(Editor’s note: Since this was first published, Andrew Puzder, Trump’s pick for labor secretary, has withdrawn. A replacement has yet to be announced).
Over the past three decades, organic food, farming, and products in the U.S. have grown into a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, representing more than 5 percent of all retail grocery sales. This growth has been achieved with little or no help from the White House, Congress or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and that’s been true no matter which party, Democrat or Republican, has been in power.
At current rates of growth the majority of food sales in the U.S. will be organic or 100% grass-fed within three decades. Unfortunately these current levels of growth for organic, no matter how impressive they seem, will not be enough to prevent the current (food- and farm-related) public health, environmental and climate crises from metastasizing into a full-blown catastrophe within 25 years or less. That’s why my organization, the Organic Consumers Association is organizing for what we call a Consumer and Political Revolution 2017-2020.
Although the majority of consumers—no matter whether they voted for Hillary (65 million), Trump (62 million), or stayed home and didn’t vote (92 million)—tell pollsters that they know that organic food is superior to chemical/GMO food, in terms of nutrition and environmental impact, and that they believe that pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotic residues and GMOs are dangerous, Congress keeps subsidizing industrial agriculture, factory farms, processed food and GMO corn-derived ethanol to the tune of billions of dollars a year. At the same time, lawmakers show little or no support for organic or transition-to-organic farmers or programs.
100% grass-fed beef and dairy products are now the fastest growing segment of grocery store sales. Yet most grass-fed beef and cheese is imported from overseas (Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) for the most part because here in the U.S., the USDA subsidizes factory-farm meat and animal products, rather than helping U.S. ranchers, farmers and processors move toward grass-fed, pasture-based, and regenerative production.
The Obama Administration behaved very much like the Bush Administration before it, providing little or no support for organic farming while touting the supposed benefits of GMOs, hi-tech agriculture, ethanol and agribusiness-friendly free trade agreements. Despite promises made in 2007 on the campaign trail that his administration would require mandatory labels on GMOs, Obama did nothing. In 2016, when Congress (including a number of recent Trump cabinet appointees) rammed through the controversial Roberts/Stabenow/Pompeo Dark Act, taking away the rights of states to require mandatory GMO labeling, Obama remained silent—instead of using his veto power.
On the campaign trail in 2016, GMO labeling and organic food were never mentioned by the Clinton or Trump campaigns. Bernie Sanders was the only major candidate to speak out for GMO labeling and organics.
Now organic consumers and farmers find ourselves facing Donald Trump and his Agribusiness/Fossil Fuel “Swamp Cabinet,” aided and abetted by a Republican (and status quo Democrat)-controlled Congress and an army of corporate lobbyists, fracking and pipeline extremists, militarists, racists, and misogynists. If we thought the “O’Bummer” administration and the Hillary campaign were disappointing, get ready for what food writer Tom Philpott calls the “Dark Forces” of the Trump Administration.
Let’s review a few of Trump’s Swamp Cabinet appointees, with a focus on how they will likely impact our food, environment and climate.
(1) Trump has appointed the archenemy of organics and GMO labeling, Mike Pompeo, former Congressman and Monsanto cheerleader from Kansas, to be head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pompeo was the original proponent of the DARK Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Does Pompeo’s coronation as head spook mean OCA, Food Democracy Now and our other allies should look out for suspicious email viruses or CIA-inspired drone activity over their offices? We’ll see.
(2) Trump has appointed billionaire Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. DeVos opposes public education and prefers for-profit charter schools. Why? Because billionaires like her stand to profit off education by short-changing students. With Billionaire Betsy in charge don’t hold your breath for more money for organic school gardens, or farm-to-table programs to get organic and local food into school cafeterias. Oh yeah. One more thing, Betsy’s brother is the notorious Eric Prince, former CEO of Blackwater, later called “Xe Services” and more recently “Academi,” a feared and reviled mercenary army of ex-soldiers and for-hire spies, known for their bloody exploits in Iraq and worldwide. Blackwater’s former clients include the Monsanto Corporation, foreign governments, and numerous police forces across the U.S. Thousands of former military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies, selling their services—all the way from spying and intelligence gathering to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training. According to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater’s work with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, has often been channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center.
(3) Trump has appointed Rick Perry, former Texas governor and Monsanto/factory farm cheerleader, to be head of the Energy Department. In his tenure as Texas secretary of agriculture and governor, Perry attacked food activists (including OCA’s predecessor organization, the Pure Food Campaign), supported junk food giants like McDonald’s, vocally endorsed Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, and championed anti-consumer laws such as the notorious “food slander” laws in Texas and a dozen other states that make it a crime for a food activist to “disparage” agribusiness corporations. Oprah Winfrey and food activist Howard Lyman were put on trial in Texas while Perry was ag secretary for pointing out that the beef industry’s routine practice of feeding blood, manure and slaughterhouse waste to cows was the cause of the fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, CJD (also known as “mad cow” disease).
