Agriculture Workshop Comment Number: AGW-13473

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Comment Number: AGW-13473

From: Elizabeth Lerman
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 4:48 PM
To: ATR-Agricultural Workshops
Subject: Comments

I am writing because I am extremely concerned about the lack of competition in today's agricultural markets and how it has affected the food that is available, the farmers, and the environment that needs to sustain us all. Personally, I am affected by every activity of daily living from sleeping to eating to dressing. And the expense of purchasing outside of these food conglomerates has added to my personal financial debt.

Genetically modified (GM) crops account for approximately 92% of all the soy planted in the US, 88% of the cotton, 87% of the corn, and 85% of the Canola. More than 50% of Hawaiian papayas and fair amounts sugar beets, alfalfa, zucchini and yellow squash--even tobacco--are from GM seeds. Now just a few companies own the patents to these seeds and virtually all the farmers are using them.

Important choices have been taken away from the consumers.  I've spent twice the money buying an organic cotton mattress at about $1,000 versus the $485 price for a non-organic one and paid similarly drastic price differentials for a few key items of organic cotton clothing, because virtually all of the other cotton available is BT cotton, which is genetically modified to produce high concentrations of  pesticide in every cell.  Syngenta  has even sued the other bio-tech companies such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical for  the right to sell these seeds. No company should dominate a single crop. This trend is occurring world-wide.

The concentration of these new cash crops have contributed to the lack of water in California. Many of those farmers have moved to GM seeds from these few huge bio-tech companies. These crops are heavily dependent on pesticide  and herbicide usage and a huge amount of water. The lack of diversity in crops is hurting farming in itself. And once these farmers switch they are often indebted and trapped to the seed companies. They must purchase the complementary chemicals from the corporation and destroy any seeds left at the season's end.  These corporations time the sales of these products so the farmers are always in need of either the GM seed or the chemical.  So there would always be an investment lost if the farmer pulled out from this protocol, not to mention the actual legalities of the contracts.

There has been approval of these GM crops and deregulation without sufficient testing.  The issues are vast and perhaps beyond the scope of this letter.

What has affected me even more than the cotton is the control of our food.  Because of the high amounts of GM corn and soy planted in the US and the ensuing contamination of other crops, I no longer eat any soy or corn products. 

I have suffered gastrointestinal problems which have improved after eliminating these GM foods from my diet. I've also suffered multiple miscarriages while eating a diet high in corn and soy and wonder if that impacted my pregnancies.

There is little choice in the grocery stores today.  I shop in less than 5% of what is available because most of the products are filled with corn and soy derivatives. Even health food brands that I once depended on have changed their formulas. The majority of them have been acquired by   large food conglomerates over the past several years. I  look for the smaller, independent brands and find only a handful  of them and often limited to specialty stores.

I eat out at only a few select restaurants and  only after significant questioning. I have found that over 99% of food establishments in the US use GM oils to cook with. Many of them are not even aware of it.  Monsanto's GM corn has influxed every available food venue in some form. The GM canola and soy and cottonseed oils also abound. I now need to bring my own food with me whenever I go for an outing. I know longer have choices at carnivals, festivals and the like because everything is infiltrated with GM corn and soy products or canola oil from these few corporations.

I have friends whose entire families left farming  because they simply could no longer afford to be farmers.  The control and demands that corporations such as Monsanto place on these farmers is criminal in my opinion.

Another aspect is that  many of these crops are subsidized by the US government. The focus on these few crops are making these select companies who own the seed patents very rich while hurting the American people. Food quality has decreased while toxicity such as pesticide residue has increased.  The practice of feeding cattle and poultry corn and soy based diets has heavily impacted the meat industry. Transportaiion costs have increased while the health of the animals and the meat from them has decreased. Food born illnesses are a common hazard in today's meat because of the way it is produced and handled. Frankly, the current animal raising and meat practices in this country are abhorrent.  The continued subsidization of grain feed supports these horrendous and unsafe practices. Yes McDonalds can now sell $1  burgers, but the people who eat them experience increased obesity , heart disease and diabetes.  Would it not be better to put money toward a variety of healthy foods that support the health of the American people? And a variety of crops that support soil and ecosystem balance?

We need to look at the interests of the people and  agriculture as a whole and for the long -term versus supporting the financial interests of the few.

Please make America a better environment that encourages truly sustainable farming practices, humane treatment of live stock and healthy choices of food and cotton for its people.  In the least, we deserve to know what we are eating. Disclosure and labeling of genetic modification practices is key to breaking the power and control that a few major corporations presently have over 80% of the our food system and ultimately food choices.

Even practices at grocery stores have changed. When I have requested particular items the manager often has not been able to oblige  me, because food companies now purchase shelf spaces.  What is the small independent  food manufacturer to do to get its their products available?

Okay a little more on this.  One of the grocers in my town is Stop and Shop. I live in NJ..but all the produce comes through Massachusetts, because that is where Stop and Shop's corporate headquarters are.  Now, there are many farms in the Garden State--not nearly as many as there were 10 or 20 years ago, but still significant---yet our food is arriving to us weeks past picking because of the corporate detouring of the flow of the food. Why can't we have access to food directly from our farms?

During the summer and fall, I buy produce at the Farmers Markets. I hear that they are in jeopardy of some new food bills in committee. I think the farmers markets are a big part of a solution to Americas food problems. Why not supply school lunches directly from local farms?  The United States political system in unique because each state maintains a level  of sovereignty.  The solution to feeding a nation can apply local distribution as well.  Transportation costs are reduced and freshness and nutritional value preserved when food  travels less distances.  For local models to be most effective there needs to be local farms.

Again back to the corporate control and monopolies of our food. When these big factories take control what happens to the local farms? 

I feel there should be a moratorium on all.GM crops. Subsidies --if given--should be given to local farmers a to promote crop diversity and sustainability, not to feed the pockets of food giants.

This is some of how food monopolies have affected me as a citizen of this country trying to subside and as a thinker with an anthropology and nutrition background.  Shouldn't one of the riches nations of the world be able to supply its people with real choices of healthy foods that are not filled with the chemical residues of the chemical companies that have become our modern day food giants?  Shouldn't we be able to flourish with the foods available to us versus becoming an increasingly chronically ill people?  Who do you represent and work for? 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment.


Elizabeth S. Lerman

Elizabeth Lerman

,  08904

Updated April 7, 2016

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