Recently, I received a note from a friend in California who had just finished reading Seed Savers. I was glad to learn she enjoyed the book, and, I’ll admit, somewhat surprised when she continued, saying, “There is a proposition on the CA ballot regarding genetically modified foods. Supporting information speaks of Monsanto’s control of seeds. I would have missed that had we not had our special visit at your home.” I’d been hearing a little about Proposition 37, seeing postings on Facebook, etc., so I decided it was time to look into this ballot measure, even though I’m not a Californian. I’ll get back to my findings on Prop 37 later on in the blog, but of interest to me was how friends frequently come across snippets, videos, blogs, etc., and send them my way with a note saying, “This reminded me of you/your book.” This is all lovely and wonderful, and the various responses to the book show just how much each audience sees what it wants to see. Many adults who read Seed Savers describe it as political: “a novel on politics of food production” (Willamette Woman, Sept/Oct 2012). I see it as an homage to good food.
I grew up on a farm—mostly berries, but we also raised our own beef, had a milk cow, grew a little wheat, hay, nuts. We also grew all our own fruits and vegetables: apples, plums, cherries, corn, peas, etc. , and put it up for the winter. As I gaze far back into my childhood memories, I recognize certain moments as “firsts of summer.” One of those events was the pulling of the first carrot, squirting it with water from the garden hose, and munching away on it, pretending to be Bugs Bunny. “Ehh, what’s up, Doc?” The earthy smell, the touch of dirt, soil, if you prefer, still in the crevices. That memory of myself—four or five years old, barefoot, crunching with strong teeth on an unpeeled and oft-times misshapen carrot—lingers. I’ve read that some kids don’t recognize vegetables in their true form anymore. To me, that’s what my book is about: keeping alive our ability to know what our food is, where it comes from–beyond the grocery store shelves. (I talk more about my inspiration for Seed Savers: Treasure here.)
Besides infusing Seed Savers with the basics of how food comes from plants, and going on a bit about my favorite summer fresh food (peaches!), I’ve included another beloved childhood memory, the freedom of bicycles. (This goes to audience, I assure you. :)) The first thing my daughter said upon finishing the book was not, “It’s a little too scary,” or “Food politics?”, but “I want to ride my bike to Canada!” Kids totally get into the adventure. They like the “bad guy” element, the smart kids, the “What will happen next?” Despite the adults who come away from Seed Savers thinking about big government, food security, GMOs, etc., (and I’m in no way denying that it is in there), the kids don’t get that. When the book was recently reviewed on a kid book review blog, it was the adult commenters who wrote that the theme was close to reality, a little scary because it might happen, etc. Audience.
But back to Prop 37, the California measure that would put mandatory labeling on all food containing genetically engineered materials. As I peruse the “yes” material and the “no” material, one little phrase sticks in my mind: follow the money. And this is where it leads: 45 million in opposition, with the biggest contributors being the same companies who bring us the engineered seeds and chemicals—MONSANTO right at the top. (In favor, about 8 million). My understanding is that a lot of the “vote no” advertisements insist it will cost people money. Always question an argument based on purported financial impact. It is our weakness, and it’s usually not true. Follow the money. Some people rant that other people are not reading the actual text of the measure. I read it. The only thing that bothers me at all is the definition of “processed food.” But it isn’t such a big deal as to vote no for the measure, in my opinion. It’s a label, folks. Labels already includes the calories, sodium, good fats, bad fats (believe me, after my husband’s recent health issues, I’m reading them), etc. Including GMOs is a no-brainer. Except …
Except, what if people didn’t want to eat their corn breakfast cereal every morning anymore, not knowing the long-term effects of GMOs, since we only started eating this stuff, what, in the 1990s? Somebody would lose money. And I don’t think it would be the consumer.
Follow the money.