Tag Archives: GMO

“Environmental Initiatives: Things Are Not as They Seem” – Lauren


Entanglement between environmental agencies and large-scale corporations is rampant and largely goes unnoticed.  In her book, “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein delves into the murky waters (probably due to pollution) where the natural environment and the corporate environment overlap.  It is no longer a secret that large corporations, especially those in the food and fossil fuel industries, control our government. After all, a government based on capitalism will capitalize where the needs of its consumers are: the food that feeds humans and the fossil fuels that feed essentially everything else.  Laissez faire policies allowed corporations to grow exponentially until they had the power to also control our government.  Now, corporations seek to buy out environmental agencies, and the worst part is that they are succeeding.

One example of this is how a well known environmental agency, The Nature Conservancy, allowed oil companies to drill on their conservation (193).  If a company that supposedly stands for environmental conservation can be bought out at a certain price tag, what does this say about the rest of society?  Most people look to these agencies for leadership and guidance, to solve the climate crisis with their ecologically minded policies.  All trust is lost when an organization exploits what it claims to protect in return for money from the corporations do the most damage to our planet.

captionThis, unfortunately, is not a rare occurrence; other agencies like the Conservation Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International have accepted money from fossil fuel companies companies like Shell, BP, Exxon, American Electric Power, and other destructive corporations like Walmart, Monsanto, Toyota, and McDonald’s (196).  It is hard to believe that these agencies are fighting to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius when they are accepting money from corporations that will do anything to keep from being regulated.  This money is incentive to publish false articles about climate change, allow for drilling, and falsify records.

Corruption also occurs in the conferences and think tanks that produce environmental platforms for our society and government.  Organizations like the Heartland Institute hold climate change conferences that are primarily funded by fossil fuel companies and “right-wing causes that cannot be fully traced” (44).  The scientists that present at Heartland have received the majority of their funding from fossil fuel companies in the past and the journalists asked to publicize the conference have also received money from the same sources (45).

The entanglement and corruption continues when CEOs claim to act in an environmentally mindful way but still push the free market to its edge by further developing a destructive company.  This is the case for Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines.  In 2006, Branson pledged $3 billion of profits over the next decade toward the development of biofuels, presumably so that he could continue to earn money without having his environmental friendly persona tainted with hypocrisy, seeing as the airline industry has one of dirtiest carbon footprints (231).  Branson never met his $3 billion pledge, nor did he invest in the development of biofuels; yet he was able to double the size of his airline fleet, thus doubling his carbon emissions.  That is the issue with large corporations: the public only sees their proclaimed righteousness while under the surface, their tactics are just as dirty as the fuel they mine and use.

This duplicity seems to be what our country is built upon in recent years.  Food products with GMO’s can be labeled as “natural”; conservancies can drill for oil; whole countries can claim to be “for the people,” when in reality, all they are for is free trade and money.  This is too large and too confounded a task to change by simply recycling and driving a Prius.

In order to overcome the challenges we face, we need to restructure our government and economy to favor small, local business, rather than Big Business.  We need “live within ecological limits,” which means living locally (91).  How can you live sustainably when most the products you purchase come from a place you have never been and of which you do not know the ecological limits?   Scaling things back to the local level will allow people to have greater awareness of where their goods are coming from, the energy and time spent in making them, and how they are disposed.  This awareness may encourage people to consume less, which is a huge factor in staying under a two degree Celsius temperature increase.  Scaling economies back to the local level will likely disrupt the corporate schema and provide communities with more local jobs, and more importantly, jobs with safe conditions and fair wages.  This will decrease social disparities and make the entire economy more equitable.  But in order to do this, there will have to be sacrifice.

mosantoLarge corporations will have to let go of destructive fair trade policies and the only way to do this is through regulation.  Regulation will take the power out of the hands of the few and put back into the hands of the many.  Though Big Business will take the hardest blow, even wealthy middle class consumers will probably feel some of the impacts of regulation.  However, a more equitable economy is the only sustainable option we have as a planet in order to survive comfortably on economic, social, and environmental fronts.

In order to make this “Great Transition” we need large-scale policy changes that force carbon to stay in the ground and even bigger investments in renewable energy (89).  Small individual changes will have to be made for a full economic transition to be successful (91).  By making changes in our consumptions habits, we can directly affect corporations.  Without a hit to their profits, corporations will not change.  The middle class, currently living comfortably, needs to awaken from the daze of the screens that distract us from corporate corruption before it is too late to live comfortably at all.  We cannot wait for a cataclysmic event to force us into third world status and then try to change things. We must act now before it is too late.

Works Cited

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Print.  

Article by Lauren Wheeler


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Chemicals in Your Food – Nick

Warning: This will make you want to eat organic. In order to increase production and decrease the costs of food, corporations add chemicals that could harm us. A good rule to follow: If you can’t pronounce something on a food label, you might not want to put it in your body.

