Food and Government: Part 1

I have spent the last two years learning the art of gardening. What I have learned is that growing my food, mainly vegetables, is not an easy process. Thinking of myself as one of the Generation Xers who fancied restaurants, technology and the easy way of life, “the more accessible the better” was a life I was comfortable with. All of that came to a halt when I begin to learn more about food, government and where politics fits in.

Let me say, it is more than a notion to not go to the grocery store and pick out produce at a price that is either affordable or not, but instead spend  growing it yourself. Thinking about what it takes to start a seed, cultivate, harvest and replant with lots of watering and soil maintenance in between has me thinking about a bigger, more complex picture.  When I decided to grown my own vegetables, it was a hobby. It also came at a time when so much news and attention was given to how food is produced, the impact of modified foods (including genetically engineering salmon, fruits and vegetables), GMO labeling of the food we eat and the back and forth between activist and government.

Most recently, I came across several intriguing articles about Maui, Hawaii and the struggle for non-GMO food versus government intervention. In November of 2014, the city of Maui passed a local bill calling for the end on cultivation of genetically engineered crops until an environmental impact study was conducted to prove such practices were not harming the environment or Maui citizens. Known as the SHAKA Movement, judicial authorities approved and began implementing the GMO Moratorium Bill.

By July 2015, soon after the GMO Moratorium Bill was passed, Federal Judge Susan Mollway ruled the bill as invalid and struck down the GMO ban in Maui stating that, “the ordinance was unenforceable and preempted by the federal Plant Protection Act and its regulations.” I am sure this strikes a blow to the residents of Maui who are in favor of more GMO testing from corporations known as the big four: DuPont/Pioneer, Dow Agro Sciences, Syngenta and Monsanto, which is the world’s largest seed company.

I am still learning, but I do believe there has to be middle ground between corporations, governments and people.  Just looking at Maui, there are countless conditions and people who are affected by what they see and feel as “big business takeover.” Recently, President Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act, which protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops consumption. WHY?

As a public administrator, you have to ask why? What is it about the company, the product they sell and the protection needed from the federal government?

Submitted by Shirmel Hayden


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