Thursday, October 25, 2012

GMOs and Prop 37 Confusion

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with a concerned young man about GMOs and Prop 37, the ballot initiative in California to label GMOs. Check out the dialogue below.

I have some questions for you about 37:

Why is it meat, cow milk, eggs, cheese and other animal products arent going to be labeled with the info that informs people if theres gmo's in it? However soy milk, almond milk, rice milk etc. fall under this prop and will have to display if they use gmo's. Why are restaurants exempt? Why is liquor exempt? 

Food made outside the country is also exempt, allegedly they just have to say yes or no when asked if theres gmo's in their products, but the foreign stuff wont be tested like its American counter parts.

How and why is this prop allowing lawyers to sue family farmers and grocers without any proof of harm? Some family farms are ruined by Monsanto, and now they're at risk of losing a case if attacked or sued. Mom and pop markets are also at risk . 

Prop 37 is going to increase food cost by hundreds of dollars per year. Are seniors and low income families going to be assisted or given vouchers if 37 passes? Are any programs that give food out going to be implemented? I feel 37 is a good idea, but I also feel it should be rewritten in a way that benefits more people.

I feel it is important to know what I'm eating, but feel everything should be labeled equally from pet food to human food - anything that's edible. Furthermore, I'm currently under the impression that Prop 37 can lead to nasty quagmires for low income families and others. My mom is a nurse now, but as a child we were a low-income, single-parent type of family, along with a majority of the neighborhood. I grew up eating food paid for by the county ie: food stamps, WIC, EBT and so on because my mom couldnt afford to obtain food with the money  she was making at the time. 

And see my response below:

Meat, cheese, milk, etc. do not have to be labeled because they are considered secondary products - a cow eats a GMO grain, but it is not itself genetically modified, so it doesn't have to be labeled. A twinkie, on the other hand, contains modified grains directly and so has to be labeled.

Dog/animal feed is regulated by the same legislation (Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act) as human food. Further, a GMO grain, such as corn, can be ground up or processed into oil, dextrin, flour, etc. and be directly included in the kibble. This means that if you labeled it as containing GMOs, you would be accurate. I'm sure there are many pet owners and animal husbanders (people that raise animals for food, etc.) that would like to know whether the products they buy contain GMOs or no.

Alcohol is regulated under separate legislation from non-alcoholic beverages. Non-alcohol beverages have to contain nutrition and other labeling, but beer wine and spirits currently do not.

Restaurants are exempt because by law they do not have to declare what ingredients they use in their food.

Foreign foods - I am not sure about this issue in particular, but I think it is noteworthy to mention that the US is BY FAR the biggest producer of GMOs in the world, followed by China, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. I think the biggest threat of GMO contamination we face is from our own food producers. The actual text of Prop 37 does not include any language excluding international food producers from GMO labeling requirements.

Further, food in the US under Prop 37 won't undergo any testing for GMOs; producers just have to label whether or not their products contain GMOs. Also for this reason, it is not the small farmers that will be sued under prop 37, but producers of food (as in the food processing and distribution companies) that would be sued if they included GMO ingredients in their foods and didn't label them. 

Small farmers will not be affected directly by Prop 37 - they are the growers. This is a different aspect of the food chain than distribution or food processing. Farmers grow, then sell their food to processors. Kellogg doesn't grow its own corn, but buys corn from farmers. It could be that because of labeling on food that demand in the US for non-GMO food starts to increase, but this would be gradual as it would require much public education as to what GMOs are in the first place. Labeling GMOs will help those who know what GMOs are and want to avoid them, it will help people at least know whether or not they are eating them, and it will raise the issue as something to think about for the vast majority of people who have never heard of a GMO before. This is the same thing with mom and pop stores - people aren't going to immediately stop buying Takis and Cheetos - its going to take a LOT of public education for people to really understand what GMOs are, and that type of thing takes time and money, especially when the education has to be done by grassroots groups.

Should everything be labeled? Yes, I agree, but the law deals with different food/beverage groups differently. Also, there is SO MUCH to label when it gets down to it - don't you want to know if pesticides have been sprayed on your food? I sure do, but this is another issue for another day.

