Elections And Food: Means What?

In the recent elections, some outcomes will affect several important issues around food, cooking and eating.

The most common food-related issue on ballots around the country involved labeling requirements for genetically modified foods. Those measures pushed for such foods to be specifically labelled so consumers would be able to make an informed choice. The measures faced an uphill battle in Oregon and Colorado. In the mountain state, voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. In Oregon, the race was much closer and no winner has been declared as of this writing.

The Bachelor’s Kitchen does not believe genetically modified foods are anything for consumers to worry about. Farmers have been modifying plant and animal foods with selective breeding for many centuries. This method makes it easier. It does not create so-called “frankenfoods.”

The dangerous question here is not whether labeling is good. It is the fact that large agribusiness interests pumped a lot of money in defeating the proposals. We believe consumers should have more information and more education about their food choices. Unfortunately, requiring special labeling for GMO foods does not accomplish that. It is worrisome, however, that big business is affecting our food choices so severely.

In Hawaii, voters were asked to eliminate the cultivations of all genetically modified foods until further scientific research is completed. This is just another variation of the “frankenfood” scare. On the other hand, Hawaii has delicate ecosystems which could be adversely affected by the mixing of regular and modified species. At another level, this was a fight between big agribusiness interests and small farmers. As one might expect, big business sunk lots of money to fight the proposal and it will probably be defeated. At this writing, the results were not conclusive.

Another issue on ballots was raising taxes on sugary drinks, like soda. In the San Francisco area, two cities had measures on the ballot. Voters in San Francisco seem unwilling to give up or pay more for their favorite beverages. But in Berkeley, the measure won by a landslide.

Bad news may be coming to food stamp recipients in the wake of Congressional elections. Two candidates who campaigned on cutting the Supplementary Nutrition benefits won their races. One of those will be the new chairman of the U. S. Senate Agriculture Committee. In a time when we need to push for better nutrition, especially among poor people, the probable cut in this program is heartless and counter-productive. Look for health care insurance premiums to go up to pay for additional medical needs for working people forced to feed their children cheap processed foods.