The Good, the Bad, and the Really Bad
When you come right down to it,there are two ways to approach news. You can look at the good news first, in which case the bad news that follows won’t seem quite as bad; or you can take the bad news first, in which case no matter how good the good news is it won’t make you feel much better. That’s not the case with this letter, however. The good news is really good, and the bad news is really, really bad, but because I’m a rose-colored glasses kind of guy, I’ll start on the up side.
Right off the bat: I’m particularly fond of this issue. We’ve got beer and cauliflower (two of my favorite vegetables), lovable dogs and chefs. We’ve got a feature on how the food services at some of the region’s best colleges are joining the “buy local” movement. And, of course, we’ve got Hudson Valley Restaurant Week coming in November. This one marks 10 years with a host of new restaurants and sponsors—and a quarter-million people looking to feed their stomachs and the local economy. But the really good news in this issue is the announcement of our forth coming Support the Craft–Drink NY campaign. Launching this fall, the campaign will combine education, advocacy and advertising to advance the Hudson Valley’s growing craft beverage industry. Now you can sip a local libation along with your braised lamb shank or cauliflower carbonara(recipes inside).
Flipping the coin: Whether this year’s presidential election plays out as a comedy or tragedy we’ll know soon enough, but while the populace was preoccupied with the party convention spectacles and the posturing that has followed, the president copped out and signed what has become known as the Dark Act (a.k.a. the Monsanto Protection Act) into law. The new federal law prohibits states from enacting their own mandatory labeling laws for food products containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Whether or not this is an issue you care about, you will share in its ramifications: After 50 years of slowly advancing consumer protection, the law is a giant leap backward in consumer right-to-know legislation and, viewed alongside the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, is another significant step toward corporate control of our legal, economic and social systems. This is not a partisan political issue—the bill passed a Republican Congress and was signed by a Democratic president—it is an issue that will affect virtually everyone who lives here, regardless of income, status or affiliation, possibly for generations to come. Whether GM foods eventually are found to be safe or harmful is almost irrelevant—the government essentially says you have no right to know what you’re eating, anyway.
Unless, of course, like the president and his family, you’re on an organic diet. (Certified organic products cannot contain any GM ingredients or components.) There’s the rub—we’ve generally viewed laws like the Dark Act to be linked to some dirty conspiracy whose aim is to enhance corporate profits, but why should the bad guys have all the fun? What if, instead, this whole labeling drama is a conspiracy among organic advocates to get more people to eat organic? Heck, it’s already working: One reliable online news site reported workers at a Monsanto facility wouldn’t eat the GM food offered in the company lunchroom and demanded organic products be available—and their demands were met.
Want to send the food industry giants a message their accountants will understand? Go to your local farmers’ market, buy fresh, cook fresh, live fresh. If you don’t know what’s in that jar of strawberry jam you’ve been spreading on your morning toast for the last 10 years, go to the market next Sunday and buy a jar of organic jam. Ultimately, it’s not laws that create or protect corporate profits, it’s consumer spending. Sadly, that maybe the only message corporate leaders/elected officials hear or understand. Maybe the president did us a favor, after all.