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“Local, Organic, and Private Label” – Caroline Lewis

As more grocery stores move towards creating their own private labels, insisting on being “organic” without the green and white USDA label, how can we know the certainty of these advertisements? Target’s private organic label is Simply Balanced; Kroger’s is Simple Truth; Safeway’s brand is “O” Organics; Whole foods private label is called 365 Organics. These grocery stores pay private agents to certify their food organic; however, at this point, are we trusting the word “organic,” or do we trust which store is using this term? Does this become a brand game, where we trust one store’s credibility over another? Is Whole Foods more trust worthy than Kroger?

Some health stores, like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, advertise items “made with organic ingredients,” and because some customers assume everything in these stores is organic, they fail to further investigate the labels. Most labels that say, “made with organic ingredients” actually contain only about seventy percent organic material. The ubiquitous green and white USDA sticker only certifies ninety-five percent of the product organically produced; a label that says one hundred percent organic is truly “organic.” Perhaps this is why so many people are now going local: to avoid the ambiguity of corporate advertising and grocery store labeling.

More and more farmers markets are opening up because of the demand for local, fresh, organic produce. Our society is waking up, and realizing that labels and advertisements are mainly just marketing tricks, beguiling us into buying a product that isn’t really what it says it is. Sadly, most of us are buying lies on a daily basis. Phrases such as, “Made with natural ingredients,” “No preservatives,” “No artificial flavorings,” should not be taken too seriously. Further investigation needs to take place. Unfortunately, questions regarding the authenticity of a product cannot be directly asked to the product’s maker.

At a farmer’s market, these types of direct questions are happening constantly. You can meet your produce suppliers. You can look into the eyes of the person who is growing and supplying your food. You can buy things that you have more certainty of. You can ask these people questions about how these things are treated: Are they sprayed, fertilized, do they use pesticides, herbicides, and are their seeds non-GMO?  This way of buying is much more intentional. Sure, it might mean more time waiting in a line and dealing with crowds. Sure, you might actually have to look someone in the eye and greet him or her.

It isn’t as easy as dumping items onto a conveyer belt and handing over your credit card. Visiting your local farmer’s market will ensure your investment in ethically produced, mostly organic, foods. Many farmers may not advertise their products as “organic,” and this is because of the difficulty small farms face to get USDA certified. It is much easier for large agribusinesses to be certified because to the government they are more important.

If a farmer at your local farmer’s market does advertise “organic,” you are allowed, by law, to see their organic certification documents, which they are required to have on them if showing such advertisements. Feel free to ask to see the farmer’s documents, or ask them questions regarding their growing process. Most are glad to divulge this information, as they like to meet those they are feeding.

Eating local foods are good for the individual buying, for the farmer, and for one’s community. Local food doesn’t travel hundreds of miles to reach you, doesn’t need to be preserved or treated. There is much less storage and transportation involved, and thus, less carbon emissions from gas. The benefits of local food systems are linked: better land usage (less monoculture), less harm to environment, more collaboration and communication, etc. To avoid hesitations and ambiguity in the super market, visit your local farmer’s market to meet farmers themselves, and for essentials in the grocery store, read the labels very carefully.

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“Personal Food Movement” – Caroline Lewis

Everyone eats, therefore, everyone should take interest in how food is produced, sold and consumed. Your personal decisions do not just affect you, and can directly harm or help others. Those who choose to eat fast food or processed foods on a regular basis can and will find themselves ill, which raises health care costs. The rest of society has to deal with the health care issues caused by irresponsible eaters.

Since we exist in a capitalistic society, food companies are pressured to sell more. This pressure is then pushed on us, the consumers. Needing to increase sales and make more of a profit, food corporations advertise constantly. They make us very aware of our existence in an excessive food environment by convincing us to eat more frequently, in more places, and in larger servings.

Eating less is bad for market competition, so the illusion of constant satiation is perpetuated. With billboards, television ads, radio promotions, combo offers (“super size me!” meal enhancements), and readily available food, we are convinced of our nonexistent hunger. With these constant, commercial bombardments, food becomes our top priority, literally consuming our thoughts.

Ask yourself which industries benefit from better dietary choices. The food industry will not benefit, for they need people to eat more, and typically worse, in order to make a profit. The pharmaceutical industry also doesn’t benefit from our eating less, for they benefit from treating obese and unhealthy people. Our health care industry doesn’t prosper from our eating less either; the worse and more we eat, the more treatment we need, and thus the more money they reap.

What is truly important, existing outside of monetary value, is our individual health. Eating less for yourself and your health, which is priceless, is the most basic form of activism out there. Selective buying is one way to represent your beliefs actively and intentionally; if you do not support testing on animals, avoid those products; if you do not ethically believe in using GMO seeds, purchase non-GMO products. Our intentions to eat less and eat ethically, if replicated by enough people, will impact the decisions of others; we have a larger influence than we think. Education by demonstration is arguably the most effective way to translate an idea, so eat less and eat better—spread the message through your intentional actions.

How we choose to interact and make decisions within this overwhelming food environment directly affects the outcome of our population. We incorrectly assume our choices don’t have an influence, as if we cannot make a difference. By accepting defeat and using the excuse of insignificance, consumers succumb to the over-stimulation and market ploys. Do not wait for politicians to reverse the harmful effects of corporate food control, take action. Consciously eat less and eat better, and in turn, have an impact on societal behavior.

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