Foodopoly pushes for political action
Wenonah Hauter. Photo: TedxManhattan, CC some rights reserved
A new book by the executive director of Food & Water Watch explores the consolidation of the U.S. food industry, and "the battle over the food and farming in America." In an interview with Grist.org, Wenonah Hauter talks about her book, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.
Just 20 companies produce most of the food eaten by Americans (yes, even organic brands). These companies are so large, they have the economic and political power to dictate food policy, from laws on advertising junk food to children and manipulating nutrition standards to weakening federal pesticide regulations and blocking the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Hauter has a lot to say about how the system got where it is, and she has suggestions for people concerned about it.
The natural response is to try and “shop better.” That’s important, and as you learn more you may end up questioning some products you’ve been buying for years. But as I say throughout my book, we can’t shop our way out of the problems in the food system.
Hauter goes on to suggest that people find ways to "get involved in building a food movement that has the political power to change the rules for our food system."
Find a local organization working on food policy in your community or do research on your local officials and how to contact them — then call them up and tell them you expect them to step up on a food issue that matters to you, whether it’s labeling [genetically engineered] foods or passing a better farm bill.
Many people around the country have been working on such efforts. People in Vermont and Connecticut have pushed for GMO labeling laws. Vermont leaders didn't pass a measure last year, fearing agri-giant Monsanto would sue the state. California voters turned down a proposal last November to label GM foods there. The campaign against GM labeling spent $40 million dollars to defeat the measure. This is obviously big business.
But citizens who care about this issue are not giving up. Just this month, supporters of a GMO labeling law in Washington State turned in petitions signed by around 350,000 registered voters to their secretary of state. That means the Washington State legislature would have to consider it, or leave it up to voters in November.
This post is not meant to support GMO labeling laws. As far as I'm concerned, that is a debate for another day. What I'm wondering is whether advice like Hauter's, to contact local organizations and officials, can still make a difference. Is a system that's allowed 20 companies to get so huge that they control most of the food supply open to the voice of concerned individuals, or even local leaders? This GMO labeling issue could provide a good test of that.
Tags: food, GMO, politics