by Gayla Prewitt
You are probably familiar with the quote, “…control the food and you control the people.” I would like to take those words a step further and say, “Control the message about what we are doing to the food and you control the people even more.” With Congress set to vote soon on legislation that could forever change the way we label genetically modified food, I ask, where is the news coverage? Have you seen a single story about the, “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” on a mainstream television news channel?
Opponents of the bill have dubbed H.R. 1599, the DARK act, or the “Deny Americans the Right-to-know Act.” The bill, as proposed, would take away states’ rights to require labeling of GMO food and leave the system as it is currently, a voluntary labeling system. You would think an issue as fundamental as the safety and labeling of the food we eat would at least warrant a mention, if not be one of the lead stories. Is this an isolated incident?
My personal experience would say not. Did I have all the information when I purchased food tainted with petroleum dyes exposing my children to potential toxins? On the other hand, did I know the lumber my husband and I bought to build a porch and a swing set was treated with arsenic? (For more information about our personal journey, please see, http://www.feingold.org/gayla.php)
After all, this is America; we have the EPA and FDA looking out for us. Things we buy in the store should be safe. After these major incidents, I began digging further, wondering what else I had missed. Using the research skills I developed as a broadcast journalist, I discovered what I believe to be one of the greatest threats to our health and environment; genetically modified organisms and the agricultural system that goes with them.
I have left the field of broadcast journalism, but I still believe in the importance of the medium. However, I feel too often the information we need to know is rarely covered. Perhaps the warning issued by Edward R. Murrow in a speech to his fellow television news broadcasters in 1958, has all but become too true. Murrow recognized the pressures that advertising dollars can play in story coverage. Following is an excerpt from that speech.
“But this nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects and fill those minds with slogans, determination and faith in the future. If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us.”
Recently, working as a volunteer for the Organic Consumers Association, I helped organize a rally and meeting at Missouri Congressman Billy Long’s office in Springfield, MO. Congressman Long is a cosponsor of H.R. 1599. All three of the major network news stations, along with the city’s newspaper were contacted about the event. While I am very grateful for the news coverage by the local paper, not one of the TV stations mentioned the upcoming event or attended the meeting.
Was it an extremely busy news day? I can’t answer that. However, I do know, often I have watched our local news, as they have time to show one of latest viral videos of a “happy cat” or “smiling dog.” No matter what side of the GMO debate you are on, there is a debate. In my opinion, it is a news worthy debate.
Over one million people have signed a petition asking the FDA to label genetically modified food. In a New York Times Poll, over 90% of Americans said they want GMO foods to be labeled. Now our legislators propose taking that right away.
Why don’t we hear more people talking about this? Is it that we don’t care, or simply don’t know? Has the medium so many depended upon to be the beacon of information let us down? I leave you with a few more words from Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 speech.
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But, it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.”
Gayla Prewitt is a part-time university instructor and former broadcast journalist. Frustrated by what she believes is the lack of news coverage from mainstream channels on issues that really matter, Prewitt has turned her efforts to getting the message out through creative storytelling. She hopes the blending of fiction with news worthy facts, in her novel, Seed Police, will help shine a light on the problems we face with an unhealthy and broken food system. You can check out her project, Seed Police, at www.SeedPolice.com.