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– Corporate Domination of Food Threatens Cultural Identities (Dr. Mercola, June 9, 2015):
By Dr. Mercola
In the featured TED Talk, Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life, environmental activist Winona LaDuke addresses some of the more hidden dangers of global corporate domination by companies such as Monsanto.
“Food for us comes from our relatives, whether they have wings, fins, or roots… Food has a culture. It has history,” Winona says.
Many Westerners may have forgotten any ancestral traditions revolving around food. But for American Indians, Hawaiians, Maori, Mexicans, and many others, food still has a special role within their culture and history.
Genetically engineered (GE) foods, which are not only altered in various unnatural ways, are also patented. Farmers must pay user fees to plant them and are prohibited from saving the seeds for the next season.
This unnatural system threatens not only biodiversity and environmental health, it also threatens cultures and the cultural identity of peoples around the world.
Corporate Domination of Food Threatens Cultural Identities
At present, biotech corporations are fighting tooth and nail to ensure genetically modified organisms (GMOs) gain unrestricted access to the markets around the world, and the food industry as a whole is also poised to achieve global domination via free trade deals that usurp nations’ rights to make and uphold their own food laws.
To the American Indian tribe Ojibwe, wild rice (minoman) is sacred. The tribe was led by the Creator to settle where minoman grew, and wild rice is the first and last food tribal members will eat in this life. It’s featured in sacred feasts and ceremonies, and minoman is grown today in much the same way it was grown a thousand years ago.
Similarly, taro holds a special place in the Hawaiian culture. To the Hawaiians, taro is part of their cosmogenealogy; they consider themselves related to taro—to them, taro is their older brother. To the New Zealand Maori, the peruperu potato is sacred.
All of them have fought to prevent these culturally important foods from being genetically modified (GM) and patented. So far, they’ve all won.
Yet the march of GMOs continues unabated, with more and more “redesigned” crops being released, and with it, biodiversity declines. Not only are GMOs replacing conventional seeds, but GMOs also spread and pollute other non-GMO crops, thereby posing a double-threat to diversity.
Over the past 100 years, we’ve lost an estimated 75 percent of our agro-biodiversity, and this has environmental consequences that many fail to consider. Loss of access to traditional foods also leads to poorer health.
Winona also discusses the economic ramifications of seed patenting. At present, commercially available seeds are owned by seven corporations, and farmers are stripped of the inherent wealth associated with owning, saving, and sharing seeds.
Our current food system is highly concentrated—first, in terms of being a monoculture with very few varieties available, and second, in terms of ownership of these few precious crops. And far from being the answer to the world’s food needs, this concentration actually ensures food insecurity.
Add to that the fact that many of the older varieties of crops were higher in valuable nutrients too. As just one example, work by Dr. August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics, shows that to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples.
Free Trade Agreements are Really Forced Trade…
Free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which involves the United States and 11 other countries, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe, have major implications in terms of our economy, our daily lives, as well as our states- and national sovereignty.
While they’re deceptively described as free trade agreements, they’re actually lead to forced trade, and by setting up international laws that supersede national laws, they create a situation in which quality and safety of food is virtually guaranteed to be as low as possible.
Many European countries worry that these trade agreements may undermine or circumvent many of their established laws against GMO’s and other American food practices, such as disinfecting chicken in chlorine and the routine use of hormones in beef production, neither of which is permitted in the EU.1
Based on what has happened with other trade deals, such fears are warranted. The difference between Europe and the US in terms of how farmers and consumers view GE foods is mirrored in the amount of GMO’s grown and used in food.
In the US, 88 percent of all corn, 94 percent of cotton and 93 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered varieties. In Europe, less than one percent of the farmland is dedicated to GE crops—primarily in Spain—and Europeans are strong proponents of the precautionary principle.
In the US, regulators tend to approve new technologies based on short-term studies done by the manufacturer.
European regulators tends to be far more cautious, and acknowledge that what they don’t know is perhaps more important than what little they do know about the product in question, so they’re less likely to approve items that are poorly studied.
As noted in The Washington Post:2
“Genetically modified crops are broadly unpopular in Europe, and farmers and environmentalists fear that if trade restrictions are lowered, both genetically modified seeds and U.S.-grown genetically modified products would quickly take over European farmland and grocery stores.
Some farmers are hoping to stop the talks if rules that govern their work are thrown into the mix, and they are determined to keep U.S. industrial farming an ocean’s-length away…
“We will fight this until we cannot fight any more” if it appears that restrictions on growing genetically modified crops are about to be loosened, said Reinhard Jung, the head of the Brandenburg Farmers’ Federation.”
Why are Free Trade Agreements Negotiated in Secret?
Free trade agreements really do little to boost local economies; they simply empower corporate superpowers to become even more dominant. Unfortunately, trade agreements are poorly understood by most people, which isn’t surprising considering they’re negotiated in secret, and the public is rarely engaged in the process.
If you missed my interview with Ben Lilliston, Vice President of Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in which he discusses the workings of international trade agreements, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it now. These agreements really do little to boost local economies; they simply empower corporate superpowers to become even more dominant.
Trade agreements are poorly understood by most people, which isn’t surprising considering they’re negotiated in secret, and the public is rarely engaged in the process. If you missed my interview with Ben Lilliston, vice president of Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in which he discusses the workings of international trade agreements, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it now.