(4) Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt, a fossil fuel extremist, climate-change denier, and proponent of factory farms and GMOs to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general, is an outspoken opponent of the EPA’s efforts to address factory farms that pollute drinking water. Pruitt was one of the first state attorneys general to file suit against the EPA over its new “Waters of the United States” rule. His position against protecting drinking water from factory farm waste has no doubt been shaped by his campaign contributors, which include the Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) and Monsanto. The Humane Society of the U.S. named Pruitt the nation’s least animal-friendly attorney general for teaming up with the OFB to oppose “efforts to crack down on puppy mills, horse slaughter, the exotic pet trade, factory farming, and just about every other animal welfare issue you can think of.” As a climate-change denier and mouthpiece for corporate agribusiness, don’t expect the Pruitt EPA to ban or regulate pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup/Glyphosate, or to address the fact that our out-of-control food and farming system is responsible for 44-57 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
(5) Pruitt will be joined on Trump’s climate denial team by Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Mobil CEO, who will now be secretary of state. As Intercept magazine pointed out last December:
Most of us know Exxon Mobil Corp. as an energy giant, which makes sense given that it is the world’s largest publicly held oil and gas company. Rex Tillerson, the company’s CEO, has spent his entire professional life prioritizing Exxon Mobil’s corporate interests over human rights, the environment, and the diplomatic interests of the U.S., all of which has prompted many journalists and commentators to point out that his appointment as secretary of state is not just a terrible idea but a joke seemingly ripped from the pages of a Marxist comic book.
What’s less well known is that Exxon Mobil is also one of the world’s biggest chemical companies, and that its chemical interests also sometimes run counter to those of people in the U.S. and beyond. Petrochemicals accounted for more than a quarter of Exxon Mobil’s $16 billion in net profits last year and wound up in wide range of consumer products such as plastics, tires, batteries, detergents, adhesives, synthetic fibers, and household detergents.
Among Exxon Mobil’s chemical products are phthalates, a family of chemicals widely used to make plastic pliable. Phthalates are in everything from food containers and plastic wrap to rattles, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething toys for babies. More than 75 percent of Americans have at least five of the chemicals in their body, according to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(6) Trump appointed, and of course the Republican-controlled Senate approved, an outright racist, firm supporter of big business, and supporter of the Monsanto-Bayer merger, former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, as the new attorney general. Sessions will no doubt provide critical support to Bayer AG’s proposed $66-billion purchase of Monsanto Co., which is supposed to be undergoing state and federal scrutiny to prevent monopolistic control over food, seeds and agricultural chemicals. Monsanto’s stock, previously falling, has risen since Trump’s election and his selection of Sessions as the new AG. Sessions voted for the DARK Act and has been outspoken in his view that states have no right to require mandatory labeling of GMOs.
(7) Last but not least, Trump has appointed Sonny Perdue to head up the USDA. Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. He supports factory farms, pesticides and genetically engineered crops. In 2009, Perdue signed a bill into law that blocked local communities in Georgia from regulating factory farms to address animal cruelty, pollution or any other hazard. He took money from Monsanto and other pesticide companies for his gubernatorial campaigns. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a front group for the GMO industry, named Perdue their 2009 Governor of the Year. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the multi-billion-dollar lobbying group that represents Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Coca-Cola, General Mills (you get the picture) rushed to praise Perdue’s nomination. In a statement, GMA’s president said her group “looks forward to working with [Perdue] on issues key to keeping America’s food the safest and most affordable food supply in the history of the world.” Coming from the GMA, leader of the charge to keep labels off GMO foods, we know that “safest and most affordable food” is code for “industrial chemical GMO food.”
Beyond the imposition of his Swamp Cabinet, Trump has begun issuing executive orders that will have a major impact on organics and the food and farming system. His decree that no new federal regulations will be implemented, unless two previous federal regulations are repealed, likely means that no disclosure whatsoever will be required on genetically engineered foods, even the watered down “QR” bar codes called for under the DARK Act. Even more ominously, the pro-Trump Republican Freedom Caucus has called for the abolition of the entire National Organic Program. Other pending regulations, banning dangerous pesticides, improving animal welfare, removing certain synthetic ingredients from organic production, likewise remain in limbo.
Trump’s Mexico wall and his pronouncements that he’s going to round up and deport all immigrant workers present a rather serious challenge to U.S. food production, whether organic or non-organic. The bottom line is that most of our farmworkers, and many if not most of our restaurant and other food chain workers (processing, warehousing, distribution, retail) are immigrants without citizenship papers. If Trump follows through with his threat, much of the U.S. food and farming system will collapse.
There’s one thing Trump and his cronies can’t do, at least not very easily. They can’t stop us from our waging our #ConsumerRevolution, voting with our pocketbooks against GMOs, industrial agriculture, factory farms, sweatshop clothing, and polluting and exploitative companies and brands. And they can’t stop us from voting with our pocketbooks for organic food, Fair Trade-certified products, and companies, retailers and brands that take a stand against racism, sexism, homophobia and the destruction of our environment and climate.
And down the road, they can’t stop us from organizing a #PoliticalRevolution and throwing the politicians out of office who support the Trump and his business-as-usual agenda of the One Percent.
We have our work cut out for us. We must Resist Trump and the One Percent, including the sell-out Democrats, who have (temporarily) hijacked our economy and our political system. And we must Regenerate our food and farming system, our public health, and our grassroots networks.
Linked Source: “Dark Forces” Are Coming for Your Organic Food