As for the cost of food - I'm giving you a link to a website that addresses that aspect well, so see below. I would like to emphasize that GMO labeling is simply printing an extra graphic on a package of food. Printing a graphic will not cost the consumer hundreds of dollars more for food a month. The cost of food as relate to GMOs will only go up if producers of food switch to organic from what they currently use. The labeling initiative wouldn't force producers to use different ingredients, just to say what ingredients they are using. 

Even if there is a great demand for non GMO food in the long term, that still wouldn't necessarily make the cost go up in the long term. There are so many people working on sustainable food policy right now across the US - looking at how to eat sustainabily, organically, and healthily for CHEAPER. The fact of the matter is that the way that food is grown right now by the big corporations costs more, doesn't necessarily yield more (and often yields less in the long term), and is far less healthy than the variety of alternatives that exist. And the alternatives are simply going back to how food has been produced since time immortal - growing a large variety of crops in one space (versus only one type of corn for acres and acres), rotating different crops (so the soil has time to recover or can take up different nutrients from the last plant), etc.

Honestly, labeling GMOs is the first step in a long path to building a far more healthy, sustainable, and affordable (when you factor in all the tax subsidies that big farmers get) food system.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Community cooperation and capitalism: Not mutually exclusive!

$10 food coop veggie boxes at the LA Eco-Village
Dear community:

Please pardon the major lapse in time since I last blogged. I am studying for the LSAT (law school admissions test), establishing a school garden, and working on the GMO Film Project, and have been sucked into the vortex of life outside of blogging. Minimal blogging will probably be the state of things for the next month as I take the test on Oct. 6. I hope you wish me luck. :)

I want to share a comment currently awaiting moderation that I just left on a Zocalo Public Square article during a study break. The article describes Janesville, Wisconsin, the city that Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, is from.

The article was fascinating and lead to a great series of comments from the public, ignited by Jim Mueller, who wrote to the author:

Your description of Janesville history during the time of Ryan’s coming of age sounds like a place of insecurity and disappointment, which helps me understand Ryan’s individualist mentality: if my community erodes around me, what else can I depend on but by my efforts alone, freed from taxes and regulation, and other ties to community. The strongest will survive and reproduce and the weakest will die alone. Let the devil take the hind-most.
The American people have to begin to see our communities as places to nurture and develop our children, starting with secure family and community life anchored by a dependable source of income, wisely managed. In the intensely urban and diverse populations of the future, individualism will not secure the general welfare. The American people can only do that in cooperative community.

This comment led to a very interesting debate on competition, business, capitalism vs. community cooperation/collaboration.

Here is my two cents:

Bruce and others reading the comments here:
Firstly, I really appreciate this dialogue. Not only is it interesting, but it is a reflection of the times we are in and the philosophical challenges we face as a society as we struggle with trying to figure out how to move forward as a nation filled with a BROAD diversity of ideas, cultures, needs, etc.
My thoughts on competition vs. cooperative community is the following:
I do believe competition is an inherent characteristic of human nature (and probably much else of nature), but I don’t think that it intrinsically signifies pure self-interest or precludes cooperative community engagement.
‘Markets’ have existed for thousands of years – people trading or selling things they grew/made/somehow acquired in competition with others. Today ‘market’ generally refers to capital markets, and somehow people think this means a disconnect from trade markets of the past. In past societies, you saw villages of people living in support of each other. People didn’t bury or birth each other just for money. Even today, sure mainstream American ways of doing things are generally based on post-industrialism and capitalism, but even in the United States many people do things for reasons other than money or primarily seeking self preservation.
For example – Detroit after the flight of GM and other car manufacturers has in recent years turned into a city with more urban vegetable gardens than any other US city. Urban community and backyard vegetable gardens are starting to be planted increasingly throughout the US and the world. These spaces are places where people give away tons of free food, and where people willingly volunteer their time.
The example above is in large part a response to mainstream US profit only driven mentality. Agro-industry makes a LOT of money by growing massive amounts of only a few kinds of crops (which require pesticides and these days incorporates genetic modification – which is also a source of profit due to patents and monopolies, etc) by companies trying to maximize profit and minimize costs. These farming practices and globalization (like NAFTA) mean that low wage (and often illegal) immigrants are the primary farmworkers in the US, and that village farms in much the rest of the world (like Mexico) have been forced closed by increasing establishment of massive monoculture farms. Further – and for many – most importantly, food is highly expensive when much of it can be grown for free or for low cost in the ground.
Bruce also mentioned that the US manages and contributes to charity more than other places in the world. Well let’s think about this for a moment. In places where villages still exist – like much of Africa, Asia, parts of Latin America, and even parts of Europe, there was simply no need for ‘charity’. People took care of each other. If a kids parents died, if someone was sick and old, if someone was mentally ill, etc., people took care of each other – for custom and community health – not for profit. In many Asian, Latin American and African families today – even those living in the US – it is common for the younger generations to care for older generations until death without a second thought. Not because they are profiting from it, but because that is just what is expected. The community garden example, for me, is also an example of people in the US today, in our major cities, bringing back this village mentality in a beautiful, refreshing, and modern way.
The point is, It is a fallacy to say that competition or even capitalism exist at the exclusion of community cooperation. They can and should work together. I might volunteer to run a school garden twice a week, but if I can get enough of the community involved and we can grow enough produce, perhaps we can sell veggies at local markets, or to local gourmet restaurants, earn a profit, and pay ourselves for our efforts, while collaborating and benefiting each other. And these types of stories happen everyday and increasingly so, exacerbated by the Great Recession.
I believe it is time to rethink the false division between community cooperation/collaboration and capitalism/business and see what kind of innovation and societally holistic benefits can come out of it. I think our politicians should consider this also.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to Want to Change Your Mind

