to improve varieties. What it does is create an ownership over seeds and the food supply, and that’s its primary purpose. If you depend on that seed as a farmer, you can’t save your own seed from year to year. You become completely dependent on the company that engineers the seed. It’s actually about ownership over something that has been public domain for at least 10,000 years of agriculture. Read more.
—Janet Brown, Allstar Organics
I came to support Prop 37 as a consumer because I want to know what foods have been genetically modified. As a farmer, I know that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), an organic pesticide, is a toxin. To put that in a food plant is ridiculous. When Bt is sprayed on a crop, it breaks down in a couple of days and is only on the surface of the crop; it’s not genetically embedded. As an organic farmer, I occasionally rely on a Bt spray, but having Bt genes in GMO crops has caused some insects in certain locations to develop resistance to Bt. To have it in a staple crop such as corn, what long-term studies have been done on that?
—Steven Kashiwase, Kashiwase Farms
People should be able to know where their food is coming from. If it’s GMO, you should have the choice whether to buy it or not. As a farmer, my product is GMO-free. We grow all of the hay for our goats ourselves, with our neighbors. You have to have the choice of saving your seed and planting your own food. I’m going to vote yes on 37 and I encourage people to vote for it, too.
—Javier Salmon, Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese
From a compliance standpoint, I think it will be challenging for small-scale artisan food producers who do not use organic, GMO-free ingredients. But as a 100% organic food vendor, obviously we are pro-labeling. We’ve done so much education of our own customers already. For us, it’s another step toward the education of the public from a transparency standpoint.
—Minh Tsai, Hodo Soy Beanery
Who are we growing this food for? We’re growing it for the consumer. If the consumer wants healthy food, they should be offered a choice. Every product should have a list of ingredients. I think it’s important we all know what’s in our food.
—David Winsberg, Happy Quail Farms
As an organic farmer, I’m growing something that’s healthy for people. It’s wholesome, it’s naturally done, and yet I must pay for certification to prove that my product is okay. Why can people who are fabricating things in a lab not be held to the same standard?
—Kristie Knoll, Knoll Farms
Making more information available is putting the power in the consumer’s hand. If we have a free market, let’s be transparent and let the chips fall where they may. The law itself is not going to cause anybody to go out of business. For those who have built their business around GMO products, they can make the switch and they can reinvent themselves. Potentially, there are going to be new jobs created. Look at all the opportunities for farmers to produce non-GMO crops.
—Kathryn Lukas, Farmhouse Culture
People should have a choice not only about what they eat, but also how they’re supporting what’s going on in the environment and how their food is grown. This is a first step to get people thinking about why more things in our food aren’t labeled, such as pesticides and how their meat is handled.
—Bill Crepps, Everything Under the Sun
The power and choice to eat something should be up to the consumer. People should take this issue seriously because there are so many things they don’t know about what they’re eating, so many hidden mysteries in food. If this passes, it would help them dig a bit deeper.
—Jolie Devoto, Devoto Gardens
Everyone has the right to know what they are eating. GMOs are greatly under-researched, and consumers deserve the right to make the choice if they want to be a part of the grand experiment. Yes on Prop 37.
—Jordan Champagne, Happy Girl Kitchen Co.
Come join the conversation at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and CUESA Classroom tomorrow.