Craig Sams

Real change is coming

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People have had enough of corrupt politicians and their ruthlessly self-serving corporate backers. Real world change is breaking out everywhere

Did you get what you voted for in the election? More GMOs from Monsanto? The chance for NATO to bomb another country into chaos? More useless drugs based on junk research sold at extortionate prices to the NHS?  More untested pesticides in your food? More global warming? More fracking? More nuclear power stations? I don’t think so. All you got to be passionate about were the insulting little bribes about pensions, tax allowances, housing and benefits, while the big bribes are quietly discussed in Brussels and Whitehall between lobbyists for industry and politicians, trying to keep a firm grip on power.

But, as Russell Brand says, voting doesn’t matter so much any more – in the real world things are changing, and they’re changing fast. It doesn’t matter what the drug companies and GMO merchants would like to see: if people don’t buy, then their products don’t fly. Solar is outselling fossil fuels for energy, and nuclear is uninsurable and on the way out. More and more people question the value of pharmaceuticals, and fracking is on the skids. Organic food is booming, too.

It’s beginning to look like we’ve reached a tipping point with GMOs. If I was a Monsanto shareholder I’d be dumping stock in the light of how things are going.

Hugely successful fast-food chain Chipotle has announced that its food is now GMO-free. Its sales grew 31% year-on-year last year and profits are up 57%. Meanwhile its GMO-loving competitor McDonalds agonizes over a 2.7% drop in sales and a 33% drop in profits. Chipotle had to work at it: in the US, vegetable oils, tacos and tortillas and cheese are all made with GMOs. But they did it, and it’s watching customers flock to its outlets and abandon the dinosaurs who still don’t get it. Funny thing is that McDonalds owned 90% of Chipotle shares ten years ago but cashed out in 2006 to invest more in its own business. Big mistake.

A federal court has just upheld the state of Vermont’s law requiring GMO labelling, something we take for granted in Europe. The manufacturers who opposed it claimed it violated their free speech rights! Or their right to stay quiet?

Brazil’s National Cancer Institute has condemned the use of Roundup Ready soya, saying: “The cropping pattern with the intensive use of pesticides generates major harms, including environmental pollution and poisoning of workers and the population in general.”  Brazil’s Public Prosecutor has called for a suspension of glyphosate use. Holland has banned it for gardening use and it disappeared off the shelves of French garden centres this year. Colombia’s Health Ministry has recommended a ban on Roundup spraying on coca crops – too many farmers are getting ill.

The World Health Organization has also reported that glyphosate probably causes cancer. Over 30 years ago the US Environmental Protection Agency said the same, then reclassified it as non-carcinogenic right about the time the first of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready products hit the market. Cover-up or honest mistake? We’ll never know as the evidence can’t be released for reasons of ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Let’s not forget that when Roundup Ready soya beans were first planted in 1996 Monsanto promised that it would lead to reduced herbicide use. In the intervening 15 years its sales of Roundup increased tenfold. Just in the nick of time: its patent on glyphosate ran out in 2001 and competitors were offering it for a third of the price, but by then farmers were hooked on Roundup-hungry Roundup Ready soya beans and corn and had signed contracts not to use the cheaper stuff.

Neil Young’s new album is called The Monsanto Years – it is anything but a hymn of praise to America’s most reviled company. Made with Willie Nelson’s two sons, it is a plea to reverse the harm to family farms and the Midwest’s soils of the past two GMO decades.

Jo Wood, ex-wife of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, recently hosted a screening of GMO OMG – supporting GMfreeme.org. Even my missus, who’s heard it all before from me, got fired up by the film’s powerful message.

In the US Moms Against GMOs is leading the charge with the motto: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” With a little help from Chipotle and retailers and producers of organic and natural foods, things are changing.

Organic food pioneer and polemicist Craig Sams is Britain’s best known natural food pioneer. He is the founder of Green & Blacks, a former Soil Association chairman and the author of The Little Food Book.

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