GMO Labeling: 93% Soy and the Indian Crisis

In  today’s NYT, Mark Bittman is entirely correct in endorsing the obviously valuable proposition (#37) on the November ballot in California that would require food companies to label food that is genetically modified (GMO). The EU has required GMO labeling since 1997. It’s not a complicated issue, and the fact that so many people are in favor of it supports that view.

Label food.  Uh, OK.

There are far more critical issues involving GMOs.  More critical because more money is at stake, banks are involved, there are ethical questions about loans, and the results are far more devastating.

Here’s what is happening: The Navdanya Movement ( in India, based in Mumbai, is of the opinion that banks and seed companies, working on a shared business model, are encouraging farmers to buy GMO seeds with the farm being the collateral. The reasoning offered to the farmers is that the GMO seeds will increase yield. When the crop yield is lower than anticipated, the farmer may not have the funds to pay the loan back. When the crop yield is as high as anticipated, the price may drop due to surplus and the farmer may not have the funds to pay the loan back. The farmer may lose the farm in both instances and then despair and concomitant suicides are seen by some as related to that loss. As such, in response to this, Navdanya has established free seed banks.

(I interviewed a leader of Navdanya last year for a piece I did on agriculture for a publication in Italy.)

It is nice to know that your soy milk in all probability is a GMO product.  And about everything with soy is a GMO.  According to Wikipedia: “In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2010, the figure was 93%.

But that’s not a crisis.  Losing your farm and not having an education or money in the bank?  That’s a crisis.




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