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Beyond Frankenfoods and the DARK Act: A Grassroots-Powered Revolution

Here’s your mid-summer culinary directive from Congress and the White House: Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, and a growing list of horrors in your food. Don’t worry about your health, your children’s health, global warming or the health of the environment.

Just put your trust in America’s industrial food system and in Monsanto’s minions—the indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and members of the mass media who all toe the line for the biotech industry.

In case some of us didn’t notice, given our mounting daily dose of insults and injustices, the federal government, aided and abetted by the Organic Trade Association (now known as the Organic Traitors Association), just slapped you and millions of other health and environmentally concerned consumers in the mouth. Ignoring the protests of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the entire grassroots food movement, ignoring 22 years of consumer pressure, multiple state ballot initiatives and “Right-to-Know” legislative efforts, the infamous DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) is about to be enshrined in federal law by President O’Bummer.

On July 14, the House of Representatives voted 306-117 to kill Vermont’s popular mandatory GMO food labeling law, which had already begun to force major junk food and beverage giants (Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Campbell’s, Dannon, Smuckers, Starbucks) to label their GMO-tainted products nationwide. As soon as President Obama signs the DARK Act, (or simply lets it go into effect by not vetoing it) states will no longer have the right to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The 90 percent of consumers who want to know what they’re eating can now look forward, on a permanent basis, to what amounts to no labeling. What we will get, if anything, in a few years will be bogus Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) trade-marked QR smart codes or 1-800 numbers on processed food packages that will serve to keep consumers in the dark about Frankenfoods and their omnipresent toxins, while pretending to provide so-called “disclosure.”

Passage of the Roberts-Stabenow bill, popularly known as the DARK Act, confirms what most consumers knew or suspected all along: we live in an authoritarian state, ruled by the “1%”, the corporate elite. This is not a democracy. The overwhelming majority of elected public officials and bureaucrats don’t give a damn about what you think or want. Short-term profits and out-of-control campaign donations literally trump public health, environmental, justice and climate concerns. Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats alike, are little more than “yes men and women” for their big donors, in this case multi-billion-dollar food corporations, grocery and restaurant chains, Monsanto and the rest of corporate agribusiness.

Money trumps all. That’s why activists from the Organic Consumers Association last week threw several thousand dollars in small bills from the visitors’ balcony onto the U.S. Senate floor, just moments before the passage of the DARK Act. They shouted below to a room of startled Senators, “Here’s Monsanto’s money, come and get it.” After “money bombing” the U.S. Senate, OCA Political Director Alexis Baden-Mayer and three other activists were arrested by the Capitol police. A CSPAN live video camera caught much of the action.

The big question for the food movement, and in fact for all of global civil society, is: What’s next? If Congress is bought and sold, if we can’t change federal public policy, if states’ rights and local rights are being steadily preempted, then how can we change our toxic, out-of-control food system, not to mention our toxic suicide economy and the rotten political system as a whole?

The answer of course is to build grassroots power.

Millions of us must channel our anger into actions designed to take back control of our health and our food, and our society. We must hit the Establishment where it hurts, in the bottom line. Boycott contaminated foods and other consumer products, and give your support (“buycott”) to organic and grass-fed producers and brands. Stop buying or consuming junk foods, and all heavily processed, GMO, factory farmed and chemical foods.

Take action today and everyday. Put your wallet back in your pocket unless the grocery store label or the restaurant menu says “organic,” “grass-fed,” or “GMO-free.” Learn or re-learn how to cook at home from scratch. Invite your friends over and plan how everyone can become part of the Revolution, a Revolution that we desperately need if we are going to survive and thrive.

Food policies and politics go hand-in-hand. Conscious consumers need to both change our consumer buying habits and stop supporting corrupt politicians. The U.S. currently is led, or rather misled, by a corporate-dominated corps of 500,000 elected and appointed public officials at the federal, state and local levels. Ninety percent of these so-called “public officials” are looking out for their cushy jobs and careers, by looking after the profits of corporations and special interests, instead of working for the public good. These handmaidens of the Elite need to be thrown out of office.

The Food Revolution will never really happen, unless we join forces with the U.S. (and global) grassroots as part of a larger Political Revolution.

It’s time to drive GMOs and the toxic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones, off the market, for good.

It’s time to take down not just GMOs, but the entire out-of-control system of factory farms, industrial agriculture and junk food.

It’s time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure so we can transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system, which is pumping out billions of tons of climate-disruptive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroying soils, biodiversity and the climate, into a regenerative and organic system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.

