Heart of Gold: Neil Young Congratulates Vermont for GMO Stance

IMG_0951Rarely do you get wowed these days. We’re surrounded by a constant barrage of scintillating information that distracts us at every turn. That’s why, when I write this, I really mean it when I say that the Neil Young concert last Sunday in Essex was utterly captivating. A person who would rather play than talk, he played non-stop for a little over two-and-a-half hours (and it was the Essex curfew that stopped him) for the capacity crowd of 10,000 fans. At almost 70, his voice remains as it was: twangy, high, and ever so earnest. His worn-out guitar and harmonica, still his standbys, continue to accompany his intimate, honest songs.

Neil Young came to Vermont—to a much smaller venue than he’s used to—for the chance to sing his concerns about GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Like many Vermonters and millions of Americans, he believes we have a right to know what’s in our food. He worries that although GMOs are a biotechnological breakthrough, there is distrust that corporations and their lobbies have too much control over the production and distribution of our food supply before we, the public, know enough to make informed decisions.

When he finally spoke, Young raised his fist and shouted, “Strong Vermont, standing up while other states are lying down,” paying tribute to the fact that Vermont is, to date, the only state that has mandated labeling for GMOs. The crowd roared, and he then launched into a song from his new album, “The Monsanto Years,” called “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop.” One verse singles out Vermont for its David-and-Goliath stance on the issue:

When the people of Vermont wanted to label food with GMOs
So that they could find out what was in what the farmer grows
Monsanto and Starbucks through the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance
They sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will

Monnnnnn-sannnnnn-toooooooo (and Starbucks)
Mothers want to know what they feed their children

Young donated $100,000 to Vermont’s legal fight against the GMO-labeling lawsuit and asked other wealthy people to do the same. This is none too soon, given that just yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that would prevent Vermont and any other state from requiring that package labels indicate the presence of GMOs.

Vermont Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat, criticized the legislation for trying to take away states’ ability to require these labels. As he said, “What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” He went on to say, “The issue here is not if GMOs are safe. The issue is whether consumers have the right to know what’s in the food they are feeding their families.”

There are many good scientists here at UVM, who often say that the public needs to know more about the science of GMOs. That 75 to 80% of US food contains genetically modified ingredients. That GMOs will be impossible to label because they’re in everything. On the other hand, two-thirds of the American public wants, at least, to know that they’re in there. And we should know. We know about other potentially dangerous ingredients in the foods we eat, and that doesn’t always stop people from buying them.

The GMO debate reminds me of the early years of Ben and Jerry’s, when Pillsbury tried to muscle them out of the Boston market. They countered with an effective campaign by postering downtown Boston with their slogan, “What’s the Doughboy afraid of?” They asked the questions, “Do you think the Doughboy is afraid of two guys working with 23 people in 4,000 square feet of rented space? Do you think the Doughboy is afraid he’s only going to make $185.3 million in profits this year, instead of $185.4 million?”

Vermont should take a similar tact, regardless of what we believe about GMOs and their safety. It’s infuriating that bottom-line-driven corporations will keep using their money and influence to try and break our will. We should ask questions and expect answers. We should be able to know what’s in our food. We should stay strong.

As Neil Young did last Sunday in Essex, we should stand up for Vermont.

 

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A Week on the farm: Beauty, bounty and chicks!

by Molly Leebove, UVM Farmer Training Program Staff

Fridays throughout the growing season, we will post a few photos from the past week at UVM’s Catamount Educational Farm and the UVM Farmer Training Program. From these you will get a glimpse of the farm season as it unfolds and witness the evolution of these aspiring farmers as they grow into bonafide farmers.11540912_1033820563318314_1602612215627006370_n10387631_1032436493456721_150557494501738288_n 10501810_1032957140071323_5914094535815647523_n 11705227_1032753970091640_6711138337214045072_n 11750621_1032954993404871_6570399812234802067_n

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When it Comes to Food Justice, Am I a Marxist?

11009894_1025544117479292_8151299934290258025_nAn interesting thing happened to me on my way to the Farm-to-Table movement. I discovered I might be a Marxist. More to the point, I found that my thinking was in agreement with some Marxist tenets, and, for a short while, I panicked. Was I really a Marxist?

The issue at hand is food justice. If I believe that systemic changes are necessary to achieve sustainable, equitable, fair, and democratic food systems, does it follow that I am a Marxist? Words like “equitable”and “fair”sound righteous on the tongue, something akin to the old Superman series where he is introduced as “fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.” What is the American way? Continue reading

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Videos from the 2015 Food Systems Summit Now Available

Watch the 2015 Summit playlist on the UVM Food Systems YouTube channelSpeaker presentations files are also available on the Summit website.

Video screen shot

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A week on the farm: Dirty knees, yummy peas and rad radishes

by Molly Leebove, UVM Farmer Training Program Staff

Fridays throughout the growing season, we will post a few photos from the past week at UVM’s Catamount Educational Farm and the UVM Farmer Training Program. From these you will get a glimpse of the farm season as it unfolds and witness the evolution of these aspiring farmers as they grow into bonafide farmers.988583_1029104930456544_2707763359925521989_n 10641275_1022831171083920_8691280903357994612_n 11009894_1025544117479292_8151299934290258025_n

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