Winning the big message on GMO labeling

Last week there was a shut your mouth and listen hearing in the state of Illinois regarding GMO labeling of consumer foods. GMO, for those who may have been in a cryogenic sleep since the 1960s, are Genetically Modified organisms, principally plants, like seeds, but not exclusively. There is growing concern, mounting data and building support for the limitation and even the banning altogether of GMOs. The health concerns and issues are real, an aspect of which a protester, Evanston resident and long time social activist Margaret Nelson illustrated starkly (See video).

But this piece is not about that mounting evidence or the building resistance to GMOs, but about the messaging by those opposed to GMOs, and by proponents of GMO labeling. And first, it is necessary to understand the environment in which that message may take root, wither or be obliterated by opposing messaging. So bear with me through a few pertinent facts.

Monsanto, the biggest and most iconic in the GMO industry, saw $13 billion and change in net sales for 2012, a bullish increase of 14% over 2011, compared to 2010-2011 year over year. Their free cash flow, where the money to attack critics of GMOs would come from in 2012 was over $2 billion. Second, the US FDA and Monsanto board might as well be in the same office. The FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, who wrote the FDA’s rBGH labeling guidelines, Michael Taylor was a Monsanto lawyer for nearly a decade. For a longer list of the heads bouncing between Monsanto and the Food and Drug Administration see

There is no longer any reasonable debate about the effects of media consolidation, and the quality of information available to maintain our failing democracy, unfettered access to information being critical to its maintenance. It should raise suspicions that there are no news networks producing any credible investigating reports regarding substantial issues relating to GMOs. The stories that are reported deal with extremism, alarmism or radicalism by anti-GMO activists and critics. Bloomberg ran this headline on May 15th:
“Monsanto Sees ‘Elitism’ in Social Media-Fanned Opposition”

Revolution and Beer makes no assertions of being balanced here, except to call out a notable hypocrisy and manipulation by media entities, such as Bloomberg, who promote themselves as journalists. Nakedly one-sided, the piece offered no opposing or balanced view. Instead the entire piece was virtually one long quote, in essence making the so-called Bloomberg news the facilitator of a Monsanto Press release. A simple glance at the seasonal and cyclical peaks and valleys of Monsanto quarterly profits would seem to indicate that the timing of the piece was meant to affect the shares of Monsanto positively. A researcher at Washington State University, Charles Benbrook, cited in the piece, was in reality a stealth proponent of Monsanto and GMO foods.

Benbrook was quoted as saying that most “Most of the people that become motivated to engage the political issues have become convinced that going down the road of genetically engineered foods is not the way to meet the needs of a food insecure population.”

Yet later he says that, quoting the Bloomberg article “Still, genetic engineering is beginning to produce crops that benefit consumers, such as Monsanto’s Vistive soybeans that produce healthier oils…”

Wow, that sort of fair and balanced would make even FOX news blush. And there seems a more sinister effort at undercutting, even censoring social media discourse and campaigns, which are the last remaining sources of critical information regarding GMOs and GMO labeling. There are accusations of interference and censorship by Facebook of anti-GMO and counter-Monsanto related events and stories. Whether that is a cyber-warfare effort by GMO producers, as it appears, the building SM campaign may have successfully and adversely impacted Monsanto’s 2013 sales and profits, or whether there was collusion by Facebook in favor of Monsanto has yet to be determined. At the time of this writing Facebook was not available for comment. Revolution and Beer welcomes clarification on the apparent censorship, deletion and cancellation of anti-GMO events and postings from both Monsanto and Facebook.

But here is where the GMO critics are losing the messaging war, when and if they are actually allowed into the fight. From the Bloomberg piece:

“There is this strange kind of reverse elitism: If I’m going to do this, then everything else shouldn’t exist,” (Chief Executive Officer Hugh) Grant said at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters yesterday. “There is space in the supermarket shelf for all of us.”

Interesting choice of words. If there is space on the shelf for everyone’s products, why the attacks and lawsuits by GMO producers against farmers and growers? Why the secrecy, or at least the refusal to be transparent regarding the use of GMO foods to the consumer? Why the lack of concern over health questions by consumers? Monsanto and others in the GMO industry have poured huge resources into political and media campaigns to prevent GMO labeling. Why? What are they afraid of?

The refrain in the status quo media is heavily weighted on the holiness of the so-called free market. But they are not acting by free market principles in censoring or obfuscating with the help of a co-opted political and judicial system labeling of GMO and non-GMO foods on store shelves that would allow or assist informed consumers in voting with their dollars. Margaret Nelson is one example of someone who suffers from numerous food allergies and must be careful about what she puts in her body. But as we have seen, the free market to companies like Monsanto means that they may act with impunity to laws and structures the rest of us must adhere to. A true free market means that companies produce products that consumers truly want, not one they are duped into buying, and if consumers reject that product it goes out of business. Instead, the GMO industry would hide the truth about its product and then own a government in order to force it down your throat.

There is either a FREE market or there isn’t, and right now, it does not exist. Monsanto, Dupont, the media, the FDA and USDA and your local politicians are exclusively responsible for taking that right and expectation from the American consumer. It is up to the American consumer to hold them accountable, to put them out of office, shutter their doors. In the meantime, winning the message war is paramount. They may have the money, but we have the numbers, if only we endeavor to use that power.
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