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Gore & Bush Ignore GE Food Controversy

Food (policy) fight is needed at debates

By John Nichols
September 26, 2000
Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

A week from tonight, George W. Bush and Al Gore will engage in the first of
three so-called "debates.''

Why the "so-called'' tag? Because there are so many issues on which these
two agree.

It is silly to say there is no difference between Bush and Gore; in fact,
they can clearly be distinguished from one another on the issues of
abortion rights, campaign finance reform and critical funding formulas for
Social Security and Medicare. But it is equally silly to deny the truth
that Gore and Bush are in agreement on more issues than any major-party
presidential nominees since Republican Calvin Coolidge and Democrat John
Davis in 1924.

Gore and Bush echo one another in their support of "free market'' economic
policies that have given us a farm depression, stagnant wage growth and the
widest gap between rich and poor in American history. They are equally
enthusiastic about extending the North American Free Trade Agreement,
dismissing human rights concerns in order to expand trade with China, and
surrendering congressional and judicial authority over U.S. economic and
social policy to the corporate mandarins of the World Trade Organization.

Bush and Gore both join the chorus in support of the continued bombing
Iraqi civilians, preserving the embargo on Cuba and pumping more dollars
into an already bloated military budget, continuing a failed drug war,
maintaining the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, weakening Jefferson's
"wall of separation'' between church and state by funding "faith-based''
partnerships, and extending a racist and ineffectual death penalty.

****

But if you want to really find an area where Bush and Gore sing the same
tune, check out their positions on food policy. As major recipients of
campaign money from corporate agribusiness, the major-party nominees will
find little to debate about if the issue of genetic modification of food
gets raised.

At a time when newspaper headlines produce daily reports of new violations
of the public trust by conglomerates that sneak untested genetically
modified "foods'' onto the market, neither Gore nor Bush will take a firm
stand against "Frankenfood'' industries that alter milk, meat, tomatoes,
corn, soybeans and other food products for the purpose of increasing
profits and reducing competition from family farms.

That means next Tuesday's debate will be an empty exercise when it comes to
food safety and food quality issues that are of vital concern to American
consumers.

What to do? Some people will vote for Green Party nominee Ralph Nader, who
"gets it'' when it comes to food policy, but the exclusion of Nader from
the debates means few Americans will know they have an alternative. Others
will back Gore, on the theory that the author of "Earth in the Balance''
will be more open to progressive food policy messages from Democrats who
"get it'' -- such as U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio -- than George W. Bush.

But in order to truly alter the discourse as dramatically as corporate
agribusiness is altering our food, citizens must create pressure from below
for honest, engaged public dialogue about genetic modification of food,
organic farmers and the need to break the grip of corporate agribusiness
not just on the food supply but on the national discourse.

The place to begin, as always, is with information, and there's no better
source than "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for
Consumers'' (Marlowe & Co., $12.95), an exceptional new book by Ronnie
Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, and the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Ben Lilliston. Thick with
information about finding healthful food and fighting for a sustainable,
humane and equitable food and agriculture system, this book ably outlines
the ideas and the values that ought to frame any discussion of food policy.

****

To get the discussion started, Cummins will be in Madison this week at an
event sponsored by Rainbow Books at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Cafe Assisi, 254 W.
Gilman St., and at a UW Greens event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial
Union.

Go see Ronnie Cummins; you'll learn a lot more than you will from the
presidential debates.

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