.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

My Photo
Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Free Market: Agribusiness's Enemy Number One

Via Progressive Review.
GEOFFREY LEAN INDEPENDENT, UK - Seven short years ago, when The Independent on Sunday began its campaign on GM foods and crops, 60 per cent of the products on our supermarket shelves contained modified ingredients. Now only two GM products are left on sale: Schwartz's Bacon Flavour Bits Salad Topping, and Betty Crocker Bac-Os - neither exactly household names.

Then, too, widespread cultivation of GM crops throughout Britain was thought to be only a year away. No less than 53 of them were confidently awaiting approval. Now not a single GM plant is growing anywhere in any British field, and no one expects any to be sown any time in the foreseeable future.

At the time ours appeared a hopeless cause. The giant biotech companies seemed unstoppable: Monsanto, which led their charge, was poised to make a merger that would have turned it into the world's largest corporation. It had the full backing of the Government, fired by the messianistic determination of Tony Blair to make the country "the European hub" of biotechnology. Both the US administration and the British scientific establishment were urging him on.

The Prime Minister privately dismissed public opposition as "a flash in the pan", and so it appeared. Ranged against the Goliaths of the boardrooms and the cabinet rooms were a motley band of Davids, ranging from Prince Charles to pressure groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association.

But we reckoned without the most powerful force of all, the superwomen (and supermen) of the shopping aisles who, informed of the presence of GM products in their foods and the arguments for and against, simply refused to buy them. Thus the public achieved what parliament has repeatedly failed to do - stopping one of Tony Blair's dodgier crusades in its tracks.

The greatest threat to genetically modified food is commercial free speech. It's not by accident that agribusiness is the main force behind food libel laws, as well as regulatory restrictions on the labelling of GM-free foods. Do away with the patents and with the government prohibitions on the free flow of information, and ninety percent of the debate would be moot. As ADM's Dwayne Andreas said, "the customer is our enemy."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin, can you provide more info on these food libel laws and regulations on labelling?


August 01, 2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

For starters, here's a good link. You can find an abundance of material on "food libel laws" just by Googling that phrase.

Monsanto, FDA cracking down on hormone-free milk claims

Monsanto Company's lawsuit against a Maine dairy and recent statements by
the Food and Drug Administration about "misleading" hormone-free labels on
dairy products indicate an effort to further restrict dairy companies'
ability to label their products as being free of a genetically engineered
bovine growth hormone.

In its lawsuit against Oakhurst Dairy, a small family-owned dairy in
Portland, Maine, Monsanto objects to a label on Oakhurst's milk products
that says "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones." Monsanto
says the label misleads consumers into thinking that milk produced from cows
not treated with Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST)is superior to milk from cows treated with the GE hormone.

August 01, 2006 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm actually surprised that it's a viable lawsuit, but "law" rarely makes any sense. Even if it's not viable, it would be a lot more costly in relative terms for the small business.
I'm glad that in the UK consumers have at least had the ability to make an informed choice. It is also pretty much a free-market phenomenon.
It's another thing that many right-libertarians seem to complain about, the strong resistance to GM foods, when the strong push for GM is yet another case of corporate state capitalism, not the solution to feeding the poor. The food may be cheap, but if it's cheap crap the poor will still suffer from malnutrition...
So what exactly is it that leads to this largely blind defence of nominally private corporations? How can any libertarian identify with corporate nihilism?

August 02, 2006 2:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home