|Photo by Jaryl Cabuco | Fitted Life on Flickr|
Health care in America is not for the sick, it's for the healthy. To get health care in America, you need health insurance. To get health insurance, you have to be healthy.
Health care and health insurance are both big business, and they feed off one another. The health care business needs the health insurance business to ensure patients can pay their bills. The health insurance business needs the health care business as a reason to exist at all: the trick is to keep just enough funds flowing into health care to keep it functioning, and to avoid insuring bad risks (sick people).
Weeds are also big business...
Selling the chemicals to kill weeds is mega-buck lucrative, and selling herbicide-proof GM crops in a package with the chemical even more so. Weeds, however, pose a business conundrum if they get too healthy. Monsanto's Roundup herbicide (containing glyphosate) comes with a warranty to kill everything with green leaves except the company's own Roundup Ready GM Crops. However, some very ferocious weeds don't realise they're supposed to die when sprayed with Roundup. In this case, farmers are told they must “pro-actively manage for glyphosate-resistant weeds (this means go out into the field and pull them up by hand) ...” because “Roundup agricultural herbicide warranties will not cover the failure to control glyphosate-resistant weed populations.” A neat guarantee: Roundup is only guaranteed to kill the weeds that die.
President Obama, when running for office, pledged:
“We'll let folks know if their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they're buying”.If someone running for President makes a promise and then gets elected, what would you expect them to do? President Obama seems to have interpreted this promise to the American voters in a rather unusual manner. He's stacked his administration with biotech proponents who have gone on to approve GM sweet corn, ethanol corn, alfalfa forage grass, sugar beet and lawn grass, and are rumoured to be about to approve GM salmon, and there's not a label in sight.
The reason for this failure to fulfill a simple promise was explained by the State Department's assistant secretary for economic, energy and business affairs: GM labelling would scare consumers away from those foods.
Now, at present, the main use for GM crops in human food is to supply the junk food market. This means that all processed, high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie, additive-laden, zero-nutritional items on the supermarket shelves would be labelled GM. If the government wants to promote health, scaring its electorate away from such foods would seem a great idea. But the health care industry, the health insurance industry might lose too many customers, as would the food processing industry and the biotech industry, and no doubt the President is now listening more to the voices of commerce than to the people who voted him in.
However, there must be more to the GM labelling issue than that, because the reality is that if the very real threats of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer (and being denied health insurance) haven't scared the American public into ditching junk food, labelling them 'GMO' isn't really likely to have much effect.
What might be brighter in the presidential awareness is that GMO labelling would fuel the current inconvenient rise in public unease about their food quality and about the role of big business in dictating their food chain.
If this idea seems far-fetched, consider this. The US government's nutritional guidelines recommend a healthy diet of about equal proportions of fruit, vegetables, grains and protein (note that additives are not included). Tax-payer subsidies to promote food production (some $164 billion) are allocated 68% to meat and dairy, 22 % to grains, 7% to additives, and something less that 2.5% to fresh produce. Government money is promoting GM animal feed and GM raw materials for food processing, while its mouth is promoting fresh (non-GM) produce.
Also, no matter what he intended before entering office, Obama may well be finding serious opposition to GMO-labelling from within his own ranks. Running for office costs so much these days that “Politicians must go to large donors such as the oil & gas industry, agrichemical companies, health insurers and Wall Street ... you know ... the type of companies they're supposed to be regulating” A correlation has been found between “politicians who advocate maintaining the lion's share of subsidies to chemical-intensive commodity crops” and those who “happen to receive the most money from agrichemical industry” (Pricess$$).
It's interesting to compare how e-petitioning in the US and UK are being used. In Britain, an e-petition to the Government which has achieved 100,000 signatures (from a population of 61 million) will be debated. In America, the Administration will respond to petitions signed by 5,000 people (from a population of. 310 million). The same day as the Brits succeeded in initiating a debate about the very real possibility of an unmanageable population explosion within the next two decades if immigration is not controlled, the Americans succeeded in getting White House confirmation that evidence of their greatest fear is “not being hidden” from them: no aliens from outer space have contacted Earth and that there is no evidence that such aliens exist.
The American way is that you can only get health-care if you don't need it, products are only guaranteed to work if they work, promises are only promises so long as you're not in a position to fulfill them, consumers have a right not to be scared but don't have any right to know if there's anything to be scared of, the components of a healthy diet are well-established and well-voiced but the government goes out of its way to make sure the people don't eat one, and people are more concerned about aliens from outer space than they are about what they are putting inside their bodies.
Regarding the 'purchase' of election by the candidate who promises most to industry, likened by one seasoned Senator to the ancient art of whoring, you might like to view Priceless$$, a one-hour documentary at www.habitatmedia.org/priceless.html
- Film of the week, Priceless$$, and Alert of the week, Label GMOs 2012!, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Bytes #299, 20.10.11
- Jess Zimerman, USDA pushes veggies, but subsidizes meat, Grist 11.10.11
- Philip Brasher, State Department: Biotech labeling would scare consumers, Desmoines Register, 12.10.11
- Eve Conant, Obama's Organic Game, The Daily Beast, 15.10.11
- RR Crops to Raise the Wh8ite Flag? GM Freeze Press Release, 19.10.11
- Petition set to spark immigration debate, and, Evidence of aliens 'not being hidden', Metro 9.11.11