I had a writing teacher once that said, "You can write for the dark or you can write for the light. Choose the light." She was referring to the dark side of her craft--writing--which would include things like tabloids, smut, etc. But I find her advice wise for any craft. Choose the light. Work for the good.
In farming, the "dark" represents choosing profit over environmental health. The "dark" represents the subsidies that make it all but impossible for a small farmer to compete against corporate agriculture. The "dark" represents choosing secrecy about our farming practices over providing consumers the information they need to choose whether they want to support our decisions and our farming practices by buying and eating what we produce. The "dark" is embodied by agribusiness, the FDA, and, at times, the USDA.
I am not anti-profit motive. I'm seriously not. I believe that farmers must make a profit, and a healthy one at that, in order to sustain their land and make good environmental investments and decisions. But you can't choose money above everything. We can't let money trump our responsibility to be good environmental stewards.
And in support of full disclosure, I also receive a subsidy check in the mail every October that is literally a lifesaver for our farm. (The subsidy I receive is peanuts compared to what the big players receive. Not even peanuts....perhaps just the peanut shells.) But I support eliminating subsidies to level the playing field. It might hurt us in the short run, but eventually we'd be able to compete without feeling the pressure to get big or get out.
What really gets me, though, is the FDA and big agriculture stance on labeling. Why, why, why are we so fearful of letting consumers know what's in their food, how it was produced, and where? If we farmers choose to be part of the light, to produce healthy food in healthy and humane ways, what do we have to fear?
In case you're unaware, dairy farmers who choose to not inject their cows with a genetically modified hormone--rBGH--are legally unable to label their milk rBGH-free. It is literally against the law to label their milk rBGH-free. Many, many consumers say they do not want to buy this milk and that they are willing to pay a premium for milk that is free of rBGH.
So what's the problem? There are a million-gazillion different types of everything at the grocery store from which to choose. I mean, who knew there could so many different ways to take corn syrup, add fake flavors and colors, and squish it into various shapes to make fruit snacks? There are literally 20 feet of shelf space dedicated to this crap! Could it be so difficult, then, to offer two types of milk in the dairy case? No one has gone freakin' crazy over the placement of a sugar cereal next to a sugar-free one, now have they?
Next we have genetically engineered animals. That's right. They have actually taken a goat and genetically engineered it to have spider genes so that their milk will produce silk fibers. It doesn't get much crazier than that. And I thought our goats could climb!! Holy crap, we need to build higher fences, Marcel!!
Personally, I can't wait to see the day when I find our goats swinging through the trees on silk threads hanging from their teats. But that's just me. I'm weird like that.
Did I forget that part where pigs have been genetically altered, adding mouse genes so that they can better metabolize their food? What the.....?? I mean, they're pigs! They eat, snort, root around and get fat! It can't get much simpler, folks.
Hmmn, grilled mouse-chops. I hadn't yet thought of that, but in a pinch.... "Um, honey? Looks like we'll need to upgrade our mouse traps to a size XXXXXL."
This is not the work of small farmers, folks. This is the work of scientists that work for the dark. But unfortunately those scientists wield power. And pretty soon, when the meat market collapses out of sheer disgust, we'll all pay the price.
Consumers should be allowed to choose between the dark and the light. And when farmers make the right choice, the "light" choice, we should be able to label it clearly and be compensated for it.
Visit www.NotInMyFood.org to voice your opposition with the FDA, and for more information about genetically engineered animals.