Openness in the world will only be stimulated by openness from within. The Dalai Lama says that there will not be peace in the world until individuals are peaceful within.

The blog Measure of Doubt is dedicated to exploring and promoting rational thought in the world. I am including a clip below of Julia, one of the site's bloggers, speaking on her definition of rationality in addition to her thoughts on why you should want to change your mind, tips for how to engage in debate with an open mind, and how changing your mind or conceding a point can benefit your life.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is participatory decision-making?

Image via Community Empowerment Collective

The World Bank released a report in 2005 in which the authors succinctly describe five core principals of participatory decision-making that they suggested be implemented across World Bank policy and decision-making. Find these copied below. Their suggested principals could easily be applied to any governing institution. These principals applied to local, state and national governing methods, would go FAR in strengthening democracy at its core.

Click HERE to access the document in pdf.

Check it out:

Transparency and Access to Information. Effective transparency mechanisms make information available to citizens in ways that the information can influence their political choices. They provide complete information about activities and options before key decisions are made, and in local languages, culturally appropriate formats, and in ways that are readily accessible and affordable.

Inclusiveness. Inclusiveness requires that all people have the opportunity to participate in making decisions that will directly affect their lives. In particular, it involves bringing in politically disenfranchised or marginalized groups that might ordinarily be excluded from decision-making processes. This may include efforts to systematically identify all those whose rights may be affected or who may bear the risks associated with the decision; and to reach out to them and provide whatever assistance they may need to participate (e.g. translation services, travel support, etc).

Quality of Discourse and Deliberation. Deliberative processes allow affected people to freely and equally express their competing interests, perspectives, and visions of the public good. For decision-making to be based on deliberation rather than raw political power, marginalized stakeholders must be enabled to participate on an equal basis with more entrenched interests. Thus, where contested issues are highly technical, all participants should have comparable access to the expertise necessary to independently challenge the technical claims of other parties. Participants must also have the option to withhold their consent to an agreement if their concerns are not adequately addressed.

Fairness under Rule of Law. Fairness requires that both the process and its substantive outcomes comport with shared principles of justice and equity. Procedural fairness requires that policies, rules and standards be developed and enforced in impartial and predictable ways, and that processes of representation, decision-making and enforcement are clear, mandatory and internally consistent. Substantive fairness requires that the distribution of costs, benefits and risks from policy outcomes are just and equitable.

