Pot and GMOs: coming soon to a ballot near you

Pot and GMOs: coming soon to a ballot near you

In the Nov. 4 U.S. election, in addition to the Republicans winning a majority in the Senate and increasing their grip on the House of Representatives, the other big news was the legalization of marijuana in Alaska and Oregon (as well as Washington DC), joining Colorado and Washington as states where pot is legal for recreational use.

In most other U.S. states, laws have been loosened and pot use is only a misdemeanor or allowed for medicinal use, with prescriptions easy to come by. There is a movement afoot in our big, conservative neighbour to the south. Will Canada get on board?

In Portland, Oregon a decade ago, police swept the inner city clean of drug dealers. Mexican drug cartels noted the vacuum and moved in. Marijuana was their cash crop, meth labs were spun up, heroin was pushed, business boomed. They now control all illegal drug sales in the region.

Now that marijuana sales are regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, will the influence and trade of the Mexican drug cartels decline? Certainly. Like alcohol prohibition in the ‘20s and ‘30s inflamed the sale of bootleg booze, the “War on Drugs” has been a boon to criminals. Thankfully that foolishness is coming to an end, but has left a legacy of statelessness in parts of Mexico. It is estimated that there are over 22 million marijuana users in the U.S. Marijuana provides as much as 40 per cent of the income of the Mexican cartels.

What we did not hear in Canada about the U.S. election is that Oregonians also voted on a measure that would require GMO labeling on all foods. They defeated it.

GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms” and those producing genetically modified (GM) foods. According to the website www.eatrightontario.org, a GMO is an organism, like a seed, that:

  • Has had its genes (DNA) altered to act in a way that does not happen naturally, and/or
  • Contains genes from another organism.

Since 1994, over 81 GM foods have been approved in Canada, including: canola, corn, lentils, potatoes, rice, soybeans, squash, tomatoes and wheat.

The battle over labeling GMO content in foods in Oregon was the costliest marketing campaign in the state’s history. Over $23 million was spent. The campaign against labeling cost $16.3 million. Monsanto threw down $4 million and was joined by Dupont Pioneer, Kraft and other large food producers and biotech companies. The $6.6 million for the “yes” side came from natural food companies and anti-GMO campaigners.

Colorado residents also rejected a GMO labeling measure amid a flurry of costly anti-labeling campaigns. Similar campaigns with record-setting expenditures in Washington state and California two years ago also resulted in the rejection of GMO labeling.

The main anti-labeling message has been that it will add greatly to the cost of food. That seemed to resonate with voters.

A similar marketing campaign raged on the Hawaiian island of Maui, again costing tens of millions of dollars, but in spite of that, residents voted for a complete suspension of the cultivation of GMO crops on their island until studies prove they are safe. A week later, a lawsuit was filed by Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co. in U.S. federal court in Honolulu asking a judge to immediately prevent the law from being enacted. Both companies have massive farms that research and develop new varieties of GMO foods there, benefiting from the warm weather to grow multiple crop cycles each year.

The organization Earthjustice calls GMO foods an “engineering and environmental disaster.” They say that in addition to food and chemical corporations profiting from their designer seeds, they also make big money off herbicides and pesticides. Eighty-five per cent of GMO crops are designed to resist herbicides, and more and more herbicide use is being encouraged to eliminate weeds. Earthjustice says just as the overuse of antibiotics is creating antibiotic resistant germs, constant use of Monsanto’s Roundup and other herbicides are spawning superweeds. That will lead to more genetic modification by the companies so that multiple herbicides can be used.

GMO crops were once touted as the answer to world hunger, but davidsuzuki.org points out that with them has come over-use of chemical spraying, which means more cost for farmers, more damage to the environment and more health concerns. That group, too, has commenced a cross-Canada campaign in support of labeling GMO content in foods.

Canadians should know what is in the food we eat and labeling foods so we can determine that makes sense. We also need our country to legalize, regulate, tax and control the sale of marijuana, and do it quickly, before the Mexican drug cartels show up here.

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