What we’ve accomplished so far

Congratulations to the USA food movement for slowly but surely winning consumers’ hearts and minds.

Congratulations for standing up to Monsanto, Big Food and corporate agribusiness, and for exposing their minions in Congress, the corporate mass media, and the sell-outs in academia.

Before we move forward, let’s take stock of what our food movement has accomplished so far, against all odds, by working together.

• We’ve educated a critical mass of American consumers about the health and environmental hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms and the toxic chemicals that accompany them. When we started this battle, public awareness of genetically engineered food and crops, and the damage they inflict on the environment and human health, was marginal at best. Today “GMO” and “glyphosate” are household words.

• We’ve doubled demand for organic and grass-fed food in the U.S. over the past six years. Organic food and grass-fed meat and animal products are now a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, the fastest-growing segment of the food market. The market for non-GMO labeled products has grown to $25 billion. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO foods now constitute approximately 10 percent of all grocery store sales, and represent a growing segment of restaurant sales as well.

• We’ve forced multi-billion-dollar junk food conglomerates, including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Mars, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Con-Agra, Dannon, and others to start labeling their products as GMO, or else remove GMO ingredients, at least temporarily. Even after the passage of the DARK Act, companies that started and then stopped labeling their GMO-tainted brands will face a public relations disaster. Consumers will understand that the QR codes on thousands of non-organic processed food products are the “Mark of Monsanto,” the “skull and crossbones” prompting us to boycott them.

• We’ve alerted millions of consumers that they can’t trust the mass media, Congress, regulatory agencies, or the scientific establishment. If consumers or farmers want truthful information about food and farming they need to tune in to the alternative and social media. This alternative media includes the mass circulation newsletters, websites and Facebook pages of groups like, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Moms Across America, Regeneration International, Seed Freedom, and hundreds of others that refuse to regurgitate industry propaganda.

Ten steps toward the Food Revolution

The food movement has made huge strides in the past few years. But now is not the time to sit back and settle for what we’ve accomplished. We must build on our success, and ride our momentum to a future where organic and regenerative food and farming are the norm, not just the alternative.

Here’s what we need to do next:

• Boycott every food product that displays a QR code. Since Congress has stabbed us in the back and replaced Vermont’s mandatory GMO labels with QR Codes and 1-800 numbers, these QR Codes must become a veritable “skull and crossbones” symbol on food and beverage containers, helping us launch the largest boycott in modern history.

• Boycott factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. Factory farms are the lynchpin of industrial agriculture and fast-food restaurants. The U.S. factory farm meat, dairy and poultry cartel is an out-of-control, trillion-dollar industry based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons (euphemistically called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). These animal prisons run on GMO- and pesticide-tainted animal feeds; labor exploitation; false advertising; corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and growth promoters.

Factory farm products—meat, dairy, poultry and fish—are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and human diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease,   diabetes, and obesity. We will literally never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive mono-crops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms, which now imprison 95 percent of farm animals in the U.S., and 70 percent of all farm animals in the world.

Right now, the overwhelming majority of U.S. farmland is utilized to raise factory farm-destined animals before they are sent to the feedlots, or to grow GMO- and chemical-intensive grains to feed them. We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) GMO- and pesticide-contaminated grain, and instead put the world’s billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands and agro-forestry paddocks, where they belong.

• Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

• Pressure investors and pension funds to divest from industrial agriculture and reinvest in regenerative agriculture, in order to reach our goal of 50 percent organic and regenerative by 2025.

• Ban patents on living organisms and eliminate monopoly control of seeds.

• Boycott foods, body care products and animal feeds derived from tropical deforestation.

• Stop subsidizing non-sustainable biofuels (corn, soy, palm oil).

• Cancel or defeat so-called Free Trade (NAFTA, WTO, TPP, TTIP) agreements that favor corporate-controlled industrialized agriculture and foster unfair labor practices. Instead, we must support fair trade and justice throughout the food and farm chain, including a $15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage in the U.S.

• Force governments and industry to move to zero fossil fuel emissions and mobilize grassroots support for the International 4/1000 Initiative to sequester as much carbon in our soils and forests through regenerative farming, grazing and land use as humans are currently emitting.

• Move beyond single-issue, "silo" thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and start “connecting the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace, and democracy.

If passage of the DARK Act has taught us anything, it’s that we must commit to working together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution, not just a food revolution.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.