Most people have an innate sense of beauty — and justice, which is why the Supreme Court hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act and the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” — a rider anonymously slipped into the federal appropriations bill — are sparking so much discussion.
It simply feels wrong to many folks that people should be denied the rights of marriage — and in the case before the high court, the tax breaks — simply because they're part of a same-sex union. Just like it feels wrong to many folks that the biotech industry has attempted to pre-empt the workings of the court system through legislative action.
I say attempted, because it's still unclear whether the rider — in effect just through the end of the fiscal year — will undermine pending federal court rulings on Monsanto's Roundup-resistant alfalfa and a new strain of Dow-engineered corn that can withstand direct applications of its powerful 2,4-D herbicide.
The reason for the rider is obvious: the biotech companies have been losing in the courts, so they're trying to tie the hands of judges. It's a classic dirty trick from an industry that has sufficient money and power to work its will on Congress, and state and local legislators, too.
Which is why there's public push-back. Or as a man who is very knowledgeable about the issue observed, in explaining the growing uprising against biotech:
“It's being shoved down people's throats by powerful corporations with government's blessing.”
Mingled with the outrage toward politicians and agencies believed to be in the pocket of the chemical companies is despair, the sense that the industry is too entrenched to be routed, too strong to be controlled.
It's not. And though I have written previously against using the rhetoric of war against biotech, I am not advocating submission. There is a lot that can be done to address people's concerns, especially on the local level. Some counties in the U.S. have banned the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, though the legalities of banning GE test crops is still unclear.
It also appears there's nothing illegal about counties requiring companies to disclose pesticide use or establishing pesticide-free buffer zones around schools and other institutions — measures that need not apply only to the seed companies. I believe one or more bills along these lines will be introduced at the Council, where they will no doubt generate a lot of debate.
So I urge those who are interested to prepare themselves by getting educated about this complex issue, so you can educate others and speak with credibility. Do your own homework, and dig deeper than Facebook. Focus on facts, on things that are known, whether it's the effects of certain pesticides, or the herbicide-resistant weeds and cross-crop contamination that have been documented in conjunction with GE crops. Avoid demonizing local farmers who grow their crops conventionally, and instead respect the knowledge they've gleaned from decades of actually producing food in this place.
Be realistic, but even more important, propose alternatives. As a high-ranking state official told me the other day, “Tell us what you want, not just what you don't want.”
If you want more local ag, put some energy into supporting initiatives that help farmers, and programs that train new ones. If you want to farm, develop a business plan and get as much hands-on experience as possible.
Recognize that things are changing, agriculture is changing. The trend nationally and locally is toward smaller farms, less mono-cropping, in part due to new EPA regulations on controlling dust. Farmers are extremely receptive to market forces, which is why some Midwestern farmers who have always grown conventionally are now converting to organic because they can earn more for their crops.
And when GE labeling comes, which it will, because some 90 percent of Americans favor it, consumers' purchasing power will prompt even more change. That's when the biotech companies will discover their resistance to giving people a choice has put them on the wrong side of history. Just like those who oppose equal rights for all.