I was surprised to read this commentary by Erika Johnson of HotAir.com, in which she criticizes the voters in Jackson County, Oregon, for banning the production of genetically modified food, calling them:
(…) the same types of people who would probably dismiss you as a knuckle-dragging, anti-science flat-earther for questioning the absolute and catastrophic imminence of climate-change disasters.
Ms. Johnson implies she is a skeptic of the mainstream view that global warming is caused by mankind’s activities. She does not accept the “bandwagon” logical fallacy with respect to global warming. But later in the article, she uses the bandwagon argument to disparage the views of opponents of genetically modified food, calling them “anti-science and trend-chasing yuppies.” Along with the author, other commentators on the HotAir article also equate global alarmism with GMO skepticism.
But there is a difference: global warming activists use the long arm of the federal government, and the voters of Jackson County are using their locally elected government. And that’s why the article and comments surprised me. Conservatives and libertarians usually agree that regulations should be applied on a local level, where there is accountability to the local voters, instead of unilateral regulations applied via Washington, DC by unelected bureaucrats, where there is no accountability to the affected voters.
Global warming activists have used the federal government to accomplish their goals for decades. The EPA is a massive organization with 15,000 unelected employees. The organization has virtually unlimited power to punish businesses and families, without any competing market components or regional voter consent. For example, the EPA recently threatened to fine a Wyoming man $75,000 a day for building a pond on his own property.
Similarly, GMO proponents have used the long arm of the federal government to punish all who stand in their way. Monsanto has used patent law to sue hundreds of farmers, to the tune of $23 million dollars. There are actually three classes of patents, “utility patents,” “design patents,” and “plant patents.” Yes, Monsanto has its own category of patents.
Regardless of whether you believe corporations should be able to patent living animals or other biological materials, it should be clear that Monsanto has consistently used its government-granted patent monopoly to bully smaller producers, including farmers who don’t want anything to do with the mega corporation’s genetically modified plants. Via Miami New Times (emphasis mine):
After hearing that GM crops could potentially increase yields, three farmers in Schmeiser’s region planted fields of Monsanto’s seed. Winds pushed pollen from GM canola into Schmeiser’s fields, and the plants cross-pollinated. The breed he had been cultivating for 50 years was now contaminated by Monsanto’s GM canola. Did Monsanto apologize? No. It sued Schmeiser for patent infringement — first charging the farmer per acre of contamination, then slapping him with another suit for $1 million and attempting to seize his land and farming equipment.
A voter approved regulation on the local level is a common sense response to the overreach of Monsanto. In Schmeiser’s case, his farm may have been saved if genetically modified crops had been banned in his region, because his canola crops would not have been cross-pollinated, and Monsanto would have had no grounds to sue him.
GMO crops are supposed to have a four mile buffer but that is impossible in our narrow, windy valley. Pollen blows a long way, increasing the possibility that a farmer can be sued by Monsanto for “theft” if GMO crops are found on a farm that hasn’t purchased seed, a problem that has already [happened] numerous times in other areas.
This should be an issue conservatives and libertarians can support. Even if we don’t individually think genetically modified crops are a problem, we should be able to support county level efforts to protect local farmers and environments.