On June 25, former first lady Hilary Clinton, also former Secretary of State, and current front runner for the Democratic nominee for President in the next election cycle, attended the Bio International Conference as keynote speaker. Her message? That corporations responsible for biotech engineering simply need to restate their message, to downplay “Frankensteinish” categorization of bio-engineered seeds, and move toward a focus on the benefits of the technology, their “drought-resistance,” for example.
Her remarks were roundly seconded by California governor Jerry Brown. Brown wasn’t the only governor to pitch pro-biotech and pro-GM at the event. Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia, echoed Brown’s welcome, albeit with a focus on his state’s being the most welcoming.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Consider the following. Non-GMO certifications have outpaced organic certifications in the last years, with non-GMO certified food operations growing–to meet consumer demand. Walmart and Target have developed new organic food product lines, providing foods that are produced organically, without GMOs–to meet consumer demand. Sales of organic and non GMO food have continued to increase in market share without any appearance of slowing down.
According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in a USDA press release dated March 20, 2014, “Consumer demand for organic products has grown exponentially over the past decade. With retail sales valued at $35 billion last year, the organic industry represents a tremendous economic opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” The same press release notes a 245% increase in sales of organic food since 2002–245%.
Along with the growth in consumer demand for organic and non-GMO food options, standard and affordable food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King have seen decreased sales. Last week, McDonalds fired Jeff Stratton, its head of U.S. operations, naming Mike Andres to be their head of US operations.
Bio-tech still dominates 98% of agriculture in the US, but that’s the production side. Consumer opinion is rapidly shifting away from support of bio-engineered food. So why would someone like Clinton throw her support solidly behind bio-engineered food and GMOs? Any number of possibilities exist, from a desire to raise money from the deep pockets of the bio-engineered food industry, to a simple lack of knowledge about the issues.
Whatever the reason, it would appear that Mrs. Clinton, if she runs, will not be the “green” candidate in any forthcoming election.