Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: West

Column: Get to know the anti-biotech crowd

Nov. 8 seems just around the corner with the airwaves starting to jam up with political commercials, mostly about the ballot propositions.

The Sonoma County initiative to ban biotech crops in that county will hardly represent a blip on the California statewide election radar screen, but as we have said in the past it has become the key to turning back the anti-biotech crowd. Sonoma is heavily urban and the home base of the anti-biotech movement. A defeat in Sonoma would be a major blow.

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau has marshaled forces to defeat the initiative and indications are the effort has a good chance of defeating the anti-biotech ballot measure.

The anti-biotech crowd has started its campaign by showing the movie called the “Future of Food” in the county. I was loaned a copy with the warning not to get too angry when I watched it. GMO Free Mendocino Doug Mosel, the uneducated leader of the GMO Free Mendocino movement, called it "the Fahrenheit 9/11 of the genetically engineered food battle."

I have not seen Michael Moore’s tirade, but it if is as bad as the Future of Food, it must be something.

The Future of Food is a slick and a wildly distorted view of not only biotechnology, but agriculture in general. It includes photos of Nazi soldiers and a claim that bomb making lead to fertilizer manufacturing. It is so pathetic it is not worth watching, yet it must be viewed by everyone involved in farming. Don’t buy it. Just show up at a screening and be prepared to be appalled. It is insulting to any discerning person’s intelligence.

It also it gives a clear picture of the level of distortion the anti-biotech crowd is willing to plummet into to win this fight. You have to wonder if the anti-biotech crowd really believes the stuff they put out.

Another example of the absurdity these people put out is an editorial advisory e-mail a few weeks back from Ryan Zinn, a paid minion for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) of Minnesota who is often a spokesman for the GE-Free California group.

It was entitled “OCA: How Organics Can Help Break the Chains of U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil. From Farm to Fork: How Much Oil Did You Eat Today? Depending on Cheap, Imported Oil is Risky Business.”

The solution is simple, according to OCA: Buy local and buy only organic.

OCA cites the Earth Policy Institute as the source for stating that the U.S. food system, from actual food production (synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, etc.), energy for irrigation, transportation, to refrigeration packaging and preparation, uses enough energy equal to supply all of France's annual energy needs.

According to Brian Halweil of Worldwatch Institute, a typical meal bought from a conventional supermarket chain uses four to 17 times more petroleum for transport than the same meal using locally produced ingredients.

That is it, all 297 million Americans should stop shopping at supermarkets and go to the local organic food stand for their daily food supply and there would be no oil crisis.

“The choice facing Americans is clear,” says Ryan. “Buying local and organic foods over the long term will result in a more sustainable food distribution system we can afford, even as oil prices continue to rise. By encouraging consumers to buy local, organic, we can improve public health, preserve the environment and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.”

What a solution to the energy crisis and cleanup of agriculture at the same time! Brilliant observation, Ryan. We know we can count on OCA to come up with solutions to the problems society faces.

The man behind OCA is Ronnie Cummins, its executive director. According to, he has spent a lifetime as a professional activist. Since getting his start in anti-war activism in 1967, he has dabbled in the “human rights, anti-nuclear, labor, consumer and sustainable agriculture” movements.

Cummins spent the 1990s leading food-scare efforts of national and international scope, including Rifkin’s “Beyond Beef” campaign, the “Pure Food” campaign (which later became the OCA) and the “Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering.” At the height of the American mad-cow food scare, Cummins insisted (with no evidence to support his warning) that “we may already have an epidemic in the United States.”

In 1998 Cummins told the Minneapolis City Pages that “Consumers and farmers would both be better off if people paid twice as much for their meat and ate half as much.” And despite the promise of important biotech advances to the world’s food supply, Cummins promised a San Diego Union Tribune reporter that “it’s not going to be that long before we’ll have the same movement around industrial agriculture and genetic engineering that we had around nuclear power.”

In July 2000, Cummins poured his fear-of-food charisma into an apocalyptic book called Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. Despite his commitment to “educating” consumers through his writing and organized protests, Cummins doesn’t seem to have much respect for them. At a June 2001 protest outside a Washington, D.C. Starbucks coffeehouse, he conceded that his strategy depends on “the fact that most consumers aren’t smart enough to know what they want.”

Just so everyone knows who the opposition is come Nov. 8 in Sonoma County.

e-mail:[email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.