Accountability. Accountability implies that decision-makers must answer for their actions and, depending on the answer, be exposed to potential sanctions. Accountability mechanisms allow citizens to control the behavior of government officials and representatives to whom they have delegated public power. Effective accountability mechanisms require compliance and enforcement. Compliance involves evaluating their actions against clear standards that are based on publicly accepted norms. These include both procedural standards (regarding transparency, inclusiveness, etc.) and standards for assessing outcomes (e.g., on poverty reduction, social equity, and human rights). Enforcement involves imposing sanctions for failing to comply with those standards.

These principles can help to structure participatory, responsive and predictable decision-making processes that can lead to better, more sustainable development outcomes by reconciling competing interests and visions of the public good through deliberation and negotiation. To do so, they must be applied with an eye towards redressing the profound inequities of voice, access and political power between different interests in development debates. If they are applied in this way, they can be powerful tools to enhance the capacity of poor and marginalized people to influence the decisions that affect their lives. If they are not, they are unlikely to improve outcomes very much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Genetic Modification as the Future of Food?

The speaker in the video below doesn't seem to think so. The video talks about the process of genetically modifying a seed and criticizes the increased planting of these seeds around the world. Viewers should note that the speaker is an Englishman. He says 'this country' a few times in the video, and is referring to England. Also, I believe the video was shot a few years ago. Regardless, the content is interesting and remains relevant today.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

One Love: Human Interconnectedness

Went to see an amazing live music performance last night by Balkan Beat Box (BBB).

WOW. Beautiful music.

BBB in many ways embodies the idea of 'local to global'. Their music fuses sounds from so many different places, cultures and times. They perform all over the world. And their music deals with issues and themes faced in many places in the world - police brutality, constant war and how it can be ended, political violence and lack of freedom, interconnectedness of humans everywhere.

I am pasting some of their music below. Please check them out! Enjoy!

Part of the Glory:


War Again:

Political F***:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Garden Girl: Lawns to Edible Landscapes

Check Patty the Garden Girl. She has some interesting information on how to build gardens and do it sustainably. Here is a video on transforming lawns into other types of landscapes - like edible or native plant - your garden will still be luscious, but probably a bit more practical.

If you live in Southern California, it is probably not a good idea to build a pond or fountain, since we suffer from water scarcity and high heat (meaning evaporating ponds and pools). But there are a lot of other really interesting tips in here. Check it out!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

May Events in LA

Dear community:

Here is a list of events for the rest of this month. 

Events include: the Seed library monthly meeting (and how to seed save grains); Cafe Vida (a play about Homegirl Cafe, part of Homeboy Industries); an AFSC training on nonviolent confrontation; locally grown, cooked-from-scratch, vegetarian community dinners at Historic Monument 157; a free parenting class for women who have experienced domestic violence; and a kombucha brewing class. 

Enjoy and happy May!

Nisha Namorando Vida
Founding Director 
Local to Global Life Works


What: Seed Library of Los Angeles 
 monthly meeting

Sponsored by: 

Where: The Learning Garden at Venice High School, 13000 Venice Blvd, Venice 90066. Enter at the first entrance south of Venice Blvd on Walgrove Avenue.  The gate is unlocked during meeting hours

When: Saturday, May 12 from 2:30 - 4 pm.

SLOLA will host guest speaker Davey Creates as he shares expertise about growing grains and his experience at Native Seeds/SEARCH's Grain School. The seed library will be open for check-outs following the meeting. All monthly SLOLA meetings are open to anyone in the general public with an interest in seed saving, we welcome you to join us!

For easy seed checkout, you can download:
Current Inventory 03.2012 -
2012 Seed Check Out Form -

Cost: Free, though you have to be a SLOLA member to check out seeds. Membership is $10.



What: Cafe Vida -- a theatrical play!

Sponsored by: Produced in partnership between Cornerstone Theater, Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café. Community partners include Hunger Action LA, Solano Canyon Community Garden, and the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. 

Where: The Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring. St., Los Angeles 90013

When: Thursdays - Sundays now until May 20. From Thu-Sat it takes place at 8pm, with Sunday matinee at 2 pm

Acclaimed playwright Lisa Loomer pens the first production in Cornerstone Theater Company’s Hunger Cycle with an original work, Café Vida. Chabela and Luz are two rival homegirls ready to leave the gang life and begin anew at Café Vida, the only place in the city that gives young women and their shady pasts a genuine second chance to start a new life free of violence. It’s here that these former enemies pull themselves up by their shoelaces, maintain a steady diet of self-respect, learn to compost, tend a garden, julienne an onion and take your lunch order with a smile and a heaping side of transformation. This play is the story of Homegirl Cafe, a part of Homeboy Industries.

