The idea that one needs to eat well in order to be fit and healthy is hardly revolutionary. It isn’t extreme, difficult to understand or new. The first incarnation of the well-known phrase “You are what you eat” came from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote in 1826 (translated from French), “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Neither old nor new phrases are meant to be taken literally, but it is an (astute) observation that the food we eat affects our mental and physical health.
“You are what you eat” is a simple, straightforward idea about the relationship between the food we eat and our mental and physical lives. Having the freedom to choose which foods to put into our bodies and the bodies of our children is a right as essential (not to put too fine a point on the obvious) as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In America, unlike all too many other countries, we are fortunate beyond measure to have an abundance of choice in matters of food and other things.
It is a good fortune not to take for granted.
“You are what you eat” does not include the guarantee that you know what you are eating. If you don’t know what you are eating, or if what you are eating is not what you think you are eating, then your choice in the matter has been robbed from you. And you are not free. You are a subject of whomever or whatever has deprived you of choice.
Unlike knowledgeable, inquisitive, free consumers, good subjects make compliant, unquestioning customers providing bigger profits for giant food conglomerates more interested in corporate profit and acquiescence than in individual freedom and choice. Your freedom and choice. Whether you are an ignorant good subject or an informed good citizen, you are what you eat.
And if Monsanto and other corporate bio-tech and junk-food behemoths are to be believed, it’s not in your best interests to label the ingredients on the food they sell you. It’s not necessary to know what you are eating. Who cares what you are? Monsanto? Trust me, says Monsanto. I’ll take care of you, whatever you are.
That’s why when California put Proposition 37 on the ballot last year, Monsanto and its corporate allies DuPont, Dow, Coca Cola, Pepsi and others spent more than $46 million to help defeat the measure. Proposition 37 would have required labeling any food containing genetically modified organisms. Food products containing GMOs are popularly referred to as “Frankenfood” by people who do not wish to ingest food that has been genetically modified. Most developed countries of the world do not consider GMOs safe and have imposed severe restrictions or outright bans on the production or sale of them. Those countries include Japan, Australia and all the nations of the European Union, but, unfortunately, not the U.S. In large measure because of the flood of disinformation paid for by $46 million of bio-tech and junk-food lobbying, Proposition 37 failed to pass by a small margin in California last fall. It is legal to sell unlabeled Frankenfood in the Golden State.
But, as President Obama recently said in a well-known reference to the defeat of another piece of legislation that would have put the health of humans before the profits of (the weapons) industry, “This effort is not over.”
More than 329,000 citizens of Washington state recently signed a petition to put Initiative 522, or The People’s Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, on the ballot. Like Proposition 37 in California, the bill is designed to require that any food product that has been genetically modified or food product containing ingredients derived from genetic modification be clearly labeled at the retail level for the benefit of consumers. The state Legislature will have the first chance to pass the bill. If it fails there, it will be on the ballot next fall for voters to decide. If it passes, Washington will be the first state in the union to recognize the right of human beings to know what is contained in the food we eat.
Since we are what we eat, that’s essential knowledge.