Notes: Café Vida is the first play in Cornerstone Theater’s recently launched Hunger Cycle, a series of nine world premiere plays investigating the universal and urgent need for food and how filling that need has the power to transform individuals and communities. They are also hosting other events in conjunction with this play. See Cornerstone website for more details.

Cost: $20 advanced purchase online, pay what you can at the door (accessible to all). 

Theater company website:
Homeboy Industries: 


What: Mother's Day

When: Sunday, May 13

Have you not planned anything to do yet for Mother's Day? How about going all natural and taking a hike with her, or going on a picnic? 

Sierra Club has some great suggestions for celebrating a "green" Mother's Day:

Notes: Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! And, of course, to the great mama herself, Mother Nature. :)


What: Community Dinner at Historical Monument 157

Sponsored by: HM157 and SoCal Time Banks

Where: Historical Monument 157, 3110 N. Broadway, L.A., CA 90031

When: Tuesday, May 15, 7:30pm – 8:30pm

Doers of all persuasions are invited to come network and walk away in cahoots. Gourmet vegan dinner is provided for $5 most weeks. On fundraiser weeks (once a month) the cost is $10 if you rsvp, $20 at the door. To earn time dollars, come work in the kitchen starting around 4pm. Please RSVP on the Arroyo Lowdown ( where the menu is posted on Monday nights. BYOB.

Notes: This is a weekly dinner.

Cost: $5-20

Links: Arroyo Time Bank:


What: Nonviolence training

Sponsored by: American Friends Service Committee

Where: 634 S. Spring St., ground floor, Los Angeles 90014

When: Saturday, May 19 from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm

This is a training primarily intended for activists 'in the trenches', who might be faced with violence from police and others. Occupy folks, this one might be a good one for you. Topics to be covered include:

Topics covered:
Nonviolence principles and values
Nonviolent strategy, tactics, campaigns
Nonviolent direct action planning
Discipline and group dynamics
Building inclusivity
Legal rights and safety

Notes: Bring your own lunch, or buy lunch at one of the many neighborhood restaurants. Take public transit if you can - many busses run down Spring St. and up Main St. (the next block over) and the building is located about 2 blocks from the Pershing Square exit off of the Metro Red Line. Otherwise, find street parking or pay $4 to park at Joe's next door. 

Cost: Free, though donations welcomed.

Links: American Friends Service Committee -


What: The Ancient Art of Fermentation: Kombucha brewing

Sponsored by: The Growing Home

Where: The Growing Home, Doeskin Pl, Diamond Bar, CA 91765

When: Sunday, May 20, from 1 - 3pm.

Kombucha has been brewed as a health tonic for millenia. In this workshop, you will learn how to safely brew and bottle your own kombucha at home. You'll also go home with a complete kombucha brewing kit including a kombucha culture.

Workshop price includes:
-1 gallon glass jar
-6 16.9 oz. glass bottles
-1 muslin cloth
-a kombucha scoby
-dried tea herbs from The Growing Home

Cost: $50

Links: Facebook event page -


What: Nonviolent parenting series for women who have experienced domestic violence

Sponsored by: Echo Parenting and Chicana Action Service Center 

Where: Chicana Service Action Center, 3601 East 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90063

When: Wednesdays, May 30 - Aug. 1, from 2 - 4pm.

Many mothers need support to begin their own healing and to support their children after experiencing violence. This ten session course will help women to learn a philosophy and practice of parenting that is based on empathy and compassion. It will provide the opportunity for mothers to receive support from other women who have experienced violence.

Topics will include:
* Developing a connected relationship with your children
* Creating a safe and peaceful environment for you and your children.
* Learning self-regulation and teaching your children to regulate their nervous system.
* Talking with your children about the violence.

Notes: Childcare provided! Contact Glenda Linares at 213.484.6676 ext 310 or to register or for more information.

Cost: Free!

Links: Echo Parenting -